A report on Channel 10—a known stronghold of Bibi-animosity—claims that
senior law enforcement officials have concluded there is sufficient evidence to file an indictment against [Prime Minister Netanyahu] on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust…. The report quoted an unofficial police opinion according to which the evidence that has accumulated against Netanyahu is robust…. The State Attorney’s Office, Channel 10 reported, was also coming to the opinion that there are grounds to file an indictment on bribery, but was not as sure as the police.
Most of the latest purported information—once again leaked by the police, guardians of virtue in the Bibi-hunt who have leaked ruthlessly and systematically throughout this affair—concerns Case 1000, in which Netanyahu is alleged to have done favors for his longtime friend, businessman and movie mogul Arnon Milchan, in return for gifts of cigars and champagne.
In other words, the suspicions center on bribery—Netanyahu illicitly receiving stuff from Milchan as a quid pro quo.
And what is Netanyahu alleged to have done for Milchan in return for the “bribe”?
The charge that keeps reappearing is that Netanyahu asked then-secretary of state John Kerry to help get Milchan a ten-year visa so that Milchan could stay in the U.S. to do what he does there.
If it’s true, it’s not exactly spine-chilling. Let’s say you have a friend in the States who badly wants a long-term visa, and you have an ongoing connection with the secretary of state, with whom you converse for hours at a time. What would you do?
In normal times—one might even say in a normal country—this is not the stuff of which “corruption scandals” are made. If Netanyahu indeed asked for Kerry’s help with Milchan’s visa, it was absolutely routine behavior of a kind that very few people involved in public life have not engaged in.
Even stranger in this case is that the ostensible “bribe” did not consist of money—usually the stuff of which bribes are made—but of nonmonetary gifts. Netanyahu appears to acknowledge receiving these gifts of cigars and champagne from Milchan for years, saying that—again—this was within the normal, noncriminal bounds of human behavior, a friend giving presents to a friend.
What, then, constituted the bribe? If the Netanyahu-Milchan friendship goes back years—and that is not in dispute—it’s hard to imagine Netanyahu, in return for Milchan asking for help with the visa, needing some certain quantity of cigar boxes, or some certain set of champagne crates, as “the bribe.”
In other words, in the context of a long-standing friendship, the notion of such a “bribe” crosses the line into the absurd.
No less absurd is Case 2000, the second leg of the edifice of Bibi-allegations. It centers on an audiotape—found by the police entirely accidentally—in which Netanyahu discusses a deal with a newspaper mogul that was never acted upon and never even got off the ground.
In other words, the “crime” here consists of saying things and having them accidentally discovered, even though no illicit action of any kind was carried out.
But that’s the way it is with the Bibi-hunt, in which ordinary behavior turns into “criminal” allegations, huge sums of taxpayer money are spent on endless “investigations,” and the law-enforcement establishment openly, relentlessly, and shamelessly collaborates with the media to create an atmosphere of dark suspicion and wrongdoing for which—even according to the stories they keep feeding us—no basis exists.
What could prevent a phenomenon such as the Bibi-hunt would be an improvement in Israel’s political culture. Personal and political animosities toward a leader would not be allowed to overturn standards and norms, and a leader would not be treated as prey to be hunted down. People who want to unseat him would try to do so by playing the normal democratic game—even if they were likely to lose.