A conspiracy of dunces: 7 things to know for October 30
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A conspiracy of dunces: 7 things to know for October 30

Defenders of Netanyahu claim Israel is ruled by a deep state, Yigal Amir is innocent and Gideon Sa’ar is a rapist

Justice Minister, Amir Ohana during a discussion on the Security Cameras Law, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on September 11, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Justice Minister, Amir Ohana during a discussion on the Security Cameras Law, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on September 11, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

1. That’s harsh bro: Justice Minister Amir Ohana’s scathing attack on the state prosecution is getting wide coverage, after he launched a broadside at the state justice system, accusing it of harboring a cabal enabled by the press and designed to bring down public servants like the prime minister.

  • “There is another prosecution — a prosecution within the prosecution. There are those who, alongside a small cult of court reporters, have managed to establish a perception that a war of light against darkness [is being waged],” he said. (Court reporters as in court Jew, not courtroom.)
  • Every report, to a T, describes his words as a “severe attack.” Perhaps someone can invest in a Hebrew thesaurus?
  • Yedioth Ahronoth notes that the timing of the attack, right before the attorney general is slated to decide on indicting Netanyahu, and with a fresh scandal over the PM’s aides’ phone being confiscated brewing, “is not a coincidence.”
  • Haaretz writes that Ohana’s comments echo “deep state rhetoric,” referring to conspiracy theories pushed by the likes of US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of public servants seeking to undermine elected leaders from the inside.
  • But Netanyahu-backing Israel Hayom writes that Ohana managed to “serve a ‘real indictment’ against the prosecution,” while echoing his claims of the suspicions against Netanyahu being a set-up.

2. Minister of Just Bibi: Ohana is widely panned by pundits as a quisling out to try and save Netanyahu from going down.

  • Yedioth’s Tova Tzimuki writes that Ohana was attempting to destroy public trust in justice system. “They’ve been putting fragmentation bombs at every decision point along the way,” she writes.
  • Kan’s Mordechai Gilat writes that Ohana’s ploy was “unforgivable.” “It’s completely transparent that he is trying to threaten those who are supposed to make decisions about his boss,” he says.
  • Mixing his metaphors but getting his point across, Haaretz’s Yossi Verter writes that Ohana is an “empty suit … who sounded like an internet commenter spraying unfriendly fire at senior officials in his ministry. Ohana is just a rag doll on a string. Everyone knows for whom he was made minister.”
  • The harshness of the attack is seen by some as a nuclear option pointing to Netanyahu and Co. being out of options and time before the indictments come down.
  • “All inhibitions have been cast to the side. It’s full steam ahead,” writes Amir Oren in Walla. “ The goals are many: ramping up the conflict with [Attorney General] Avichai Mandelblit, prepare the ground for a desperate bid to have him fired to stymie the indictments, to downplay the severity of the charges, following Mandelblit’s weak custom of burying, freezing or easing up on many accusations against the Netanyahu family, to damage the case by going after the state’s witnesses.”

3. Not having any of it: Former politicians and justice figures also take to the airwaves to push back against Ohana.

  • “This wasn’t criticism, this was an attack,” Dan Meridor, a former justice minister from Netanyahu’s Likud party, tells Army Radio. “This was an attempt to delegitimize the court system.”
  • Another former Likud minister, Limor Livnat, tells Radio 103 that while she has also had her beefs with the state prosecution, “there is a difference between constructive criticism and a justice minister who said on day one that he won’t respect High Court decisions and now holds a press conference in which he sells out the court system.”
  • Former Supreme Court justice and state comptroller Eliezer Goldberg tells Israel Radio that Ohana’s statements about prosecutors acting according to political or foreign interests “is a harsh claim that undermines the foundations of the regime. It places us in line with corrupt states.”

4. Ohana times 100: Not everyone was taken aback by Ohana’s words. Minutes after his statement, hundreds of people — or thousands according to Israel Hayom — had taken to the streets near Mandelblit’s home to rally in support of the prime minister.

  • Reporting from the scene, Israel Hayom columnist Amnon Lord writes that the rally of people “angry and worked up over … the coup,” was like Ohana’s words “times 100.”
  • Mandelblit wasn’t the only target of derision, with Lord writing that people chanted “Amnon Abramovitch go home,” referring to the Channel 12 news pundit. One participant is quoted calling Abramovitch “the court jester of [prosecutor] Shai Nitzan.”
  • The right-wing Channel 20 notes that “unlike past times, among the participants at the rally this time there were leaders of the religious Zionist movement.”

5. Goodbye, sanity: Also at the Goren Square rally was Bar-Ilan professor Mordechai Kedar, who kicked up a storm by claiming that Yigal Amir did not assassinate Yitzhak Rabin.

  • Though this has long been a popular conspiracy theory on the fringes of the right, Kedar’s words were noteworthy because he is not regarded as a fringe figure.

 

  • Netanyahu is quick to distance himself from Kedar, condemning his “nonsense.”
  • Channel 12’s Amit Segal tweets that “Goren Square has seen plenty of nutso speeches in recent years, but this was extraordinary,” while noting that nobody else from Likud has bothered coming out against Kedar. “A classic example of messed up ethics and political suicide.”
  • Channel 13’s Nadav Eyal quips, “Next week at Goren Square: The world is flat and ringed by a wall of ice.”
  • Army Radio reports that Bar-Ilan has convened a special meeting over how to respond and whether to sanction Kedar. Speaking to the station, Kedar doubles down and says what he claimed “has been published before … it needs to be checked out.”

6. Getting a Yair-ful: Kedar’s words were out there, but he’s got some serious competition from Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son.

  • In transcripts of police testimony broadcast by Channel 12 news, a rude, crude Yair spouts accusations left and write, accusing former minister Gideon Sa’ar of being a rapist and says former family media adviser Nir Hefetz is “filth” who murdered a soldier and tried to cover it up by putting the body in front of a train.
  • Oh, and he called the police “Gestapo, Stasi.”
  • Asked about the transcript, Likud minister Zeev Elkin tells Israel Radio that “I wouldn’t use those words about the prosecution or the police. And of course not what he said about Sa’ar. His words were not fitting.”

7. Hezbollah at a crossroads: Somehow, between all the conspiracy theories, Israelis are also finding time to look north and try to figure out what’s going on in Lebanon, and especially how the protests and resignation of prime minister Saad Hariri may shake out for Hezbollah.

  • Writing in Israel Hayom, Mordechai Kedar (yes, the same one), claims that the protests are making it harder for Hezbollah to hide behind Lebanese state institutions.
  • “Hariri’s resignation and the fall of the government is the first crack in the mask, and Nasrallah will now hunker down and start working assiduously to breathe life into state institutions so they resume functioning and keep supplying him with cover like they did in the past. He doesn’t have an easy task ahead of him, because the protesters are as sick of Nasrallah as they are of his corrupt lackeys,” he writes.
  • Haaretz’s Zvi Bar’el writes that Hezbollah is pushing for Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil to make his way into power, but it’s easier said than done. “[Hariri’s] resignation and that of his cabinet theoretically open the door to a new opportunity [for Bassil], but only if the political powers agree to install a government of technocrats, appointed without reference to their religious or ethnic identities. The protesters have made it clear that neither Bassil nor the Hezbollah cabinet members can serve in it. Even if the agreement is obtained, it’s doubtful that the required neutral, untainted technocrats could be found.”
  • ToI’s Avi Issacharoff calls the resignation and protests a “major headache” for Hezbollah’s top brass.
  • “Hezbollah is comfortable with the status quo and with the current failing system. It manages to rule the country even without its members serving as prime minister or president. It controls the Lebanese army even though the chief of staff is Christian, and it sets the country’s foreign and domestic policies, while leveraging the inter-religious divide to maintain its power. … A true revolution in the Lebanese political system would plunge the Shiite organization into an unknown future, which could turn out to be to its benefit — but the risk is too high at the moment,” he adds.
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