From Gush Shalom
This Monday the Knesset reassembled for its winter session after a long (and blessed) vacation. On such occasions, the president of the state and the prime minister are invited to speak. The speeches are supposed to be festive, full of pious platitudes. In one ear and out the other.
Not this time.
Seated next to the Speaker, the President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, made a speech that was unprecedented in every respect. He attacked the Likud-dominated government coalition and accused it of undermining the rule of law, the Attorney General and the police.
The President is no leftist, by any means. He belongs to the nationalist right. His ideology is that of "the whole of Eretz-Israel." He is a member of the Likud party.
To understand him, one has to go back to Vladimir Jabotinsky, who in the 1920s founded the Revisionist Party, the foremother of the Zionist Right. Jabotinsky was born and brought up in Czarist Odessa, but studied in Italy, when the Risorgimento was still fresh in everybody's mind. This movement was an unusual mixture of extreme nationalism and extreme liberalism, and Jabotinsky took this with him.
Jabotinsky's portrait hangs in every Likud office, but his teachings have long ago been forgotten by the Likud membership, except for old-timers like Rivlin, who is 78. He was born at the outbreak of World War II. He belongs to a special group of people: descendants of East European Jews who came to Palestine long before the Zionist movement was born. His father was an expert on Arab culture.
Rivlin is one of the nicest people I know. Everybody likes him. Everybody, that is, except Netanyahu, who, with rare foresight, objected to his nomination.
NETANYAHU LISTENED to Rivlin's speech with a frozen face. Then he rose to make his own speech -- a speech which was prepared long before the session, but which sounded as if Rivlin had listened to it before preparing his own text.
The Prime Minister attacked the Supreme Court, the Attorney General, the Chief of Police, the media and the left, as if all these were meeting in secret to prepare his downfall. This was quite extraordinary, since the attorney general and the police chief were his own personal choices. According to him, all these were conspiring to bring him down in an anti-democratic plot, a putsch by police investigators and criminal prosecutors. The frequent leaks from these investigations, which have been widely published in the media, were -- according to Netanyahu -- all part of the plot.
And indeed, the public has been well informed about the investigations, one of which concerns expensive presents given by multi-millionaires to Netanyahu, who is himself quite rich. The presents include very expensive cigars, and therefore this bribery investigation is called the "cigar case."
The same and other millionaires also gave expensive presents to Sarah, Netanyahu's very unpopular wife. These include pink champagne, so this investigation is called the "pink champagne case."
But these are bagatelles compared to a black cloud approaching Netanyahu and called the "submarines case." It concerns the acquisition of submarines and surface vessels from a German shipyard. Since German armament producers are known for paying huge bribes to the chiefs of backward countries, nobody was really surprised by rumors of many tens of millions of Euros being paid to Israeli politicians, admirals and middlemen. But where did the euros stop? Before they reached the top?
NETANYAHU'S REACTIONS speak louder than the rumors. They have replaced his obsessions about the Iranian nuclear bomb, the terrible danger of Hezbollah and even the treacherous Israeli left. They seem to be his main preoccupation.