By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
Readers of these reflections may have surmised that I’m not a Netanyahu fan. I’ve even indicated that I don’t intend to vote for his party in the March 17 elections. However, I do feel that he’s currently getting a raw deal from the state comptroller (Israel’s auditor-general). Perhaps that’s why many citizens still side with Netanyahu.
A former major domo in the Netanyahu households – the official residence in Jerusalem and the private home in Caesarea – seems to have many grievances against his employers and has joined a long list of past employees who’ve complained about one thing or another. This time the police is said to have started criminal proceedings.
The ex-major domo has been given immunity from prosecution on condition that he tells all. The leaked details are trivial but the upshot seems to be that there may have been a misappropriation of funds.
Official residences are expensive and journalists have compared the cost of the prime minister’s residence(s) with what it costs to run the White House, 10 Downing Street, the Elysee Palace and even the official residence of the president of Israel. It’s always a lot of money even before the security expenses are factored in.
What may be different in the Netanyahu case is that he and his family don’t seem to have differentiated sufficiently between work expenses and personal expenses. The charges seem to be serious enough for the prime minister to have hired a top-notch criminal lawyer to represent them.
Needless to say, I’m not in a position to comment on the merits of the case, even if I had all the facts, which, of course, I don’t. But the timing is significant.
Did the state comptroller really have to bring the case only weeks before the election knowing full well that the issue is likely to question whether Netanyahu is suitable to lead the government? There may be many valid reasons why he is not, but should the venom of a fired major domo be the determining factor?
The comptroller’s office insists that the timing was decided long before the election was called, but even if that’s the case, shouldn’t the matter have been delayed until after March 17 before it was made public?
Foreign Minister Lieberman, who had been under investigation for years – and now the files of several of his close party colleagues and their associates are in the hands of the police – has often complained that the bureaucratic establishment is being influenced by sinister forces that seek to discredit those in power. I never thought that he might have a case. Now I’m not so sure.
A Rabbinic saying has it that you know a person – the grammar suggests a man – by three things: ka’asso (his anger), kosso (his glass) and kisso (his pocket); his temper, his tipple and his tipping. (The original has a different order,) The world isn’t told much about his temper and his tipple, but the media have a lot to say about versions of Binyamin Netanyahu’s tipping, reflected in the current charges.
It’s by no means obvious that this is relevant for his suitability as the prime minister of Israel. The Israeli public doesn’t seem to think so – yet. Netanyahu is still far ahead in the polls in response to the question, “Who is most suitable to lead the country?” But it must nevertheless be annoying. In the long run it could also be damaging.