How will Netanyahu survive it?


                   by Kenneth Bagnell



    “I know that Israel does not stand alone,” the man said, “I know that America stands with Israel.” Those were recent words of Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.  Nobody would want to argue over what Netanyahu said, but we have to face the fact that he, himself, is in personal and professional trouble. Given the corruption and confusion that has now emerged in Israel we have an enormous complexity in democratic hands. If you doubt it, just reflect what is behind the headline on the world’s most influential newspaper, The New York Times.  A few days ago, one of its main pages had a headline that may lead you to shake your head: “Israeli Prime Minister is Questioned by Police in Third Corruption Case.”

     Netanyahu may very well be a strong leader, but when it comes to prudent and practical policy, he seems lacking in a country that cannot afford lacking. He has had innumerable ups and down and along the way, some issues that leave you wondering as to whether he has the intellect and insight that make a political leader in one of the world’s most sensitive situations. For example he has had numerous political strategies that end up having him visited by the police who, to their credit, are not intimidated by a Prime Minister. Just consider: in virtually one year he has been visited and questioned by Israel’s own police department eight times, as to financial and political matters in his role of Communications Minister. Moreover, his own wife, Sara, has been more problematic than progressive: she is now in a situation that may have a humiliating consequence: she has been more or less the head of the household and while there is nothing wrong with that, she has been charged with something else: the use of public money to entertain guests. That exercise leads me to shaking my head: the cost is not small. It’s $100,000. Add certain other burdens, and you’ll wonder if the issues, so very sensitive to the entire world, are going to endanger more than the Middle East. Thus Mrs. Netanyahu is likely to be before the courts for fraud, given the simple fact that she stands accused of exploiting that $100,000.

      The Israeli Prime Minister is a man a lot of people would find hard to like or respect with enthusiasm. Why? Not just because of the public tension he’s caused but because of his many public exploitations. If as an example, our own prime minister, Justin Trudeau, did the same, we’d be up in arms. Really you say? Well consider this: in a Tel Aviv courtroom, a deal was taking place, one that involved the merger of a losing satellite system. Prime Minister Netanyahu, was in attendance in his role as Minister of Communications. During the courtroom hearing, a lawyer Yehudit Tirosh who is also a prosecutor, was in no way inhibited when she pointed her dignified finger at Netanyahu: “This is a grave case of giving and receiving bribes,” she said, “The term ‘positive coverage’ is misleading. This is harnessing a leading website in return for regulatory favors by the Ministry of Communications and the director general of the Ministry of Communications.” She added that the value of the regularity benefits was about $500 million. All this was being uttered by lawyer Tirosh, the prosecution lawyer, who directly pointed her finger at Netanyahu, because of his role, not as Prime Minister, but his role as Communications Minister. How convenient. I later read a major New York Times story on the incident with this heading: “Israeli Prime Minister is questioned by police in third corruption case.” Third!       

     In any case, I cannot rationalize all that Netanyahu has been accused of. Almost from his beginning in Israeli politics, ethical policy was clearly not a Netanyahu value so it’s not on the Netanyahu agenda. Over the years we’ve all known business men, or sportsmen or bankers, put simply, who have no ethical aspect to their day-to-day professional life. To some degree, there was early indication that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology family values are simply not evident and practiced.

     In the early years of Netanyahu’s  Prime Ministry, (he assumed it in 2009, having been in office before in the mid-90’s) he was rather blase even when Israeli reportage included the news that Israel’s Attorney-General (who naturally reports to the Prime Minister) was aware of the minor intrigues. That includes fraud charges against his own wife for illegally accepting the equivalent of $100,000 in goods. It’s a bit minor but the law is the law.  I am not surprised that Netanyahu has become more and more of concern to Israeli police.

        As for Netanyahu’s career, he was born in 1949, in Tel Aviv, grew up in Jerusalem, son of a well- regarded historian. In his teens he spent some of his growing up-years in Philadelphia, and in time, studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, qualifying for commerce among its other diverse subjects, in the late 1960s. It was around 1986 that he considered standing for a seat in the Israeli party and subsequently he was named Prime Minister. That happened in 1996 but for whatever reason he then resigned in 1999, then returned in 2002, becoming Minister of Foreign Affairs and later Minister of Finance. Then in March, 2009, Netanyahu was made Prime Minister. It was in the years of that office that the current troubles began.

         The deep troubles grew as time passed. In recent years Netanyahu has become used to the irony of being questioned by his own police forces. There must be an “awkward sense of awkwardness.” It is to the great credit of the public culture in Israel that the police have no inhibition in questioning, genuinely and candidly, their own Prime Minister. As for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the questions will keep coming, and as they do, he will be feeling he’s fighting for his calling. He told a handful of people a few days before the hearing that, “I feel confident that nothing will come of it.” I wonder. Chances are, like some enduring politicians, Netanyahu will do it. Maybe it will be like some long experienced politicians — he believes he can do it, believes he deserves it and believes he’ll make it.



       Kenneth Bagnell, an ordained United Church minister has also been a lifelong journalist, a former Managing Editor of The United Church Observer and an editorial writer on The Toronto Star and The Globe & Mail. He has also been a CBC radio and television interviewer/announcer in both the maritime network and various radio stations in Toronto. He is a daily commentator on CKHA, the station that covers much of Ontario’s cottage country and also the author of one of Canada’s yearlong bestsellers, The Little[BB1]  Immigrants, the story of British children shipped to Canada in very early years as labor on farm or home.



  1. greg
    Mar 7, 2018

    Thanks for sharing this article. We seem to live in an increasingly corrupt world driven by greed, avarice, consumerism and enlightenment. We can only hope that future leaders will hold themselves to higher ethical standards.

  2. ken
    Mar 7, 2018

    I am appalled to read your blog on the “other side” of Netanyahu. I had been a supporter, but after what you have reported , this man is corrupt and probably feels he is above the law. I hope the Israel authorities charge him and his wife with all that they are guilty of.

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