The gift that keeps on taking
Hebrew media review

The gift that keeps on taking

New leaked testimony in Case 1000 has the press seeing a 'gift economy' swirling around the Netanyahus

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara (C) and their son Yair seen with actress Kate Hudson at an event held at the home of producer Arnon Milchan (right), March 6, 2014. (Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara (C) and their son Yair seen with actress Kate Hudson at an event held at the home of producer Arnon Milchan (right), March 6, 2014. (Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)

French-Jewish sociologist Marcel Mauss was best known for his groundbreaking theory that early societies were based not on barter economies, but rather on gifts. Close-knit groups would freely exchange presents among each other, knowing that their generosity would be reciprocated.

Mauss’s idea, while sounding nice, is darkly familiar to anyone who has looked at how corrupt political systems operate. While his theory has mostly fallen out of style, it speaks to the heart of what is known in Israel as Case 1000 and new revelations that Tuesday morning’s papers say illustrate how gifts to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were not just presents between friends (which Netanyahu claims they were and which Mauss says don’t exist).

Testimony from Hadas Klein, an aide to moguls Arnon Milchan and James Packer, whose statements were leaked to Israeli TV news Monday night, are splashed on the front pages on Yedioth Aronoth and Haaretz Tuesday morning — though the Netanyahu-backing Israel Hayom steers well clear of the story.

While on the face of it, there’s little new in her accounts of the Netanyahus taking cigars, champagne and other goodies from their wealthy buddies, both papers note that it’s the way the gifts were given that makes them more than just presents.

The lion’s share of Yedioth’s front page eschews any headline and is just taken up with a single quote from Klein: “It went on for years: Bibi would ask for cigars, Sara would call and say she was out of drinks and ask for cases of champagne.”

The paper adds on to what was in the TV reports with even more salacious and damning quotes from Milchan himself, specifically that he told his workers that “you have carte blanche to give Bibi and Sara whatever they want.”

According to the paper, the statement shows “the problematic nature of the relationship, based more on one-sided giving than mutual gifting.”

Haaretz works solely off the TV reports that quoted Klein, diving deeply into the sordid details of what the Netanyahus expected from their rich buddies, and quoting law enforcement sources who called her testimony “dramatic.”

The paper agrees that the most telling part of the testimony isn’t the fact of the gifts, but the fact that the Netanyahus were demanding rather than receiving graciously, making it look more like extortion than a round of Secret Santa.

“Klein told the police that buying champagne for Netanyahu wasn’t ever Milchan’s or Packer’s idea; rather, the suggestion always came from the Netanyahus,” the paper reports. Lower down, though, it quotes Klein saying that the gifts were not for anything specific.

The timing of the leaked testimony could show that police do not intend to be cowed by a campaign against them by backers of Netanyahu.

In a sign that perhaps the other side is backing off, though, Israel Hayom simply all but ignores both the story and news of advancement of a bill to water down police’s ability to recommend charges against Netanyahu, burying both in small items way down on page 11.

As for actual news, the tabloid plays up a mishmash of stories, from news of a bill that will bypass a High Court ruling allowing cities to let markets open on Shabbat to senior IDF appointments to the deployment of Iron Dome batteries around the country amid increased tensions with revenge-vowing Islamic Jihad.

The paper displays a picture of a battery somewhere near the country’s center, usually a bad omen for fans of non-war, but also tries to calm any fears.

“The southern command is keeping its increased readiness given the developments, but Israel estimates that the incident as a whole is ‘under control,’” the paper reports. “The current assessment in the IDF brass is that Islamic Jihad is looking for a way to take revenge, but without causing a wider conflagration.”

The Iron Dome deployment also gets top play in Haaretz, which notes that Israel has not prepared for battle like this since the 2014 war with Gaza. Though there hasn’t been a call-up, and it’s been two weeks since the tunnel explosion that got Islamic Jihad in a huff in the first place, the IDF is still pretty sure the group is planning to serve revenge lukewarm.

“It seems that the organization is preparing to carry out an attack, and the intention is to make a reverberating response. Under such circumstances, Israel is expected to respond harshly. From such a point, the road to another round of real blows with Gaza, which would be the first one in three years, is liable to be short,” the paper reports.

The move to a war-esque footing came on the same day that the IDF made a round of appointments and shuffled around its brass. In Yedioth, Yossi Yehoshua gives readers a lot of inside baseball regarding the stew of names and relationships moving around, and notes that whoever they are, they will face challenges much more complex than a relatively minor Katyusha-bearing terror group in Gaza.

“The main threat remains in the north, where Hezbollah has more than 100,000 rockets, many of them accurate and long-range,” he writes. “There are some former senior officers who believe the ground forces are not prepared to counter the threat presented by Hezbollah and Shiite militias backed by Iran in Syria. True, the IDF’s intelligence picture and the air force’s abilities have improved dramatically since the Second Lebanon War, but appointments to top positions in the army and the general alertness level will have a critical significance for the next round of fighting.”

read more: