The truth behind the complaint that the former Science Ministry employee filed against her former superior, Silvan Shalom, will probably never be known. Only the two of them know what happened, if anything did.
The President’s Residence in Jerusalem – Photo: Contact
Not only is it the past that is shrouded in vagueness; so is the future. Has the case ended Shalom’s bid for the presidency or perhaps done the opposite, breathed new life into it? At the end of the story, will there be a black cloud or a wave of support? Is Shalom tainted, or has he received an energy boost? No one knows.
But one thing is certain: Just as the case stopped the presidential race for a few days, it is likely that it will make us stop for a moment and reconsider whether we need the institution of the presidency at all.
One of the people who is seriously thinking about whether it is a good idea to abolish the presidency is the prime minister. In several consultations he held in recent weeks about the election of the president, all of which ended with no decision about a candidate, he discussed the possibility of closing down the presidency. For good.
It costs the state tens of millions of shekels every year to employ a person whose job is not completely clear, who for years has not served as the symbol it was thought he would be, and whose contribution to the national dignity or any other idea he was supposed to represent has been irrelevant for a long time. Some of his supporters say that in any case, we borrowed the position from other nations and states. It may well be appropriate for them, but it is not necessarily so for us.
Take Shimon Peres. A sigh of relief was audible when Peres became president, as the man who was supposed to restore to that institution the honor that his predecessor had trampled.
But very quickly it became clear that Peres, despite his many presentable traits, was not willing to give up his right to avoid making problematic and controversial political and diplomatic statements. For all practical purposes, he has abandoned the non-partisan character that was supposed to be an integral part of his position.
In complete awareness, and supported by the claim that “after decades, everybody knows what Peres’ opinions are anyway,” as his spokespeople said time after time when they were asked to comment on his statements, Peres has become just another politician, just one who happens to live in a big, magnificent house. The 121st politician. As if the other 120 were not enough.
There seems to be little chance that the institution of the presidency will be abolished such a short time before the elections, and after so many candidates have come forward. But people around Netanyahu are not giving up so quickly. One possibility was to postpone the elections so as to consider abolishing the presidency. In the meantime, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein would serve in the position, since he is acting president by virtue of his position in any case.
Netanyahu is not interested in any of the existing candidates, but it is likely that in the end he will have to express support for one of the candidates from his party. Lieberman said he would not wait for Netanyahu’s decision if it was long in coming, and he is already preparing the ground for expressing his support for Uzi Landau or David Levy, whose name came back onto the endless list of potential candidates. Natan Sharansky’s name came back the same way.
The toughest days of his life
If there is anyone who has not been dealing with presidential affairs this week, it is Shalom. Naturally, when a case like this breaks, a person’s first instinct is to protect his family and his wounded dignity. That was what Shalom did this week.
After being questioned under caution by police and even before any final decision was made as to whether to continue the investigation or close the case, his close associates said that he never had such tough days in all his time in politics, and even before that.
“For 30 years, no stain has attached itself to him,” a close associate said. “This week, a bombshell fell on his head. We need to remember that he has a wife, five children and an 80-year-old mother who took it very hard. He has barely eaten or slept all week. For years he engaged in public activity from morning until night, and suddenly a case like this, whose whole purpose is to make him not run for the presidency, lands on him. There has never been anything like this in Israeli politics.
“Their family is loving and united. His wife and children embraced him right away. Of course, that is helping him get through these last few days, which have been very difficult.”
Shalom’s close associates say that the demonstrations of love toward him have only increased recently after the story became public.
“His whole Facebook page is filled with posts of encouragement and support,” one said. “In addition, he has received thousands of text messages on his telephone and calls of encouragement on the street. People have approached him to tell him that they had no clear opinion about him as president, but now they are calling on him to run for office.”
People close to Shalom say that many of the people who have spoken with him or written to him in recent days have praised him for his behavior this week. Shalom acted with restraint, criticized no one, and even warned his people not to attack or try to smear the woman who has filed the complaint against him, as happens in many cases.
One need only recall Haim Ramon to understand how perpetrators of sexual offenses tend to smear their victims. Just this week, we had another example of that in the chilling statements made by the father one of the teenagers suspected of having participated in a gang rape of a 13-year-old girl.
With no shame, the suspect’s father blamed the girl, saying that she had seduced his son and the others. Ramon, who conducted a smear campaign against the woman soldier he had harassed, could not have said it better. Silvan Shalom said not a word against the complainant.
Immediately after the story broke, Shalom called the attorney-general and asked him to order a rapid investigation of the incident. He expressed willingness to be questioned by any law-enforcement official he wished, as long as he could put the matter behind him as quickly as possible. The big question is, as stated, what will become of the race for the presidency, which has not yet begun for him because he has not yet announced officially his intention to run.
Shalom’s associates say that he did not deal with the presidential race at all this week.
“The presidency is not on his agenda at the moment,” one said. “The only thing that he is concerned about is his reputation. How can anybody plan ahead when everything around him is burning and no final decision has been made yet about his case? All along, Silvan has projected confidence and trust that the case will be closed.”
The complaint against Shalom apparently will not go to court. But a case that will be heard in court soon is that of the complaint filed by Meni Naftali, the former house manager of the Prime Minister’s Residence against those considered to be his employers.
Incidentally, Naftali’s employers were not Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu, as one might have mistakenly thought. His employers were the Prime Minister’s Office and its deputy director-general, Ezra Saidoff.
Naftali’s complaint to the court is full of financial claims against the office that employed him. At the trial, it will become clear whether his claims are justified or not. What is certain is that the prime minister has nothing to do with Naftali’s salary conditions or payments, whatever they may be, or with those of any other employee of the office.
If that is so, why were cases in which Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu were involved inserted into the lawsuit? Hundreds, if not thousands, of employees bring lawsuits against their places of employment over salary demands of one kind or other. None of them gets even a quarter of a headline. But those who pepper a boring lawsuit with juicy stories about the most smeared woman in Israel get enormous media coverage automatically.
The plaintiffs think: Who knows? Maybe the prime minister and his wife would be willing to do anything to avoid negative publicity and will put pressure on those involved to resolve the matter quietly.
It seems that it will be very difficult to rehabilitate Sara Netanyahu’s image. Images sometimes have nothing to do with reality. To this day, people have difficulty internalizing that the image Gabi Ashkenazi had when he was chief of staff — that he was a regular guy from the Golani Brigade and the last of the combat soldiers of the support unit — was light years from the allegedly deceptive acts he is suspected of having committed: concocting the plots and conspiracies in which he was involved.
We have been hearing stories about Sara Netanyahu since the 1990s. Even though none of them has ever been proved true and some have even been proved to be fiction, a large segment of the public does not consider the possibility that they really are untrue. And as they see it, the lack of proof is nothing but coincidence.
Even if the case goes to court and does not end in a withdrawal of the lawsuit, as happened in the case of Lilian Peretz, it is clear enough that all the incidents inserted into the lawsuit that have to do with Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu will not be discussed at all.
The court can rule on whether or not the caretaker deserves an additional sum of money for the period during which he worked in the Prime Minister’s Office. But how can it rule on whether Sara Netanyahu really scolded him for bringing them too much food? Might she perhaps have said it in a friendly tone without raising her voice?
And generally speaking, if every employee whose boss reprimanded him were to sue, the courts would collapse. What kind of reasonable financial compensation does Naftali think the court will award him for having been awakened at 3 a.m. or for having had some dried flowers thrown onto the floor — if these things really happened?
And this is even before the question comes up as to why he fought so hard to get tenure in such an awful place. And even while he was working there, why did he insist on working so many hours, which included sleeping at his workplace voluntarily, to subject himself to all those horrible humiliating acts?
The Sara they never knew
Every time Sara Netanyahu is attacked in the media, this leads to counter-responses from her acquaintances and ordinary citizens infuriated over the campaign of persecution, since they have a completely different impression of her.
P.M. BENJAMIN NETANYAHU LIGHTING HANUKA CANDLES ON THE 1ST NIGHT OF CHANUKAH IN JERUSALEM WITH THE HELP OF HIS WIFE, SARA, SONS, YAIR & AVNER (05/12/1996). – Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/GPO/Flickr
This time, too, the mailbox — both the ordinary one and the electronic one — at the prime minister’s official residence is filled with such letters. One of them deserves special mention; it even got a spot on the Hebrew-language Facebook page “Statusim metzaytzim” (“Statuses that are tweeted”). The writer was Doron Svirsky, whose son, Tom, died after a bout with cancer.
“My name is Doron Svirsky,” he wrote, “and I am the father of Tom, of blessed memory. I have two other children, a 7-year-old son and a one-year-old daughter. These days, as people smear the Prime Minister’s Residence for its behavior toward the caretaker, I want to present the nobility of spirit, sensitivity and caring shown by Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu. I want to say that I usually do not vote right wing, but with no connection to my political views, I admire and respect the Netanyahus so much and know that they do everything with sensitivity, wisdom and consideration for every person, and certainly for the country.
“My son Tommy was ill with cancer and died after 10 months. He was four years and eight months old. While he was ill, the Netanyahus attended an event with the Barcelona soccer team for children who had cancer. My son Tommy, who was the youngest one there, was carried by Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu, and they watched over him through the whole event as if he had been a member of their family.
“The Netanyahus never forgot to keep track of Tommy’s condition. When they learned that Tommy had died, they called several times to offer condolences and even sent a personal letter. What particularly rankles me is the slanderous treatment that Mrs. Sara Netanyahu, whose sensitivity and good-heartedness were so touching, is receiving. Sara Netanyahu is the one who arranged the meeting, and it is impossible not to notice the emotional price she paid.”
Consensus reached: Danon is leaving
Finally, the awful battle will be decided this week. I am not referring to the battle taking place on the Crimean peninsula, but to the much tougher one taking place in the Likud convention. It is hard to fathom the amount of energy and resources have been invested in this war between Netanyahu and Danny Danon. It seems that Netanyahu never met as many Likud members in his entire political career as he met over the past two weeks. And all to defeat Danon in the convention vote.
At least one positive thing has come out of this story: The release of the terrorists that had been planned for next week has been postponed. When Netanyahu goes up against Danon, he cannot stand against the members of the convention just two days after having released dozens of terrorists. As far as Danon is concerned, the accomplishment has already been gained. He made Netanyahu go out into the field again. Maybe when the members of the Central Committee see that the only way to get the prime minister to pay attention to them is to back me up, he says, they will choose to support my proposal.
In any case, there is one thing that both of them agree on: that Danon will be going home this week. Next week will be Danon’s last as deputy defense minister after he threatened to resign if terrorists were freed. Netanyahu, for his part, threatened to fire Danon before he could resign on his own. When both of them agree on that so strongly that they fight over who will do it first — who said there was no unity in the Likud?
View original Israel Today publication at: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=16467