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Michael Jansen: Corruption galore
September 11, 2017
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

The likely indictment of Sarah Netanyahu for “breach of trust,” fraud and misuse of $102,000 in public funds for private consumption comes at a difficult time for husband Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who is also facing accusations of corruption.

Sarah Netanyahu is charged with billing the state for meals ordered from high-end restaurants while the prime minister’s household had a full-time cook. State funding does not allow both. Perhaps, madame thought the prime minister’s chef was not up to snuff. The “meals scandal” is hardly surprising. Both Netanyahus are well known for luxury living.

He caused an uproar in 2015 when he submitted a $2,844.00 item in his annual budget for pistachio ice cream from an expensive Jerusalem gelateria. The press worked out that the Netanyahu family and guests would consume about 11.5 kilos of ice cream a month. He was compelled to cancel the item.

A second corruption charge levelled at Binyamin Netanyahu stems from his receipt over eight years of $130,000 worth of fine Cuban cigars and pink champagne (her favourite) from Israeli film producer Arnon Milchan. Netanyahu has been “questioned under caution” over the gifts which, it is alleged, could be in exchange for favours. Police informants revealed Netanyahu had rung former US Secretary of State John Kerry three times to help Milchan secure a long-term US visa. Although a resident of California, the film-maker has had to renew his visa on an annual basis. Netanyahu has also been accused of intervening with Israel’s TV channel 10 on behalf of Milchan who is a share holder.

The Netanyahus have received holiday trips – “Bibi Tours” – worth tens of thousands of dollars from foreign businesses and groups. Sarah Netanyahu has come under scrutiny for other behaviour unbefitting of the wife of a prime minister. She charged the state for garden furniture purchased for their private home and was forced to move it to the official residence. She returned bottles from official functions and pocketed $1,100 in deposits which she was required to pay back. She is accused of using public employees to care for her aging father and used state funds to pay for electrical work at their private home.

Binyamin Netanyahu is being investigated for proposing a deal with an Israeli paper critical of him in return for exerting pressure on the wealthy owner of a pro-Netanyahu paper to reduce its circulation in order to help the other paper to win more advertising. Finally, Binyamin Netanyahu has come under scrutiny after two of his closest advisers were detained for their involvement in a controversial multi-million deal for German submarines.

While refuting allegations of corruption, Netanyahu has charged the press and opponents of conducting a “witch hunt,” an accusation made also by Donald Trump over accusations of Russian connections with his victory in last year’s US presidential election.

Allegations of small-time corruption hardly matter when compared to political fraud perpetuated by Binyamin Netanyahu since 2009 when he stated he was committed to a “two state solution” of the Arab-Israel dispute involving the emergence of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. While pledging to negotiate on the basis of the “two state solution,” he has done everything in his power to foil it on the ground. He has redoubled efforts to colonise the West Bank and East Jerusalem, declared open land “closed military” areas, bulldozed Palestinian homes and infrastructure in the 62 per cent of the West Bank still under full Israeli control, and promoted the deportation of Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem.

Netanyahu has simply been following the prescription put forward by Likud predecessor Yitzak Shamir who said he would talk to the Palestinians for ten years while continuing to build Israeli colonies. His aim would have been to swell the number of colonists from 110,000 in 1991, when talks began, until they were half a million. It took longer than ten years but the goal has been reached.

At the end of last month, Netanyahu came clean. He told Jewish colonists he had no intention of dismantling Israeli colonies in exchange for peace. “We are here to stay forever. There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel. We are guarding Samaria [the central West Bank] against those who want to uproot us.”

The Israeli liberal daily Ha’aretz revealed Netanyahu had previously and repeatedly said Israelis would not leave West Bank land needed for a Palestinian state. In 2013, he stated. “The days of bulldozers uprooting Jews are behind us, not ahead of us.” A year later he asserted, “I have no intention of evacuating any settlement or uprooting any Israeli.” These statements were largely ignored while the international community clung to the “two state solution.”

Netanyahu was encouraged to come clean now by Trump who has said he would accept any deal both sides want, scrapping decades of US backing for the “two state solution” which is also accepted by some Israelis, the Arab world, and the rest of the international community.

Netanyahu’s actions and words have prompted columnist Roger Cohen, writing in The New York Times on Sept.8, to observe the premier wants a “no state solution.” In Cohen’s view, the corrupt, undemocratic, lawless, post-occupation Israel is not the Israel envisaged by its founders. In other words, it is, in the view of this pundit, not a state.

However, Cohen’s argumentation is false as Israel’s founding fathers claimed to be building a state for a “people without a state” in a “land without people.” This was always a lie for there were always Palestinians. During 1948, Israel resolved its initial “Palestinian problem” by driving two-thirds of the Palestinians from 78 per cent of Palestine. Israel was unable to finish the ethnic cleansing in 1967 because Palestinians refused to leave their homes, towns and country.

There are many states round the world that share Israel’s negative characteristics and indulge in bad, even brutal, behaviour including the permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US (a country also based on ethnic cleansing), Britain, Russia, China, and France – which promote themselves as good examples to more recently independent states. There are also states that are exemplars of reasonably good behaviour – Ireland, Sweden, and Finland which have little influence on others.

___________________________________________

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East
affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict

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