Behind the smoke screen

The “gravy train” is an expression commonly used to describe easy and continuous access to money, gifts and goods that are acquired without payment by means of proximity to people of influence or by access to power. I first came across the phrase “riding the gravy train” in Africa decades ago, not surprisingly. The gravy, a rich topping to a bowl of maze, would illustrate just that. But here in Israel, the start-up nation, a more appropriate phrase might be for example the “cigar trail” or the “champagne stream”.

1,2,3,4 (thousand)


There are four police investigations taking place concurrently all of which feature Israel’s prime minister at center stage. Whether he is guilty or merely involved, or completely uninvolved remains something yet to be determined.

Investigation 1000: acceptance of gifts, possibly in return for favors from wealthy tycoons

Investigation 2000: bribery in the form of favorable press for the prime minister by Israel’s leading news network, against “payment” of lowering competition from the main opposing newspaper controlled by Netanyahu’s mentor and bankroller, Sheldon Adelson.

Investigation 3000: scandalous corruption, attempts at – or possible bribery of Germany’s leading submarine producers by bolstering orders way beyond needs, by moving maintenance contracts from Israel’s main workshop to a privately owned one. Here Netanyahu is not under investigation but, almost all the main players in his close entourage are being hauled in for questioning.

Investigation 4000: The supply of insider information by various individuals regarding companies that have dealings with Bezeq, Israel’s largest communications company (once the national phone company) in order to enrich the head of Bezeq – a close associate of Netanyahu.

Place Your Bets Folks

All this isn’t looking good for Israel’s head of state and if you are placing bets, here are the probabilities as to where this is going.

File 4000. It looks bad, but there appears to be little hard evidence suggesting that Netanyahu will be sucked down by this. It’s too early in the game to know what may come up here. Keep your money for other bets.

File 3000. Could go any way but at this time, despite investigations of the closest confidants of the prime minister, there is no direct investigation of Netanyahu. This one doesn’t only look bad. It smells bad and the scale of money involved is massive. This bet is for high stakes players and it’s a long shot. I would say no more than 10% that the PM will be indicted. A lot of second-rung scammers and bribers (these may include top ranking reserve officers from the navy) will go down here but that’s it.

File 2000. The odds are not good for Netanyahu. Conversations are recorded on tape. The quid pro quo is embarrassingly apparent. The problem is that no real action was followed through here, so you have the parties discussing exchanging favors at the public’s expense, but it all came to nothing. Still the tapes carry weight and one can safely look at a 50% chance here.

File 1000. In the end its going to be boxes of cigars and cases of pink champagne that will bring the Netanyahu dynasty to its final conclusion. This case is not only water tight, it’s champagne-cork tight. It’s all documented. “Friends” as the Netanyahu’s claim, don’t have a one-way relationship of giving “presents” on demand nor do they take specific orders for caseloads of a never-ending supply of finest cigars and champagnes. Add to this the devastating facts, that favors were asked for and given in return and it looks bad. I think you are safe at a 90% probability of winning here.

The cigar trail and the champagne stream all lead to one address. The stench emerging from prime minister’s office, the corruption that is flowing from the center outwards into branches of government, the attempt to corrupt democracy itself by advocating laws that limit investigation of a serving head of state, or that aim to limit the police or to reign in the justice system, all point to a cabal of thieves and dishonest brokers who have taken over government and are slurping off the gravy train while social justice is orphaned, education moves backwards and the gap between rich and poor is among the widest of all nations in the OECD. A dark shadow spreads over the light unto the nations. Just yesterday, Menachem Begin’s son, MK Benny Begin was fired from the Knesset Internal Affairs panel for his basic integrity: not conceding to a manipulation preventing investigations of the Prime Minister.

Something Needs to be Done

And let’s be clear, this is not simply a Bibi affair. The culture of thieving, skimming off the top, abusing public office and the ethos of invincibility has not been limited to his tenure alone. His predecessors in the previous two terms to his at least, were no different in this respect.

These people have been in government for far too long. It’s time for them to go. This is the priority for Israel’s next election. Get them away from government, remove them from decision-making and from power, and get their hands out of the coffers. The principles that founded the revisionist movement are long forgotten. Jabotinsky is no more than a photograph in the background and his followers have been banished into political exile by the slurpers riding the gravy train.

Now – how do we do this?

To follow…

About the Author
Originally from South Africa, Jonathan made aliya in the seventies, and lived and worked on a kibbutz for several years. He has a graduate degree in business from Boston University and is a managing partner of an Israeli based business. He was a co-founder of the Forum Tzora peace action group and participates in the Geneva Initiative workshops. He is the author of the book “Valley of Heaven and Earth”.
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