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Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu. 'It has been known for years that they are very frugal when it comes to their own money and big spenders when it comes to other people's money. Now this knowledge is an official document' (Photo: AP) Photo: AP
Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu. 'It has been known for years that they are very frugal when it comes to their own money and big spenders when it comes to other people's money. Now this knowledge is an official document' (Photo: AP) Photo: AP
 
Netanyahu. 'Like a child caught pulling a 20-shekel note out of his mother's bag' Photo: Amit Shabi
Netanyahu. 'Like a child caught pulling a 20-shekel note out of his mother's bag' Photo: Amit Shabi
 
 
Nahum Barnea  

 

In Israel, leaders aren't ousted for shameful conduct

Op-ed: A prime minister doesn’t have to be an exemplary figure, but he should be expected to know how to lead. That's what Netanyahu should be given a failing report card for, not for the way his household is being run.

Published: 02.19.15, 00:26 / Israel Opinion

Small, embarrassing, shameful. That's the feeling one gets when reading the state comptroller's report about the prime minister's homes. I am not referring to readers Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu; they lost their sense of shame a long time ago. I am referring to what all the other readers feel.

  

 

God, they say, is in the detail. And the smaller, the pettier the details in the report, the more embarrassing they are. The report forces the reader to peek at norms he wouldn't want to see – not in his own home and not in the prime minister's residence.

 

PM's Response
Likud: There's an attempt to unseat Netanyahu / Noam (Dabul) Dvir, Moran Azulay
Responding to the state comptroller's report on spending in the PMO, ruling party points blame at former employee Menny Naftali and media campaign that 'deals with trifle matters.'
Full story

What is this similar to? A child caught pulling a 20-shekel note out of his mother's bag. The child committed an offense, but the shame is felt by the parents. The same is true when the child is 66 years old.

 

Yes, the shame is great, and so is the disgust. But these are not the type of things a prime minister in Israel is ousted for.

 

The report does not include shocking affairs, big thefts, huge fraud. It's true that the comptroller points to a possible criminal offense on some issues, including the famous electrician and the even more famous bottles. It's true that he handed some of the material over to the State Prosecutor's Office, and that the State Prosecutor's Office has begun looking into it, but we had better not exaggerate: The things revealed in the state comptroller's report point to inappropriate, deceptive behavior, not necessarily a behavior which justifies criminal charges.

 

Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu. 'It has been known for years that they are very frugal when it comes to their own money and big spenders when it comes to other people's money. Now this knowledge is an official document' (Photo: AP)
Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu. 'It has been known for years that they are very frugal when it comes to their own money and big spenders when it comes to other people's money. Now this knowledge is an official document' (Photo: AP)

 

There are purists who believe that politicians must be completely righteous. The Bible's writers detailed the demands in Psalms 15: "Those who live a blameless life, who behave uprightly, who speak truth from their hearts and keep their tongues from slander; who never do harm to others; who refuse usury when they lend money and refuse a bribe to damage the innocent."

 

I would settle for a politician who meets the minimum requirements: Speaks the truth and doesn’t take a bribe. We should look for the blamelessness and innocence in other professions.

 

A prime minister doesn’t have to be an exemplary figure. The way people climb up to this high position makes it almost impossible. Exemplary figures don't gather money and gifts from dubious donors, don't incite against competitors and rivals, don't trick voters, don't elbow their way to the top, aren’t full of themselves.

 

But he should be expected to know how to lead, to make reasonable decisions and make sure that they are implemented, to take responsibility for mistakes. To improve our situation, not worsen it. To direct his gaze towards his people. These are the things Netanyahu should be given a failing report card for, not the way his household is being run.

 

Ahead of the report's publication, the Netanyahus set up an operations room. Lawyers, media advisors and political advisors were called up. This recruitment is almost a routine activity in the couple's career: Scandals come and go, reproachful reports come and go, and the defense system is always prepared to put out the fire. Netanyahu learned from former Prime Minister Ehud Barak that you shouldn't fight with the controlling system: You put your head down, promise to fix things and let it go away.

 

The proximity of the elections pushed the couple and its defense system into a different kind of response. It began with a preventive attack through a false, pathetic video presenting the prime minister's residence as a broken home. It continued on Tuesday with a series of statements made by the couple's lawyers: Joseph Shapira, the state comptroller who was appointed by Netanyahu, was presented as negligent and as a liar. Meni Naftali, the housekeeper who uncovered the couple's disgrace, was accused of spending money.

 

The inflated expenses in the prime minister's homes were compared to the expenses at the President's Residence, while every child knows that the President's Residence is an office in charge of a series of national duties, by law, including the system responsible for it. The prime minister's homes, on the other hand, are used for eating, sleeping and hosting. The comparison between the two is false.

 

It has been known for years that the Netanyahus are very frugal when it comes to their own money and big spenders when it comes to other people's money, including the state's money, and even worse, the private money of hardworking employees. And yet, something happened: As of Tuesday, this knowledge is an official document, signed by the state comptroller.

 

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