Published On: Sat, Mar 5th, 2016

How Netanyahu twists the truth

PM Netanyahu already knew what AG Avichai Mandelblit's legal opinion was on the matter of expelling the families of terrorists to Gaza, so why did he still send him an open letter requesting the AG's examination of the issue?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu


We did not learn anything new this week, but again we learned something old. Its impossible to know if he is telling the truth or making things up. He may not even know. To be sure, the Prime Minister has an instrumental attitude to truth and lies. He has no moral or principled attitude toward them. He will say whatever it takes to make it through the nightly news unscathed. And that is a problem.

Unlike other leaders who loved lying and deceiving – and whose honesty needn’t necessarily be checked, since we knew they would avoid the truth if they could – Netanyahu doesn’t have a preference. That’s why everything he says needs to be checked, going back to the source. That’s especially so it he’s supposedly quoting surveys or other leaders.

Just last week, the country was in an uproar when Netanyahu returned from Germany and told us that German Chancellor Merkel had said that the time is not appropriate to discuss a two-state solution. The arguments began immediately, right and left, for and against, Herzog was accused, people were disappointed by the European Union and forgot that Merkel was quoted by Netanyahu, and that everything he says need to be checked.

Three days later, it became apparent that it was nonsense. Die Welt reported that Merkel was furious at Netanyahu, who distorted her words deliberately: She and Germany support the two-state solution. Merkel even instructed her representatives at the festive joint session of the Committees of Foreign Affairs and Defense of the Knesset and the Bundestag, to express her anger.

In general, Netanyahu’s favorite lies are those relating to the European Union. Often, after meeting with a representative of a European country, Netanyahu stands in front of the cameras and says that the representative’s country was convinced not to support the marking of products made in Israeli settlements. And, of course, not even 24 hours pass and a representative of that country declares that, on the contrary, they actually do support marking said products, and with gusto.

Or, take the even bigger lie, the one that states many European entities support a boycott of Israel, while in reality the opposite is true. The vast majority oppose it vigorously, and in many cases they’re position is strengthened by anti-boycott laws. All they’re saying is that the occupied territories are not Israel.

Whenever something catches the eye of the media and is not in his favor, Netanyahu produces a spin that captures the public’s attention. Whether it is true or false, accurate or inaccurate – that’s another story.

Thus, with spectacular timing, while Lieberman and Lapid hold an emergency conference to save the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Netanyahu announced that a survey published in US News and World Report places Israel eighth in the world in its ranking of national power.

A brief examination on Google shows that Israel is ranked 25th, and even in the subcategory that relates to power, what hurts the country’s ranking is the leader’s quality score, which is the lowest possible in the report.

I think there is no point in going back over old stories, like the British policemen that young Benjamin saw, or the role the late Rehavam Ze’evi played filled in his government. These anecdotes were milled again and again, but the pattern remains the same: Throw a made up story into the air and hope nobody checks it.

One person who quickly took advantage of Netanyahu’s fictions is Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely. When she realized that Google is the biggest foe of Netanyahu, his government, and his stories, she hurried to meet the heads of Google and YouTube and categorically demanded that they censor certain internet search results. And as the swallow, who follows the crow, she rushed to publish the statement that Google executives have agreed, and will now censor the searches.

But a few hours passed, and Google was quick to clarify that the meeting with Hotovely was one of many that they have with politicians from various countries, and the Deputy Minister has already amended the original announcement, in which she reported – erroneously – about an agreement with Google regarding a censorship mechanism. In other words: No censorship at all.

So what have we learned this week? Nothing.

An old joke says that 82 percent of those who cite polls and statistics in support of their claims invent them on the spot. Indeed, our government is beginning to resemble an old joke.


An un-open letter

On Wednesday, a letter Netanyahu wrote to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, asking him to approve the expulsion of families of terrorists from the West Bank to Gaza, was published. The letter found its way to the media for one simple reason: Netanyahu’s office published it. The publication, and the letter’s content, immediately raised two questions. The first was why Netanyahu bothered sending such a letter to the Attorney General, when he knows precisely what the his position on the matter is. Netanyahu had already heard the reasons for not taking that step, which is contrary to international law.

The second question concerns the publication. Why was it important to Netanyahu that the letter be published, especially when it’s clear what Mandelblit’s answer will be? Ostensibly, the reason is simple: Public relations. Netanyahu wants to present the right-wing public in general and bereaved families in particular with a picture that says he would like to expel the families, but the lawyers won’t let him. It is, therefore, a sarcastic ride Netanyahu is taking on the back of the Attorney General. But that’s not all. You can bet that, with Netanyahu, there’s a hidden story behind the façade – a political one, of course – which is much more interesting.

And so it was: On Saturday, Transport Minister Yisrael Katz appeared on Channel 2 and presented his proposal for the expulsion of terrorists’ families. On Sunday morning, Netanyahu leaked the AG opinion, which denies the proposal’s legality, to the press. Netanyahu thought that by doing so he would remove the topic from the agenda. But then Katz gave an interview shortly before the Cabinet meeting. When he was asked for his reaction, Katz said that the opinion of the AG refers only to the existing law, and that he intends to promote an initiative to change the law, so that the expulsion of families to Gaza will be allowed.

Thereupon, Katz began talks with MKs from the coalition and the opposition, which certainly did not go unnoticed by the Prime Minister. On Wednesday, that same bizarre maneuver took place, with Netanyahu sending his letter to Mandelblit, in which he informs the AG that he supports the deportation of families and that this would prevent terrorism.

Katz is no sucker. He’s already forgotten some of the stuff Netanyahu has not yet learned. And what Netanyahu has learned, he learned Katz. On his Facebook page, Katz wrote, “I welcome the Prime Minister’s public support for the expulsion of the families of terrorists, and his appeal to the AG for the provision of an opinion paper on the subject. Next Monday, I intend to present to the Knesset, by way of other Knesset members from the coalition and the opposition, a proposal to change Israeli law in order to allow the deportation or expulsion of families of terrorists to Syria or Gaza.”

Do not be impressed by Katz’s “welcoming.” You can be sure that he did not overlook the way another one of his initiatives becomes the PM’s, how another act is credited to Netanyahu instead of him. So here’s another reason for the Prime Minister’s letter to the Attorney General: Taking credit for someone else’s initiative. But Katz intends to challenge him: Netanyahu will now be forced to join in and support the bill Katz is authoring.

But the question in this political story is what brings the Prime Minister to issue such a letter, which is entirely unserious and PR-centric. Who gives him his advice? What does that say about his mental condition? About his feelings of persecution, and his incessant battle over getting credit and ruling the agenda? The Prime Minister holds regular discussions with the participation of the AG and tries to promote his positions. He did not have to contact Mandelblit in writing, and certainly did not need to formulate a press release on the AG’s back, when everyone already knows that he has the AG’s official opinion on the matter in his hand.

And Katz? He’s actually satisfied. This is the first time the PM publicly backs an initiative which is so sharply and clearly associated with him. Katz was sure that Netanyahu intended on taking credit for the initiative without promoting it, but what actually happened is that he elevated Katz as its champion. And now, Netanyahu will have a hard time preventing the initiative’s advancement. So there you have it: An example for how and why controversial bills reach a vote in the Knesset Assembly.

Via Ynet News, Sima Kadmon 

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