Ex-Mossad Directors criticize Netanyahu

Ex-Mossad Directors criticize Netanyahu
A number of former Israeli intelligence heads have spoken against Prime Minister Netanyahu’s rule of the country. They have claimed that Israel is in a “critical medical state..

A number of former Israeli intelligence heads have spoken against Prime Minister Netanyahu’s rule of the country. They have claimed that Israel is in a “critical medical state.” There are numerous allegations of corruption, bribery, and media manipulation against Benjamin Netanyahu.

Background

Born in 1949, Benjamin Netanyahu has had a long and illustrious career.  At 18, Netanyahu joined the Israel Defence Forces, serving as captain of the Sayeret Matkal commando unit. He later graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Netanyahu was Israel’s deputy chief of mission in Washington (1982), permanent Israeli representative to the UN (1984), deputy foreign minister (1988), and chairman of the Likud party (1992). In 1996, he became Israel’s youngest and first democratically elected Prime Minister. Netanyahu has been the elected Prime Minister of Israel four times, and has ruled for a total of 12 years. In September this year, he will become Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister.

There are four cases currently against Benjamin Netanyahu. The first is Case 1000 or the “Gifts Affair”, which alleges that the Netanyahu family received over £200,000 worth of gifts from Western billionaires. The police believe that these gifts may have links to Netanyahu’s advocacy of the Milchan Law, which exempts expats returning to the country from taxes for a decade after return. The second “Case 2000” alleges a deal with the publisher of Israel’s most popular newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, for positive coverage. Case 3000 or the “Submarine Affair” connects Netanyahu to corruption over a billion dollar deal with German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp.

The fourth case, “Case 4000”, links the Prime Minister to the telecom giant Bezeq. Schlomo Filber, Netanyahu’s trusted aide, agreed to testify against him earlier this year. Netanyahu has been charged with granting Bezeq regulatory benefits and subsidiaries in return for positive media coverage. Prime Minister Netanyahu has maintained his innocence and referred to the investigations against him as a “witch hunt”.

Analysis

On Tuesday, it was reported that a number of former Israeli Mossad chiefs have spoken against Prime Minister Netanyahu. In a joint interview with Israel’s most popular newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, six ex-spymasters criticised Netanyahu’s leadership of the country. Yedioth Ahronoth is known for its criticism of the Prime Minister, who allegedly attempted to orchestrate a deal with the newspaper for positive coverage.

Danny Yatom, Mossad Director from 1999 to 2001, cited the numerous corruption allegations against Netanyahu, and claimed that the Prime Minister and his followers were guilty of “putting their interests ahead of national interests”. Calling for the Prime Minister’s dismissal, Yatom criticized Netanyahu’s Palestine policy in particular, stating, “the inertia in the diplomatic sphere, which is leading us toward a bi-national state, which would spell the end of (Israel as) a Jewish and democratic state.”

Zvi Zamir, head of the Mossad from 1968 to 1974, went a step further, claiming the Prime Minister’s four-term rule had made the country “sick”. “We have children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren here, and I want them to live in a healthy country - and the country is sick,” he said. “We are in a critical medical state. It could be that the country had symptoms when Netanyahu took over, but he has brought it to the grave condition of a malignant disease.”

The Prime Minister’s office did not respond to these comments. Education Minister Naftali Bennett stepped forward to refute the statements. “The country is in an excellent condition,” he said. “Among most of our leadership, the good of the country is first and foremost.... Israel is going in a good direction.”

On Monday, Prime Minister Netanyahu was called in for questioning on “Case 4000”, along with his wife and son. Last month, the police recommended that Netanyahu be indicted for corruption. Israel’s Attorney General is currently reviewing the case, and will decide whether the Prime Minister will be formerly charged. It would not be unprecedented for an Israeli head of state to be convicted for corruption. In 2015, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced to jail; ex-President Moshe Katsav was convicted for rape in 2011.

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Olmert reportedly called for Netanyahu to step down in order to “preserve the dignity and respect the status of the Israeli Prime Minister.” Olmert claimed that he had stepped down himself. “When I saw the allegations against me would interfere with my performance, I resigned,” he told the newspaper.

Assessment

Our assessment is that negative testimonies from well-respected officials do not bode well for the Israeli Prime Minister. Netanyahu is adept at navigating politically sensitive waters, however, opinion polls on his resignation remain highly divided. As stated previously, we believe that if Netanyahu is not indicted, these allegations of corruption may remain a permanent stain on his public image and political career.

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