The man who knew too much
Op-ed: Nir Hefetz protected Benjamin Netanyahu until he realized that, as far as the latter is concerned, he no longer exists. In that critical moment, the man who knows everything there is to know about the Netanyahu family turned into a state’s witness—and the smug and self-confident leader who sat next to the US president in the Oval Office on Monday knows exactly what that means.
That’s what happened with Ehud Olmert’s bureau chief, Shula Zaken, who was deeply offended by a few degrading words uttered by the former prime minister’s lawyer in a television interview.
And that’s what happened with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's former media advisor, Nir Hefetz, who was offended by Netanyahu's attempts to postpone his questioning by the police as much as possible, leaving Hefetz to keep sleeping with fleas. A person who goes to sleep with fleas wakes up as a state’s witness.
This disregard of Hefetz’s condition was likely the final straw. The indifference and lack of concern from the family he had provided services to for years, which turned its back on him at the most difficult time of his life. The way he was abandoned on the side of the road, like other Netanyahu loyalists in the past, turned Hefetz into the gravedigger of the person who seemed like nothing could bring him down.
Nir Hefetz protected the prime minister until the moment he realized that, as far as Netanyahu is concerned, he no longer exists. While he is rotting in a prolonged detention, Netanyahu keeps traveling around the world.
Hefetz compared his difficult detention conditions to the pleasures Blair House has to offer to Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu. And if the reports are true, Hefetz knew how to hit not just Netanyahu, but his voters too, straight in their soft underbelly.
Because if Hefetz did tell his investigators about two security-related affairs in which Netanyahu acted against the recommendations of the defense establishment heads and under the influence of harmful advice offered to him by his wife and son, that would likely be a watershed among his many supporters.
Even his blindest loyalists would have trouble remaining indifferent to stories involving damage to state security. And these stories, I assume, aren’t the only one for which Hefetz received full immunity from the police—no jail time, no fine and no community service.
The media, and the public, have been moving in recent weeks from one climax to another in the Netanyahu investigations. It has become increasingly hard to take seriously the exclamations and then be shocked that we produce one state’s witness to another, one exciting revelation to an even more exciting revelation. But now that Hefetz has turned state’s witness, I believe we’ve reached the top.
There can’t be and won’t be anyone who knows more about the Netanyahu family members than Hefetz, apart from maybe Netanyahu's ex-chief of staff, Natan Eshel. For years, Hefetz was the fly on the wall, the family members’ spokesman, their negotiator with the media, perhaps even the psy-cho-lo-gist’s personal psychologist.
They told him everything, and what they didn’t tell him, he knew thanks to the close relationship, the scheming, the manipulations and the ties. Nir Hefetz is the man who knew too much. We may never know how much he knew.
But one person who knows how much Hefetz knows, and understands the meaning of his new position as state’s witness, is the man who sat in the Oval Office with US President Donald Trump on Monday. Trump did a good job, providing his Israeli friend with a setting he could only dream off.
And Netanyahu? There are no words. Hollywood, which handed out the 2018 Oscar for best actor on Sunday, missed out on the greatest talent of all: The man who sat in the Oval Office on Monday, acting as if the earth isn’t moving under his feet, as if he hasn’t gotten his bowels in an uproar, and as if he couldn’t care less about the reports arriving from Israel. But that may be exactly what rulers looks like before falling from power—elegant, calm, arrogant and self-confident.
One thing’s for sure: Netanyahu's coalition allies came to their senses on Monday. They realized they were handing the next term to Netanyahu on a silver platter, that they were leading the State of Israel to elections for his own interest, and going completely against their own interest.
Members of the coalition, including Likud ministers, have been reiterating in the past few months that they won’t let Netanyahu lead them to elections. That’s enough, they have been saying. If he wants, he can go home and we’ll find someone to replace him until the elections, but we won’t let him dissolve the Knesset.
And now, under the pretext of a coalition crisis, on the most explosive issue of state and religion, which was allegedly initiated by someone else rather than himself, Netanyahu has managed to manipulate experienced people like Ze’ev Elkin, Yisrael Katz, Avigdor Lieberman and Moshe Kahlon into believing that there is no escape from calling early elections. All the promises about not letting Netanyahu drag the country to elections have faded away.
“What can we do?” a senior minister told me. “It’s a coalition crisis.”
Well, it’s not. It’s not a crisis, it’s a trick. There’s no crisis here that can’t be solved within minutes, especially in light of the fact that none of the parties are interested in elections.
Only a successful solution of the draft law crisis during Netanyahu absence, and determination not to play into the prime minister’s hands and drag the country to elections, will prove that they are not a bunch of rag dolls.