The collateral damage that comes with corruption and criticism
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Hebrew media review

The collateral damage that comes with corruption and criticism

The Hebrew-language papers discuss the reactions, past and future, of public figures to the cases Netanyahu is allegedly embroiled in

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and coalition chairman David Amsalem converse during a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset on December 25, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and coalition chairman David Amsalem converse during a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset on December 25, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

After months of near-daily op-ed pieces dissecting the many investigations and allegations involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, analysts and contributors writing in today’s Hebrew-language papers take a look at the politicians who have spoken out against the premier or may yet do so.

In the Netanyahu-sympathizing Israel Hayom, Haim Shine holds no punches as he accuses President Reuven Rivlin of misunderstanding, or even deliberately ignoring, the “essence of democracy.” The attack by Shine comes after Rivlin, a former Likud parliamentarian, praised public protests as a cornerstone of Israel’s democratic process, citing, among several other examples, the demonstrations against alleged government corruption that were mostly directed at the prime minister.

“I have not found in the [Basic Law on Israel’s President] that the president possesses the role of a social critic and someone who encourages civilians to take part in this or that protest,” Shine fumes. “Any president, on the right or the left, who descends into the political field harms the institution of the presidency, makes it redundant, and justifies those who claim that it is a waste of public funds.”

Shine, whose argument up to this point dealt with protests as a whole, moves on to condemn the president for stating that demonstrations against Netanyahu were a display of Israeli democracy at work. The Israel Hayom writer alleges that the tens of thousands of people who participated in the protests were not actually interested in corruption, but were instead part of a broad anti-democratic movement, headed by a “clearly left-wing leadership” aiming to topple the prime minister without elections.

“It is not fitting for the president to join his voice to the left’s street choir; the price for that will be paid at the end by the institution of the presidency, and that would be too bad,” Shine concludes. The fact that Rivlin specifically noted how counter-rallies in support of the prime minister were also essential for democracy is never mentioned in the Israel Hayom piece. Curious indeed.

In Haaretz, correspondent Chaim Levinson covers the headache that Netanyahu’s investigations are causing Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, the leader of the Kulanu party.

“Kahlon understands that, if there is a recommendation to indict the prime minister, Knesset members from centrist Kulanu party could bolt the government coalition in protest at government corruption,” Levinson writes. “If Kulanu Knesset members such as Rachel Azaria or Eli Alalouf announce that they are leaving the coalition, it could paint Kahlon as someone who is not in control of his own party and might even lead to the breakup of the party,” the Haaretz correspondent adds, citing sources close to Kahlon.

According to Levinson, one Kulanu MK even went as far as to say that the wording of police recommendations in the prime minister’s cases might determine if the party ditches the government, or if certain party members will leave on their own. “Everything depends on what they write,” the MK, who asked to remain unnamed, tells Haaretz.

Meanwhile, Haaretz military and defense analyst Amos Harel posits that IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot made a grave political error when he decided to meet former prime minister Ehud Barak last week. “[The meeting] was held at the peak of a campaign that’s being led by Barak on Twitter and in public appearances against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” Harel writes. “The former prime minister, defense minister and IDF chief is accusing Netanyahu of corruption.”

For this reason, Harel argues, “it would have been better if Eisenkot, who knows that many people on the right have been lying in wait for him for some time – because of a number of things he has said as army chief, the Elor Azaria trial and the dispute over whether women should serve as combat soldiers – had shown more sensitivity.”

Yedioth Ahronoth, uncharacteristically, avoids any criticism of Netanyahu, his political allies, or even his foes. The daily instead leads with coverage of a hearing into 19-year-old Palestinian terrorist Omar al-Abed, who in July burst into a home at the Halamish settlement armed with a large knife and began stabbing its inhabitants. Three people were murdered by the terrorist — Yosef Salomon, 70, his daughter Chaya Salomon, 46, and son Elad Salomon, 36. Yedioth accompanies the survivors of the attack as well as other family members as they prepare to testify against al-Abed. Dan Landa, the father of Michal Salomon who managed to shield her children during the attack and hide them upstairs, recalls his daughter’s account after the attack.

“She told us of the terrorist’s smiling face when he came into the house,” Landa says. “A happy face, indicating that it was not a devout believer going to fill out a terrible obligation, but an individual with impulses, who is keen on satiating his desires.” The Salomon family, according to Yedioth, is receiving legal support from the right wing Im Tirtzu organization, and is demanding that al-Abed be handed the maximum prison sentence for the murders.

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