Kafe Knesset for August 21
Instructions from the top? This Saturday night marked the 39th consecutive week of protests near Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit’s home. The demonstrators continue to call for Netanyahu to be charged with corruption. Former caretaker of the Prime Minister’s Residence, Meni Naftali, and anti-corruption crusader and failed Labor Knesset candidate, Eldad Yaniv, were not present as they usually are – because they were arrested on the way to Petah Tikva. The Police announced on Thursday that they are no longer allowing the demonstrations to take place and the Police set up roadblocks at the entrance to the usually sleepy town of Petah Tikva,. The Police arrested Naftali and Yaniv, who had called on social media for people to rally despite the ban. Naftali and Yaniv were released the next morning, without having to post bail or make any kind of commitments – they were only prohibited from organizing illegal protests, but then again so is everyone else. Naftali is taking advantage of the arrest to raise money for his new non-profit organization, which he says is meant to fight corruption and help whistle blowers. Meanwhile, their arrests have raised debates about Police overreach, with lawmakers on the Left calling it an abuse of power. The Police said that after all these months of protests, the residents of Petah Tikva – who have complained about the noise and disruption that the demonstrations cause before Shabbat ends – deserve some peace and quiet. Plus, a Police spokeswoman made a crack on the radio about how the protestors claim to be for the rule of law, but are calling for people to break the law. Now, Naftali is saying in radio interviews that his arrest came “from the top,” and when asked what that means, he said Netanyahu must have ordered it.
The Likud did not just let that pass and posted a screed on its Facebook page, calling Naftali a liar and a criminal. The posting listed all kinds of Naftali misdeeds, from claiming to have a high school diploma when he only finished ninth grade, to physically assaulting someone at a previous job, and to changing his story in various legal documents as to why he stopped working for the Netanyahus. It is worth noting that the post mentions that Naftali called the first family’s upstairs kitchen “perfect,” while posting a photo of peeling paint that they say is from said kitchen, which makes it safe to assume that Sarah Netanyahu had some kind of input on the text.
Sarah Netanyahu 9 to 5: The Prime Minister’s wife, Sarah, suffered a minor blow yesterday as a Jerusalem District Court ordered the Jerusalem municipality to reveal her employment hours as a child psychologist in the city’s educational institutions. Netanyahu regularly mentions her job with pride, and Ma’ariv veteran journalist Ben Caspit, who has reported on some of the biggest Sarah-related scandals, filed a petition demanding to reveal the details of her work – including hours and vacations – based on the Freedom of Information Act. The Jerusalem Municipality refused at first, insisting that the information should be confidential because of privacy concerns. Netanyahu herself claimed that the request should be rejected because Caspit is persecuting her and her husband. As the court rejected their claims, the Netanyahus are likely to appeal, but meanwhile, they launched another attack at Caspit, one of the leading Israeli political commentators, but probably one of the leading anti-Bibi ones, as well. Sources close to the Netanyahus issued a harsh reaction to the court order, quoting Caspit’s own father and going quite low. Apparently, Caspit’s father, Yitzhak, wrote a letter to the Prime Minister in 2010, disavowing his son’s work and expressing support for Bibi – something that Caspit himself has admitted in past columns. “How can it be that my genes are so confused? Since Ben-Gurion and Begin, no leader has equalled your stature” Caspit senior allegedly wrote to Netanyahu. “My son’s attacks against the Prime Minister are exaggerated slurs … His finger is too light on the trigger. The public shares my appreciation to you.””
Labor’s after its leader, already: A month and a half after his surprise against-all-odds victory in the Labor leadership primaries, Avi Gabbay is launching his first insiders political battle. Gabbay is on the way to a mega-clash with the party establishment. Yesterday, Gabbay announced a series of proposed changes to the party’s constitution and policies that he plans to promote. The proposed changes are aimed mainly at bolstering Gabbay’s control of the party and reducing the power of the party apparatus. The main focus of the changes – which will be brought to a vote at a party convention in the coming weeks – is to cut off authority from the party’s general secretary, who was democratically elected just half a year ago, and to allow Gabbay to personally appoint 4 or 5 people to the party’s Knesset slate for the next election, and not the party members. Gabbay’s associates said that the proposed amendments are all aimed at maximizing Labor’s ability to win the next elections, but he is not the first Labor chairman who attempted to dramatically change the party constitution. Others in the past, like Ehud Barak and Shelly Yachimovich, failed to overcome the politics of the party apparatus, and Gabbay’s proposed changes are already generating widespread political opposition, as he is a newcomer to the party, and the apparatus is not as enthusiastic about the new kid on the block. Eran Hermoni, the party secretary-general is already launching a counter effort to ensure Gabbay’s plans do not succeed. “The Labor Party is an open, vibrant and democratic party with a system of checks and balances and the party is eager to keep it that way,” he said yesterday. “Turning the party from one of the masses into a one-man party will distance voters from it and even remove the chances of winning the general elections.”