Three men in a storm, but just one apology

Caught on tape, caught on camera, and just caught. That’s the fate of three men in the eye of the Israeli storm this week — and in only one case has there been an apology for aberrant behaviour.

On tape is none other than Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, questioned at length by his country’s police last Friday and likely to be in the frame for more prolonged questioning over allegations of corruption.

At first these questions apparently related to gifts of champagne and cigars, laughed off by Bibi and his inner circle.

But now it appears that there is more substance to the questions, which deal with conversations he had with media tycoon Arnon Mozes, and which are the ones on tape.

In return for toning down the coverage of the Netanyahu family by his paper, Yediot Achronot, Mozes was apparently offered a cap on circulation of the paper’s great rival, Israel Today, owned by Bibi’s great friend, US squillionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Will this dirt stick any more than the champagne and cigars? Doubtful. But it leaves an undeniably nasty taste.

Now to the man caught on camera, loose cannon Shai Masot, for whom an understandably furious Israeli ambassador Mark Regev has had to apologise to Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan.

Masot — an employee at the Israeli embassy in London — was taped in an undercover sting by Al-Jazeera TV discussing “taking down” various British MPs, including Sir Alan himself.

It is undeniably true that Sir Alan does not love Israel as he might. What is not clear is what was Masot’s level of seniority at the embassy — although his employment is now due to be terminated very shortly.

What does interest me is that the Foreign Office has said very quickly that it regards the matter as closed.

That means that no matter how much gleeful manna is sought to be made of this idiocy by Israel’s natural enemies, it probably will not linger, except as an unfortunate glitch in otherwise good relations between Britain and Israel.

Lastly, and most troubling of all, comes the case of Elor Azaria, the Israeli sergeant-medic convicted last week of manslaughter for shooting dead last year a wounded — and disarmed — Palestinian terrorist in Hebron.

Azaria was carefully and properly convicted of manslaughter by an Israeli military court

But within days of his conviction we had no less a person than Israel’s prime minister — the prime minister! — calling for him to receive a pardon.

This in turn has fuelled the furious debate over the case that has now erupted in the Israeli media following Azaria’s conviction. It is a debate that divides pretty evenly.

There are those who described this not-very-well-educated 20-year-old from Ramle as “everybody’s child”, and those who failed to understand how shooting dead a wounded man can conceivably be construed as “defending civilians”.

What remains true of the Israeli Defence Forces is that the state asks young men and women — but mainly impressionable young men of 18, 19 and 20 years old — to make near-impossible, split-second decisions every day while they are serving the country.

In the case of Sgt Azaria, this was not such a decision but one that was taken while a man lay wounded on the ground in front of him, plainly and observably no longer a threat.

What Bibi hopes to gain by calling for a pardon for Azaria is, as so often with Bibi, an impenetrable mystery.

Somewhere, perhaps, there will be an explanatory tape.

About the Author
Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist.