Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Is Netanyahu Going to be Convicted of Petty
Corruption and to Resign?
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, June 23, 2016
|Corrupt Netanyahu and his
MANY YEARS ago I received
a phone call from the Prime Minister's office. I was told that Yitzhak
Rabin wanted to see me in private.
Rabin opened the door himself.
He was alone in the residence. He led me to a comfortable seat, poured two
generous glasses of whisky for me and himself and started without further
ado – he abhorred small talk – "Uri, have you decided to destroy all the
doves in the Labor Party?"
My news magazine, Haolam Hazeh, was
conducting a campaign against corruption and had accused two prominent
Labor leaders, the new president of the Central Bank and the Minister for
Housing. Both were indeed members of the moderate wing of the party.
I explained to Rabin that in the fight against corruption I could make no
exceptions for politicians who were close to my political outlook.
Corruption was a cause in itself.
THE FIRST generation of the
founders of Israel was free of corruption. Corruption was unthinkable.
Indeed, purism was carried to extremes. Once a prominent Labor leader
was criticized for building for himself a villa in a Jerusalem suburb.
There was not the slightest suggestion of corruption. He had inherited the
money. But it was considered scandalous for a Labor leader to live in a
private villa. A "comrades' court" decided to expel him from the party,
and that was the end of his career.
At the same time, an official
residence was built for the Foreign Minister, so he could receive foreign
dignitaries in decent surroundings. The minister at that time, Moshe
Sharett, believed that it was wrong to hold on to his own private
apartment, so he sold it and donated the money to several charitable
THE NEXT generation was quite different. It behaved
as if it owned the place by divine right.
Its most typical
representative was Moshe Dayan. He was born in the country and David
Ben-Gurion appointed him Chief of Staff. In this capacity he directed
several "retaliation raids" across the border and then the 1956 attack on
Egypt which ended in a resounding victory (helped by the Franco-British
invasion of the Suez Canal area behind the back of the Egyptian army.)
Dayan was an amateur archeologist. He stuffed his private villa (by
that time, villas were already allowed) with ancient artifacts that he dug
up all over the country. That was strictly illegal, since unprofessional
digging destroyed historical evidence, making it impossible to define the
date. But everybody winked. After all, Dayan was a national hero.
Then my magazine published a shattering revelation: Dayan did not just
keep the artifacts in his garden. He sold them all over the world, with a
personal signed note that shot their price up. This revelation triggered a
huge scandal and inflamed a lot of hatred – towards me. In a public
opinion poll published that year I was chosen as "the most hated person"
in the country, beating the chief of the Communist party to the title.
(Such polls have since been discontinued.)
was Ezer Weitzman, the general responsible for the air force that won the
fabulous victory in the 1967 Six-day War. It was an open secret that
Weitzman was kept by an American Jewish millionaire and lived in a
luxurious villa in Caesarea, the most prestigious place in the country
(where Binyamin Netanyahu now has his own private villa.)
years this has been a general fashion. Every Jewish millionaire in America
had "his" Israeli general, whom he kept in style and who was his pride and
joy. For rich Jews, having an Israeli general at family feasts was an
obligatory status symbol.
Ariel Sharon, for example. The son of
poor parents, inhabitants of a cooperative village, he finished his army
career and lo and behold – he suddenly was the owner of a huge ranch. It
was given to him as a present by an ex-Israeli American multi-millionaire.
(Rumors had it that the millionaire deducted the money from his US taxes.)
That was at a time when Israeli generals were not only heroes at
home, but all over the world. Moshe Dayan, easily recognizable by his
black eye-patch, was a hero in Los Angeles no less than in Haifa.
All these generals (except Ezer Weitzman, who came from a rich family)
grew up in very straitened circumstances. Their parents were members of
kibbutzim (communal villages) or moshavim (cooperative villages), all of
which were at the time extremely poor. Sharon, a moshav-boy, told me that
he walked every day for half an hour to his high school and back to save
the bus fare.
That was true for the next generation of leaders,
too. Ehud Olmert, the ex-prime minister - now in prison for corruption -
grew up in a very poor neighborhood and became obsessed with owning
expensive things. The ex-president of the state, Moshe Katzav, who shares
a prison with him, was sentenced for rape, not corruption, but also grew
up in poverty as a new immigrant.
(The current joke has it that
after a concert in prison the warden announces: "Everybody remain seated
until the President and the Prime Minister leave.")
Ehud Barak, a
former Chief of Staff and Prime Minister, is now amassing a large fortune
by "giving advice" to foreign governments. He grew up in a poor village.
I myself was spared this craving for money, though I, too, lived in
utmost poverty after coming to Palestine at the age of ten. Luckily,
before that I grew up in very well-to-do circumstances in Germany. Since
my family and I were much happier in Israel than in Germany, I learned
that happiness has nothing to do with riches.
Corruption of Netanyahu and his wife
ALL THIS crosses my mind because we
are bombarded almost daily with accusations of corruption against Binyamin
Netanyahu and his highly unpopular wife, Sarah.
Sarah'le, as she is commonly called, a former air stewardess who met her
husband on a flight, seems to be a shrew who tyrannizes the staff of the
official residence. Some of these have sued her. They revealed that she
pilfers the public purse for her private needs.
But what is really
disturbing is that Sarah Netanyahu, who was not elected by anyone, seems to
be in charge of all senior public appointments. No one can reach these
heights without being interviewed and approved by her personally.
She has appointed all three senior law-enforcement officials: the Legal
Advisor (actually the Super-Attorney General), the powerful State
Comptroller and the Chief of Police.
If so, this was an act of
foresight. Because now the three of them are sitting day and night and
consulting each other about what to do with the flood of disclosures about
the Netanyahu family's financial affairs. They desperately want to avoid
indicting the Netanyahus for anything, but that becomes increasingly
difficult, since they are subject to the supervision of the Supreme Court.
I have already reported on some of these disclosures, but new ones pop
up every week. It has become a kind of national sport.
It began with
the disclosure that before becoming Prime Minister, at a time when he was in
and out of government, Netanyahu used to be paid twice or thrice for his
first-class air tickets by different unsuspecting institutions, without
declaring that as income. This is now called in Israeli slang "Bibitours".
Since then he has been involved in all kinds of affairs bordering on
criminal corruption which are in various stages of "examination". New ones
are added to the list all the time. The three Neyanyahu-appointed legal
officers are in constant consultation about whether to order a criminal
investigation, which might compel him to leave office at least temporarily.
The climax was achieved when a Jewish financier accused in France of
colossal fraud disclosed to the court that had had privately donated to
Netanyahu a million Euros and paid Bibi's extremely expensive hotel bills in
many cities, including the French riviera. The exact sums are in doubt, but
it is not denied that Netanyahu received from the man, who was already under
suspicion of corruption at the time, large sums of money.
generous Israeli taxpayers (including me) paid for the five days of Bibi's
stay in New York last fall, to the tune of some 600,000 dollars. This sum –
more than 100 thousand dollars per day – included the payment for his
private hairdresser (1600 dollars) and his make-up woman (1750 dollars). The
purpose of the trip was to address the UN General Assembly. I wonder how
much each word cost.
The information was disclosed by order of the
court under the Freedom of Information Law.
The Israeli public laps
it all up. No one seems to get angry. Jokes abound about the "royal couple".
For many of Netanyahu's own voters, mostly poor people of Oriental
Jewish origin, the disclosures only show that he is a clever person, who
knows how to exploit opportunities, as they themselves would love to do.
HOW TO treat these disclosures, which dominate so many TV news programs
and newspaper headlines?
I must admit that I treat them with some
disdain. What are these instances of petty corruption compared to
Netanyahu's actions and non-actions which have a direct influence of the
fate of Israel?
Binyamin Netanyahu as the grave-digger of our state, the man who sets the
course towards catastrophe, the man who obstructs any chance for peace.
Just this week Netanyahu proudly told his party colleagues
that he will "never" agree to conduct negotiations based on the Arab 2002
peace initiative, which includes the end of the occupation, the setting up
of the State of Palestine and the evacuation of settlements. Many people
believe that this refusal is fatal.
Facing these calamities, why get
excited about some little corruption?
But then I remember the case
of Al Capone, the gangster who was responsible for huge crimes, including
the cold-blooded murder of many people, but who was finally convicted and
sent to prison only for income tax evasion.
If Netanyahu can be convicted of petty
corruption and compelled to resign – isn't that just what the country needs?
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