Posted tagged ‘Netanyahu’

Ever wonder what fake news is?

May 7, 2017

Ever wonder what fake news is? IsraeliPM via YouTube, May 7, 2017

 

Putin ramps up Syria pact with Iran in US absence

March 5, 2017

Putin ramps up Syria pact with Iran in US absence, DEBKAfile, March 5, 2017

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Constantly bombarded by allegations that his campaign associated with Russian intelligence, US President Donald Trump has held back from going through with his original plan for teaming up with Moscow in Syria for the important campaigns of wiping out the Islamic State and relieving Syria of Iran’s iron grip.

His entire Middle East policy is up in the air, while he grapples with domestic foes. The much talked-of US coalition with its regional allies, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Israel, is also in abeyance.

Amid the uncertainty about the Trump administration’s future steps, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is unlikely to make much headway in his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday, March 9,

DEBKAfile’s intelligence and military sources report that, even if does persuade Putin to stick to his promise to prevent Iran and Hizballah from deploying troops on the Syrian-Israeli border opposite the Golan, he won’t get far in his bid to prevent Iran from establishing a permanent military and naval presence in Syria.

This is the situation stacking up against Netanyahu:

1. The Trump administration has decided not to decide on Middle East policy – and Syria, in particular – while engaged in dodging his domestic enemies’ Russian arrows.

2. Some of the president’s advisers maintain that the state of indecision in Washington may turn out into an advantage. It might not be a bad thing for Moscow to carry the heavy lifting of tackling ISIS, Iran and Hizballah, rather than putting US troops in harm’s way.

3. Putin is not waiting for Trump and is already on the move, DEBKAfile’s sources report.

Friday, March 3, Russian special operations units recovered the Syrian town of Palmyra from the Islamic State.

That day too, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), composed predominantly of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia and Arab tribesmen from the north, agreed to hand over their positions in the strategic town of Manjib to the Russians and the Syrian army,

The SDF was created, trained, armed and funded by the United States as the potential spearhead force for the offensive against the Islamic State. This force was able to last year to capture the small (pop: 50,000) northern town of Manjib, 30km west of the Euphrates, thanks only to US aerial bombardments of ISIS positions and American advisers.

How come that this important US ally suddenly surrendered its positions to the Russians and Assad’s army?

There is more than one reason. Firstly, the SDF’s Kurdish and Arab commanders apparently decided to give up on waiting for Washington to come round, especially since the only weapons they had received from the Obama administration for fighting ISIS were Kalashnikov AK-74 rifles.

Moreover, the Kurds’ most implacable arch enemy is breathing down their necks. On March 1, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan threatened to order his army, which has occupied northern Syria since last year, to seize Manjib. He said: “Manjib is a city that belongs to the Arabs and the SDF must not be in Raqqa either.”

The Kurdish-Arab force decided to take the Turkish leader at his word. Believing him to be close to Trump, its leaders decided their services were being dispensed with. They saw no point therefore in wasting and risking their troops in battles in the US interest.  In this situation, Moscow looked like a better bet.

DEBKAfile’s military sources stress that, when the Russians say they are working with the Syrian army, they really mean the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the pro-Iranian Shiite militias and Hizballah, because most Syrian army’s units were decimated by nearly six years of civil war, or exist only on paper.

That being so, even if Putin does promise Netanyahu to distance Iranian and pro-Iranian troops from the Syrian-Israeli border, he may not be in a position to honor his pledge. With the Americans far away, they are Russia’s main partners on the ground for achieving his future goals in Syria.

PM threatens ministers with polygraph over pre-Trump leaks

February 14, 2017

Top aide says ‘impossible to work’ when reports on security cabinet meetings hit the press, including Netanyahu’s comments on president’s personality

February 14, 2017, 9:00 am

Source: PM threatens ministers with polygraph over pre-Trump leaks | The Times of Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem on January 29, 2017. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL)

WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff condemned harshly a series of leaks to come out of top-level meetings ahead of Netanyahu’s summit with US President Donald Trump, threatening to submit ministers to lie detector tests.

The government will “consider using polygraphs” to ensure that internal debates are not leaked from the security cabinet, one of Israel’s most sensitive security decision-making bodies, Yoav Horowitz told reporters accompanying the prime minister to Washington early on Tuesday.

 On Sunday, Netanyahu convened the security cabinet, a forum of the most senior ministers, for a four-hour discussion in a bid to formulate policy on Iran, Syria and the Palestinians.

Several news outlets published leaked comments from the meeting minutes after it concluded, including reports that Netanyahu said he would seek to avoid a confrontation with the US president when they meet on Wednesday, especially given Trump’s personality.

“It’s impossible to work like this,” Horowitz said, arguing that any leaks — even if on the face of it some might look harmless — are detrimental to Israeli security interests.

From left to right: Acting Security Advisor Nagel, Military Attache to the Prime Minister Toledano, PM Netanyahu's chief of staff Horowitz, Israeli Ambassador to the US Dermer and PM Netanyahu, at the Blair House in Washington, February 13 (Avi Ohayun/GPO)

From left to right: Acting Security Advisor Nagel, Military Attache to the Prime Minister Toledano, PM Netanyahu’s chief of staff Horowitz, Israeli Ambassador to the US Dermer and PM Netanyahu, at the Blair House in Washington, February 13 (Avi Ohayun/GPO)

Leaks from ministers and others are a regular part of the Israeli media landscape, as politicians jockey to steer the narrative on various issues.

According to Channel 2, the prime minister told ministers that the Trump administration, while friendlier than the Obama administration, would not tolerate unlimited construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

He cautioned ministers that Israel must tread lightly and take Trump’s “personality into account,” the TV report said.

The meeting was one of three he had with ministers on Sunday ahead of the trip, as he attempted to tamp down right-wing pressure to use the visit with Trump to push for increased settlement building, annexation of West Bank settlement blocs and a retreat from support for the two-state solution.

According to a separate report on the security cabinet meeting Sunday, Netanyahu also revealed details of his telephone conversation with Trump on January 22, in which the US president insisted the Palestinians could be pushed to make concessions for peace over Netanyahu’s protestations.

Citing an official familiar with events at the meeting, the Haaretz daily said Trump asked Netanyahu to explain how the Israeli leader intends to act to achieve a final peace agreement.

Netanyahu told him that although he backs a two-state solution, he doesn’t believe that the Palestinians will make the required concessions. Trump responded by reassuring Netanyahu that the Palestinians will be flexible.

“They will want, they will make concessions,” Trump told Netanyahu, according to the official, who requested anonymity.

The prime minister shared details of the phone call with the security cabinet after Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked urged him to convince Trump to withdraw US backing for the two-state solution, according to the report.

“Trump believes in a deal and in running peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,” the prime minister was quoted as saying in response. “We should be careful and not do things that will cause everything to break down. We mustn’t get into a confrontation with him.”

Contrary to Channel 2’s description of the meeting as “stormy,” the Prime Ministers Office took care to note in a laconic message to the press afterward that it was “relaxed and professional.”

In 2012, Netanyahu threatened to submit Israeli ministers and others to lie detector tests after details of a security cabinet meeting on Iran leaked.

While widely seen by experts as unreliable, polygraphs are still used by law enforcement and others in Israel as part of investigations, including in the workplace.

Will Trump back Israel in the next war?

February 10, 2017

Will Trump back Israel in the next war? Israel Hay0m, Ruthie Blum, February 10, 2017

Analysts on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean — and of the political spectrum — have been scrutinizing every syllable uttered by members of the new administration in Washington to determine whether U.S. President Donald Trump is as good a friend to the Jewish state as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hopes.

So far, four issues have been discussed and debated ad nauseam: U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley’s pronouncement that her government would not abandon Israel at the world body, as the Obama administration did when it enabled the passage of Security Council Resolution 2234, which deemed all Jewish presence beyond the 1949 Armistice Lines illegal; the nomination of David Friedman — a settlements sympathizer who supports relocating the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — as U.S. ambassador to Israel; a recent Trump administration warning that Israeli settlement construction could be potentially harmful to peace negotiations toward Palestinian statehood (the “two-state solution”); and the omission of any mention of Jews in the statement issued by the administration on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Where the bigger picture is concerned, Israel is observing Team Trump’s behavior toward Iran, telling Tehran that its saber-rattling and ballistic missile tests will incur serious consequences; imposing new sanctions on the mullah-led regime; and openly weighing the designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.

But the one question that has not been raised is how the Trump administration will respond when Israel is forced to go to war, yet again, with Hamas in Gaza and/or with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Middle East experts have been predicting, albeit cautiously, that neither scenario is likely in the near future, due to the internal difficulties each terrorist group is currently experiencing. Hezbollah is deeply entrenched in the Syrian civil war, and has already lost many of its men in the fighting. Hamas is suffering from a loss of income, as a number of European countries begin to reconsider the process of transferring cash earmarked for the rehabilitation of Gaza, which ends up paying for the rebuilding and enhancement of tunnel and rocket infrastructure.

Recent developments indicate, however, that more serious military action — in addition to retaliatory IDF moves following errant or aimed fire on Israel from just beyond its southern and northern borders — may be unavoidable.

This week, a Haifa court ordered the temporary closure of the city’s 12,000-ton ammonia tank, pending further discussion on Sunday. This was after the municipality requested that it be shut down completely, following a report indicating that in any explosion, tens of thousands of people in the area would be killed. And since Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah threatened in February to attack it, residents of the region have been living in fear.

Meanwhile, over the past few days, Hezbollah has been engaging in a crowd-funding campaign on social media hashtagged “Money for jihad is a must,” with a video appeal featuring fighters and clerics asking people to donate to the “resistance.”

Though this is clearly a result of the organization’s dwindling resources, caused by its extended stint in Syria, Nasrallah’s deputy, Naim Qassem, said in an interview with the Lebanese newspaper Al-Binaa that the group’s message to Israel remains the same: “We are willing to pay the price of the conflict. Are you?”

Hamas, too, has been busy threatening Israel online. In a new music video — titled “Zionist, You Will Die in Gaza” — the terrorist organization that reigns supreme in the enclave lodged between Israel and Egypt warns, “A rocket will come to you, Zionist, wherever you live. You will die sleeping, awake or on the mountain. I will make you drink from the glass of death; what a bitter taste.”

It would appear, then, that war is on the horizon.

During Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s battle against Hamas in Gaza in the summer of 2014, then-President Barack Obama said that though the Jewish state had a right to defend itself, it should exercise “restraint.”

In a meeting at his New York office with Jewish journalists during the U.S. presidential primaries, Trump was asked whether he agreed with the statement — made by Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders to the editorial board of the Daily News — that Israel had used “disproportionate force” in Gaza.

“When missiles are being shot into your country, I don’t know what ‘disproportionate force’ is supposed to mean,” he replied.

It is a matter of when — not if — this attitude in relation to Israel and its enemies is put to the test. So far, Netanyahu, who will be convening with Trump on Wednesday in the White House, has good reason to believe that Obama’s successor will pass it with flying colors.

Trump, the Pistol and Holy Branch

January 17, 2017

Trump, the Pistol and Holy Branch, Front Page MagazineCaroline Glick, January 17, 2017

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Sunday morning, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the Paris conference as a “futile” relic of a period that is about to end.

Netanyahu said that the conference’s goal of boxing Israel into an untenable framework for dealing the Palestinians was nothing more than the “final palpitations of a yesterday’s world.”

“Tomorrow,” he intoned, “will look a lot different. And tomorrow is very close.”

Trump will take office on Friday. Since he was elected, he has given every reason to believe that Abbas and his deputies and their European and American enablers will have to either put up or shut up.

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Originally published by the Jerusalem Post

With a gun on his hip, on November 13, 1974, PLO chief Yasser Arafat stood before the UN General Assembly and made the West an offer that it didn’t refuse.

At the end of a long speech in which he rewrote history to erase all connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel and criminalized the very notion of Jewish freedom, Arafat declared, “Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter’s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. I repeat: Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.”

Arafat’s offer has served since that time as the foundation of European relations with the Palestinians and the wider Islamic world. It has also been the basis of US-PLO relations for the better part of the past four decades.

His trade was simple and clear.

If you stand with the PLO in its war to annihilate Israel and deny Jewish freedom, then PLO terrorists and our Arab state supporters will leave you alone.

If you refuse to join our war against the Jewish state, we will kill you.

Today, Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, is reiterating Arafat’s offer.

Speaking Saturday at the Vatican after the Holy See decided to recognize “Palestine,” Abbas said that if US President-elect Donald Trump goes ahead with his plan to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, it will “fuel extremism in our region, as well as worldwide.”

Abbas’s spokesman was more explicit. Saturday night, Osama Qawasmeh, spokesman for Abbas’s Fatah PLO faction and member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, said that if the US moves its embassy to Israel’s capital city, “The gates of hell will be opened in the region and the world.”

Abbas and Qawasmeh also said that the PLO expects that members of the international community will make Trump see the light and abandon his plan.

French President Francois Hollande’s “peace conference” on Sunday was the international community’s way of fulfilling Abbas’s demand.

As multiple commentators have noted, the conference’s purpose wasn’t to promote the prospects for peace. It was to constrain Trump’s policy options for handling the Palestinian war against Israel.

By bringing together representatives of some 70 countries to insist that Israeli homeowners are the moral equivalent of Palestinian terrorists, Hollande and his comrades hoped to box Trump into their PLO-compliant policy.

Spelling out the demand Trump is required to accept, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc-Ayrault parroted the Palestinian threats.

Asked by the French media Sunday if moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem would provoke the Palestinians, Ayrault said, “Of course.”

He then demeaned Trump’s plan to move the embassy as nothing but the regular bluster of American politicians.

In his words, “I think he [Trump] would not be able to do it. It would have extremely serious consequences and it’s not the first time that it’s on the agenda of a US president, but none has let himself make that decision.”

Ayrault is correct about Trump’s predecessors.

To one degree or another, since the early 1970s, successive US administrations have joined the Europeans in selling Israel down the river to prevent Arafat’s minions from pointing their guns at the American people.

Like the Europeans, the Americans have upheld their side of this bargain even when the PLO failed to uphold its end. For instance, in 1973 Arafat ordered his terrorists to storm the Saudi Embassy in Khartoum and take US ambassador Cleo Noel, his deputy, George Curtis Moore, and Belgian diplomat Guy Eid hostage. Arafat then ordered his henchmen to murder the diplomats after then president Richard Nixon rejected his demand to release Robert F. Kennedy’s Palestinian murderer, Sirhan Sirhan, from prison.

Instead of responding to the execution of US diplomats by siding with Israel against the PLO, the US covered up and denied the PLO’s responsibility for the attack for the next 33 years.

The US is still covering up for the PLO’s murder of US embassy personnel in Gaza in 2003. At the same time, it is providing the PLO with nearly three quarters of a billion dollars in direct and indirect annual aid, including the training and provision of its security forces.

The Europeans for their part have egged the US along throughout the years. France has generally led European efforts to convince the Americans to side with Palestinian as well as Hezbollah terrorists in their war against Israel in the name of “peace.”

Sunday morning, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the Paris conference as a “futile” relic of a period that is about to end.

Netanyahu said that the conference’s goal of boxing Israel into an untenable framework for dealing the Palestinians was nothing more than the “final palpitations of a yesterday’s world.”

“Tomorrow,” he intoned, “will look a lot different. And tomorrow is very close.”

Trump will take office on Friday. Since he was elected, he has given every reason to believe that Abbas and his deputies and their European and American enablers will have to either put up or shut up.

Speaking of the president-elect, Henry Kissinger said that Trump is the first man in recent memory who doesn’t owe anybody anything for his victory.

The only people he is answerable to are the voters who elected him.

Trump’s electoral victory owes to his success in tapping into the deep reservoir of popular disaffection with the elitist culture and policies that have governed post-Cold War West. He has used the mandate he received from American voters to revisit the basic assumptions that have driven US policies for the past generation.

His skepticism at NATO and the EU are examples of his refusal to simply accept the received wisdom of his predecessors. Just this weekend he told Germany’s Bild magazine that he continues to question the purpose of NATO, which is a drag on US taxpayers and doesn’t fight terrorism.

He similarly restated his ambivalence toward the EU and that its open border policy has been a “catastrophic failure,” and he expects more countries to follow Britain’s lead and exit the EU.

Trump’s position on the PLO and the Palestinian war on Israel is of a piece with his wider rejection of the common wisdom of Western elites. Just as he didn’t hesitate to say that the EU mainly serves as an instrument for Germany to dominate the European market, so he has made no mystery of his rejection of the moral equivalence between Israel and Palestinian terrorists which forms the basis of the twostate formula.

Not only won’t Trump join the Obama administration and the French in criminalizing Israeli homeowners, Trump is celebrating them. He has invited the leaders of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria – that is, the so-called “settlements” – to attend his inauguration.

And he appears dead serious about moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

Under these circumstances, Israel has the opportunity and the obligation to end the PLO’s ability to threaten the US, not to mention itself. It is Israel’s duty to ensure that the next time the PLO tries to exact a price in blood for America’s refusal to abide by the terms of Arafat’s blackmail, his terrorist group is finally destroyed.

Similarly, Israel is now obliged to take the lead and abandon the PLO-friendly two-state policy, which blames Israel for Palestinian terrorism, and adopt a strategy that works in its place.

Netanyahu has refused to consider any alternative until after Barack Obama is out of office.

Consultations must be scheduled for Saturday night.

Shock Israeli Poll Finds Only 4% Want a Left-of-Center Prime Minister

January 16, 2017

Shock Israeli Poll Finds Only 4% Want a Left-of-Center Prime Minister, PJ MediaAvner Zarmi, January 16, 2017

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But nowhere is this more obvious than in Israel, as a recent poll sponsored by the Jerusalem Post clearly demonstrates.

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The political Left is in full retreat across most of the world.

Certainly, this is obvious in the United States. At present, 33 of the 50 states are governed by Republicans (and one, Alaska, by a fairly conservative independent). Of the twelve most populous states in the union, only one, California, is completely controlled by the Democratic Party. The other eleven are either completely controlled by Republicans or have divided government, including New York, where the state Senate is majority GOP.

This is equally evident across Europe. In the United Kingdom, the Labour Party is a shadow of its former self. The old Liberal Party (now the Liberal-Democratic Party) barely exists, and the Conservatives have a commanding lead in Parliament. The recent government shake-up that resulted in the fall of David Cameron and the rise of Theresa May was a disagreement within the Conservative Party concerning Brexit, an argument which Cameron lost. In France, Socialist President François Hollande is clearly on his way out, and the only real question is whether he’ll be succeeded by the conservative François Fallon or the Populist Marine Le Pen. Similar developments are rocking Germany, the Netherlands, and other European governments.

But nowhere is this more obvious than in Israel, as a recent poll sponsored by the Jerusalem Post clearly demonstrates.

In order to understand the real import of this poll, it is necessary to recount some Israeli history.

Since the founding of Israel in 1948, there have been twenty Knessiyoth (the Hebrew plural of Knesset, Israel’s parliament). Over the years, the number of members has remained stable at 120, but the make-up has changed markedly.

From 1948 to 1977, Israeli politics was completely dominated by the Left. In the first Knesset, parties of the Left (including the Israeli Communist Party) held 74 of the 120 seats. In the second Knesset, elected in 1951, they held 69 seats; in the third Knesset, elected in 1955, they held 70 seats; in the fourth Knesset (1959), they held 81 seats; in the fifth (1961), they held 64 seats; in the sixth (1965), they held 68 seats; in the seventh (1969), they held 66 seats.

In the eighth (December 1973), even after the terrible debacle of the Yom Kippur War, they still held 59 seats, representing the largest single faction in the Knesset.

In 1977, the first political “revolution” (as Israeli television commentators at the time called it) occurred: Likud became the largest faction with 54 seats; the fractured Left still retained 40. Likud continued to dominate until 1984, when the government veered leftward again, and the Leftist contingent had 55 seats. The election of 1988 returned Likud to power at the head of a governing coalition, but parties of the Left still held 53 seats, a balance of power which continued until 1992, when the Left again took power, with 59 seats.

The 1996 election, which saw Benjamin Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister, was a bit anomalous in that for the first time there was an independent election for prime minister. Despite Netanyahu’s victory, the Left still held the largest faction in the Knesset with 48 seats. The dual elections for the Knesset and premiership continued in 1999, when Ehud Barak succeeded Netanyahu and the Left continued to hold the largest faction in the Knesset with 47 seats.

For the 2003 election, the dual system was scrapped. The head of the largest party was invited to form a coalition again and serve as prime minister. This election saw the rise of Ariel Sharon; the Left’s share of the Knesset stood at 46 seats. In 2006 Sharon was succeeded by Ehud Olmert, and the Left’s share dwindled to 27 seats. In 2009 their faction declined to a mere 20 seats; 2013 saw a rebound to 31 seats; and the most recent election, in 2015, saw them rebound again to 42 seats (this includes the new Joint List, an amalgam of three Arab parties and the old Israeli Communist Party, which has both Jewish and Arab members).

Nonetheless, since 2009 the Likud has been the dominant party and Netanyahu has been the prime minister. Now we arrive at the import of the present poll.

Since the so-called “Zionist Union,” a fusion of the old Labor party and Tzipi Livni’s “Movement” party, is the second largest in the Knesset with 24 seats, you might think that its leader Yitzhak Herzog would be the second most popular candidate for prime minister. You would be wrong.

The poll shows — unsurprisingly — that 39% of the Israeli electorate still consider Netanyahu their best option.

But next in line? Five other politicians who do not belong to the left.

The centrist Ya’ir Lapid has 19%, followed by Naftali Bennett of the Bayith Yehudi party at 13%, followed by Gid‘on Sa‘ar of Likud with 10%, then former Defense Minister Moshe Ya‘alon (also Likud) with 8%, and current Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) with 7%.

Herzog is dead last with 4%, falling below the poll’s margin of error of +/- 4.5%.

Even among those who voted for the left-of-center Zionist Union in 2015, 26% favored Lapid and only 15% supported Herzog.

Oh, how the mighty left has fallen in Israel, and seemingly everywhere else.

Israeli media defects show thru Bibi’s cigar smoke

January 14, 2017

Israeli media defects show thru Bibi’s cigar smoke, DEBKAfile, January 14, 2017

(Might the dislike of Trump by the Israeli left, the intensely negative coverage of Trump by America’s “mainstream media” and the apparent cordiality of the Netanyahu – Trump relationship stimulate the anti-Netanyahu media coverage in Israel — at a critical time when Netanyahu’s attention needs to be devoted to warding off or at least ameliorating Obama’s last efforts to doom Israel?– DM)

The torrent of alleged misdemeanors pouring out day after day against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, across the front pages and prime-time news broadcasts of Israel’s mainstream media, this week developed a new angle: Predictions from the same quarters of a summer election.

If the heavily biased media were counting on the police to produce hard evidence to support their charges, they were premature. No evidence of criminal conduct has yet come to light, despite leaked innuendo to favored reporters. Police investigators continue to dig hard, spurred on by the insatiable media appetite for sensational “revelations.”

Known for his penchant for the good things of life, Netanyahu’s fondness for Cuban cigars, paid for by good, very rich, friends, is no crime; nor is imbibing expensive champagne in their company – even if both are provided as gifts in lavish quantities.

Equally, even in democratic countries, politicians are not accused of criminal activity when they engage senior newspersons in hush-hush, give-and-take swaps of favors. It is pretty much par for the course.

However, Netanyahu’s secret conversations two years ago with his arch foe, Arnon Mozes, the publisher and editor of the wide-circulation tabloid Yediot Aharonot, are being branded by the media as “extremely serious.” According to tape recordings leaked from the same police investigation, the deal on the table was this: Mozes offered to tone down his paper’s virulent campaign against the prime minister. Netanyahu would in turn “arrange” to cut down the circulation of the free tabloid Israel Today, which was established by the Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson as a platform for the prime minister to counter the systematic media campaigns against him.

Mozes was – and still is – in serious financial trouble: his paper can’t’ stand up to the competition by Israel Today. But the bargain he hoped for was unlikely to take off for three reasons:

1. The prime minister doesn’t own Israel Today. The paper’s editorial and business staff is not compelled to obey him – only the proprietor. So if Netanyahu did indeed strike a deal with Mozes, which is not proved, he would have been selling a favor that was not his to sell, and liable to be sued, if by anyone, by the real owner.

2.  According to the recordings, Netanyahu repeated that he needed to discuss the issue with Adelson. It sounded as though the prime minister was willing to consider a deal, but deferred to the owner for the final word. He even suggested that it might be possible to persuade Adelson to buy Yediot from Mozes and merge it with Israel Today.

3. Yet in their daily “revelations” on this affair, senior reporters doggedly maintain that Netanyahu calls the shots in the free tabloid. They refuse to back down from the picture they have built up in one false report after another that Netanyahu dictates editorial policy at Israel Today.

What would they say if Adelson got fed up with Netanyahu and decided to turn the paper against him? He is perfectly free to switch the paper’s editorial support to whomsoever he chooses without consulting the prime minister.

Therefore the firestorm around the “Netanyahu affair” is focusing increasingly on the pack of attackers snapping at his heels. The publications which hammer at his culpability are being exposed themselves as far from being practitioners of the neutral, honest, professional, ethical and honest standards they preach for others.

It is common knowledge in the industry that, for years now, the leading news media have habitually sold out to various political and financial interests. The names of the pens, editors and publishers for hire are known to their colleagues.

But the general public is clearly in on the secret. They know which paper or reporter is the hired mouthpiece of a politician or business interest. They are not fooled by the sanctimonious protestations of “values” and “ideals” by the pundits and columnists promoting government critics.

Rather than being scandalized by Bibi’s ways – which are no secret –many have given up reading newspapers and following TV and radio news programs – and not just because they prefer the Internet. Stacks of newspapers on offer for free at cafes, supermarkets, or gas stations are left untouched.

The paucity of readers is countered by a large print to jack up advertising rates. In a flagrant breach of ethics, some newspapers deceitfully hide advertising plugs in regular editorial content, while TV “consumer” programs may be “sponsored” for pay, without informing the public that the “advice” on offer is tainted. In some magazines, cover stories are on sale to the highest bidders, as are prominent interviews in other media.

Certainly, not a few professional journalists who plied their trade honestly have quit the media and given up writing in disgust. The Press Council, which was founded originally as an independent forum for adjudicating on matters of ethics, has held silent in the face of flagrant violationsfor the past 11 years — ever since the appointment of retired high court judge Dalia Dorner as its head – and slept soundly when the Israeli communications media descended to the pits.

Opposition rivals seeking to topple Israel’s third-term prime minister have found a ready bludgeon, the corrupt mainstream media which is more than willing to push its ferocious onslaught on Netanyahu, confident that he can be railroaded into throwing in the towel – either by stepping down or calling an early election.

Netanyahu has so far shown no sign of weakness. He insists that the charges against him are trumped up and he will outlive them all.