There has been a lot of talk lately about whether the Israel Hayom free daily is abandoning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. After Netanyahu ordered metal detectors removed from the Temple Mount, the paper launched an unprecedented front page attack on the prime minister, leading many to believe that it would no longer be a mouthpiece for him.
On Friday, though, a day after police confirmed for the first time that bribery and fraud are suspected in the cases Netanyahu is being investigated for, the tabloid chose to lead with (an admittedly important) story about the troubles of pharma giant Teva, burying the prime minister’s woes and showing that it hasn’t totally left his corner.
Not so Israel’s other major dailies, where the worsening troubles surrounding the prime minister and his wife and son are on full display. One can almost forgive the internet media Thursday evening for failing to initially pick up on the importance of the gag order issued by a court, which contained a police statement listing the suspicions in the cases while silencing reports on efforts to turn former Netanyahu chief of state Ari Harow into a state’s witness, with police gag orders becoming almost de rigueur and unsourced claims that the police suspected as much in the cases being reported pretty much as fact for months.
The print press commits no such crime of missing the news though.
“Bribery” reads the front page headline of Yedioth Ahronoth, above the smaller type for the other suspicions of fraud and breach of trust. Unfortunately for the paper, the timing of the announcement means that all their top flight pundits, who prepare their weekend columns on Wednesday, miss the big news, leaving them to play the suspicions straight.
“They’d spoken of gift-receiving, there were claims of breach of trust, but the official police document filed in court yesterday reveals that the suspicions in Cases 1000 and 2000 include a suspicion even more severe: Bribery,” the paper reports, explaining the significance of the revelation about two cases Netanyahu has been questioned over.
With the gag order in place, the papers don’t have much they are able to report on beyond the basic suspicion and Netanyahu’s office claiming they are an attempt at regime change, but Haaretz finds some wiggle room after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit himself addressed efforts to get Harow to turn state’s witness, which he said is making progress. “Let us work in peace and find the truth,” he’s quoted telling reporters.
In Haaretz, analyst Yossi Verter — who manages to slip in Thursday night’s news despite normally writing his column a day earlier — writes that getting Harow to cooperate with the investigations is seen as nothing less than a “massive earthquake.”
“The picture that has emerged, as of now, is that the police, the supervising attorney and the state prosecutor and his staff are working in complete coordination, as one. The target: Netanyahu. The means: Efforts to bore inside by means of state’s witnesses who have come from the prime minister’s inner circle,” he writes. “Harow is a veritable treasure chest of information, one that could swiftly morph into a Pandora’s box. He did not leave his chief of staff post harboring feelings of revenge for Netanyahu; he found himself caught up in this whirligig by chance. But the fact is, he kept the tapes [of Netanyahu brokering a deal with Yedioth publisher Arnon Mozes] and did not destroy them. And that wasn’t because he wasn’t aware of their volatility or because he forgot about their existence — he kept them for a rainy day.”
Luckily for the columnists who filed early and missed the big story, there’s no shortage of other troubles to talk about, from Sara Netanyahu being grilled over alleged misuse of funds, to Yair Netanyahu under fire for failing to clean up after his dog and lashing out at leftist groups, though those constitute mere comical trifles compared to Harow, around whom much of the punditry turns.
Yedioth columnist Nahum Barnea isn’t sure exactly what Harow will offer, but notes that between all the affairs, things are not looking great for the Netanyahu family.
“The affairs are separate, but they all point toward one trend: the clouds are gathering and the storm is approaching. From a climate point of view, it’s a unique situation, as well as from a political one,” he writes. “I say that the name of the person who will fell Netanyahu, if he will be felled, will be Netanyahu. Not [Avi] Gabbay and not [Yair] Lapid. Netanyahu. The first name may be Yair, Sara or Benjamin. Or all three together. The engine of self-destruction is running at full RPM. Nobody knows how to turn it off.”
In what little coverage Israel Hayom has, columnist Moti Tuchfeld tries to pour cold water on what Harow’s testimony could mean.
“True, on one hand, if there is anyone in the world right now who could bring down Netanyahu from a perspective of having information and exposing secrets, it is Ari Harow,” he writes. “On the other hand, the chances that he’ll turn his back and start singing in the interrogation room are almost unfathomable. His becoming a state’s witness is certainly troubling for Netanyahu, but to be quick to declare that the prime minister will be liquidated by Harow becoming state’s witness is a conclusion it is too soon to make,” he writes.
Harow might be a “game-changer” in the words of Yedioth columnist Sima Kadmon, but comedy gold is comedy gold, which is probably why caricatures of Yair Netanyahu and poop emojis are used by both Yedioth and Haaretz (only Israel Hayom somehow resists) and pundits continue to spill ink on his recent rude re-entry onto the media stage.
Sima Kadmon calls him “the prince of crudeness and lying” and boils down why everybody already thought of him as a spoiled brat.
“For 20 years Netanyahu junior has been in the media. From pictures of him as a kid on vacation with his family — even then his parents put him in front of the cameras and then complained about the press — to his racist posts on Facebook, embarrassing reports about him using his father’s position for ordering food to his army base as a young soldier to pictures of him partying at bars to reports on lavish trips for him and his friends. And all of this on the dime of the baron — who sometimes was those same rich friends of his dad’s, but always, always was also us, the Israeli public,” she writes, apparently using baron as a synonym for benefactor. “We continue to fund the life of the bachelor, 26, who still lives with his parents, and has use of a government car, a driver and a bodyguard, including on his frequent trips around the world.”
In Haaretz’s op-ed page, Ravit Hecht writes that Yair Netanyahu’s attacks on Facebook are destroying whatever vestiges of statesmanship his father had left and are not to be taken lightly.
“The son of the man crowned by Time magazine as King Bibi, the current government’s flesh and blood, obsessively persecutes others on his Facebook page, which most Israelis don’t even know exists,” she writes. “This state of affairs reveals a persecution complex and terrible feelings of inferiority, and would be deserving of compassion had it not become – in the current climate of incitement against various individuals and groups who are marked as traitors just because they dare to criticize the prime minister – a dangerous tool in the Netanyahu family’s hands for mobilizing that part of the public that admires them.”