Kafe Knesset for July 20
Budapest Dispatch – An “asterisk” on the marred submarine deal: Netanyahu gave some clarity on the corruption scandal surrounding Israel’s purchase of German submarines. Speaking to Israeli journalists in Budapest, Bibi said, “I told you, I am not involved in the submarines and ships. Now that is clear. There is an asterisk in the deal – matters will get clearer, and I believe the deal will come through. They are waiting to see how the investigation ends. After the investigation is over, it will be signed. There’s an investigation, let it happen.” As for his cousin David Shimron’s involvement in the matter, Netanyahu said he didn’t know anything about it. “I don’t know what was corrupt or what wasn’t corrupt with the submarines. The decisions in the system were transparent and fair. I don’t judge people – they have the right to be presumed innocent. I don’t know if something will come out of it. Who says there was corruption?”
Netanyahu also denied that Israeli authorized the sale of German submarines to Egypt, saying it’s not Israel’s decision. “We expressed our position, and anything else said publicly is irresponsible,” he said.
As for the Bezeq investigation, in which Bibi’s close ally, Shlomo “Momo” Filber, has been implicated, he said he knows Filber “as an honest man of values. I know that we had to make decisions, and none of them benefited Bezek or had to do with a conflict of interests. People have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. These are all clouds upon clouds meant to create some kind of cloud of some kind.”
According to the Prime Minister, media coverage of recent corruption scandals no less than endangers Israel’s security: “I am responsible for Israel’s security. The desire to hurt me crosses every line and now it touches on Israel’s security. It’s irresponsible.”
Not a word about Soros: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban held a meeting with Jewish community representatives at the Dohány Street Synagogue in Budapest. There are rising concerns in the Hungarian Jewish community over increased anti-Semitism setting the tone. Community leaders called Orban’s party’s ad campaign against Jewish financier George Soros “painful and worrying,” but Netanyahu and Orban didn’t mention the issue at all.
Netanyahu’s visit began with a tour of the Dohány Street Synagogue, which is the largest in Europe. He thanked Orban for his statement earlier this week calling Hungary’s cooperation with the Nazis a “sin,” and expressed gratitude for Hungary’s standing with Israel in international forums. “I think it’s very important for countries to stand up against the delegitimization of Israel, which is the delegitmization of the Jewish People, and I thank you, Prime Minister Orban, for standing with Israel in these forums against the new form of anti-Israel incitement,” Netanyahu said. “You spoke clearly yesterday against anti-Semitism in Hungary. I think that is important. The world heard it, and it is clear to me that the world must continue hearing it.” Orban praised Israel-Hungary relations, quoting Herzl and saying “if you will it, it is no dream” when it comes to cooperation he hopes will take place between the two countries.
Barak is back: Former PM and Defense Minister Ehud Barak is still enjoying his status as Internet-commenter-in-chief and put up yet another video on his Facebook page, this time comparing Netanyahu to a Mafia don. “The time hasn’t come to put this to an end? What, have we gone crazy?” Barak asked, listing the various corruption scandals that have come to light in the last year. “Everything all around is criminal, but the boss is clean. Where is this familiar from? That’s right, ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘The Godfather.’ It is similar, but without the style. But there, it is the movies, and here, it is real life. Even there, when they decided to bring it all down, they couldn’t prove the submarines. The Godfathers were sent to jail over lawn furniture and electricians.” For those on the Ehud Barak style watch – he wasn’t wearing a puffy jacket this time. Barak was wearing a pink button-down shirt, and standing in a backyard with ivy and a wooden porch behind him, a style of house that looks more American than Israeli. Barak’s Israeli Facebook followers have been wondering where his videos are made – a source told Kafe Knesset this week that he is still in New York. That, of course, still does not explain why he wore a winter jacket in his previous video.
Nation-State bill on the agenda: The controversial “Basic Law: Israel, the Nation-State of the Jewish People” is back on the Knesset’s agenda for next week. A special committee was formed to work on the bill, led by MK Amir Ohana (Likud). Netanyahu wanted to rush the bill through and have it pass a first reading by the time the Knesset summer session ends next week, but Ohana made it clear that he’s going to listen to the Knesset Legal Adviser and not speed things up too much. In any case, Netanyahu decided he wants to encourage things along, so he plans to show up at the committee’s first meeting on Monday, as do Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin. Shaked and Levin proposed an earlier version of the bill a few years ago.