MKs Regev and Zohar caught acting as blackmailers -opinion

An interesting question is whether Regev and Zohar represent today’s Likud in their conduct, or only a fanatic group that blindly supports Netanyahu’s approach.

Likud parliament member Miki Zohar reacts during an arrangements committee meeting at the Knesset. (photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)
Likud parliament member Miki Zohar reacts during an arrangements committee meeting at the Knesset.
(photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)
I do not remember exactly when various supporters of the Center-Left started referring to part of the Likud leadership – especially Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a group of his henchmen from among the Likud ministers and senior MKs – as a “crime organization.” Use of this term by former soccer player and current TV presenter Eyal Berkovic opened a whole Pandora’s box of politically incorrect and legally problematic statements.
I must admit that I am not happy with the use of “crime organization” in this context. A crime organization may be defined as “a centralized, hierarchical enterprises run by criminals to engage in illegal activity, most commonly for profit.” Even though I feel that Netanyahu’s conduct in recent years, which appears to be dictated primarily by his approaching trial on criminal charges, and the blind support he receives from his staunchest supporter are highly irregular, at times even bordering on breaches of the law, I do not believe they qualify to be defined as a crime organization.
A WEEK and a half ago, on the Friday evening talk show on Channel 12 Ofira and Berko, presented by Ofira Asayag and Eyal Berkovic, Transportation Minister Miri Regev attacked Berkovic for having allegedly referred to the Likud as a whole as a crime organization, and to its 1.5 million voters as supporters of a crime organization, in an interview the previous week with Coalition Chairman Miki Zohar.
In the interview with Zohar, Berkovic had complained that the government totally ignored the policy proposals of Coronavirus Project Coordinator Prof. Ronni Gamzu. “You are behaving like a crime organization. You are doing whatever you please. You don’t give a damn about [Alternate Prime Minister Benny] Gantz.”
To return to Regev, she proceeded to demand that Berkovic apologize immediately to the “1.5 million Likudniks” or else she would do everything in her power to ensure that he will not be chosen as the next head coach of Israel’s national football team – a position that Berkovic covets.
But that was not all, Regev started hurling personal insults at Berkovic, inter alia called him a steak, claiming that he keeps turning over like a steak on a grill, claiming that in the past he had worshiped Blue and White leader Gantz (for whom he had voted), and now worships Yamina leader Naftali Bennett. That was our transportation minister talking (or, rather, shrieking).
I must admit that I view Berkovic as a sort of Israeli Archie Bunker, even though until 15 years ago he was one of Israel’s greatest soccer players, albeit one with a tempestuous temper. To say the least, pearls of wisdom do not pour out of his mouth.
However, that does not justify what Regev did, which was to publicly blackmail him live on television, blackmail being a criminal offense, no matter how, where and against whom performed.
Not only that. Even when Regev was culture and sport minister, the appointment of the official head coach of the national soccer team was not within the frame of reference of her job, and even if it had been, the official position of FIFA (the International Federation of Association Football) has always been to try – not always successfully – to ensure that soccer and politics remain separated. In other words, Regev played foul, no matter how one looks at the event.
It is interesting to note that Zohar’s reaction to his confrontation with Berkowitz the previous week was simply to declare that he would never again appear on Ofira and Berko. However, within days he, too, was caught online in an act of blackmail. The event he became involved in was much more serious than the one in which Regev had been involved. This time the person on the receiving end was not a big-mouthed ex-soccer player, but Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit.
Mandelblit, whose aspiration is to be appointed to the Supreme Court after he completes his term as attorney-general, carries with him an affair from his past as the military advocate-general (the Harpaz Affair from 2010, connected to the appointment of the 20th IDF chief of staff) from which he was never entirely cleared, even though he had never been officially charged with anything, and which could prevent his appointment to the Supreme Court. On October 13, the content of a telephone conversation Mandelblit had held in 2017 with former head of the Israel Bar Association Efi Nave (who is about to stand trial on criminal charges on a personal matter), in which he bad-mouthed the former state attorney Shai Nitzan for having failed to clear him of wrongdoing in the Harpaz Affair, was reported on Channel 12.
Due to both Nitzan’s and Mandelblit’s roles in Netanyahu’s indictments, and despite the fact that the Harpaz Affair had nothing whatsoever to do with Netanyahu or the charges against him, Zohar demanded on October 14, during an interview on radio station 103FM, that Mandelblit resign immediately and close all of the cases against Netanyahu, or else additional embarrassing recordings from Efi Nave’s mobile phone would be revealed. When asked, during the interview, whether this was a threat, Zohar answered “no, it is a promise.”
In fact, once again we are facing a case of blackmail, live on the media, involving a senior Likud member. However, unlike the case of Regev and Berkovic, on this occasion Zohar was admonished by Netanyahu, who expressed his reservations about what Zohar had said, apparently because he had been warned by his attorneys that Zohar’s words could legally harm him.
Zohar then issued a statement that he had been misunderstood, which is his usual reaction when he makes a hasty statement of which Netanyahu disapproves. This is also what happened at the end of July, when he threatened MK Yifat Shasha-Biton of the Likud, who chairs the Knesset Corona Committee, that she would be fired because her committee had refused to approve some measures that Netanyahu sought to get its approval for, before being provided with data justifying the measures.
AN INTERESTING question is whether Regev and Zohar represent today’s Likud in their conduct, or only a fanatic group that blindly supports Netanyahu’s approach regarding the law enforcement institutions and agencies as being involved in an anti-Bibi conspiracy, and the anti-Bibi demonstrators as being extreme left-wing anarchists whose sole goal is to cause the spread of the coronavirus in order to create chaos.
When former Jerusalem mayor and current Likud MK Nir Barkat appeared last Friday on the Ofira and Berko show, there were those (including myself) who expected to hear a different Likud voice from him, especially since he has an ax to grind with Netanyahu. But, alas, all he spoke of was the unity of approach within the Likud, with no clear criticism of Regev and Zohar.
But perhaps this was to be expected, given that Barkat was one of the senior mask-clad Likudniks who surrounded Netanyahu on the day his trial opened on May 24, as he gave his scandalous speech against the law enforcement agencies inside the courthouse and just before entering the courtroom, to hear the charges against him being read.