Kafe Knesset for September 1
The BB-Sheldon Hotline: So just how close are Bibi and Sheldon and what is the extent of the PM’s involvement in Adelson’s freebie, Israel Hayom? That was the trending question last night, as Netanyahu revealed on Facebook that between 2012-2015 he spoke to Adelson about 40 times a year and with Israel Hayom’s former editor Amos Regev about 80 times a year. He didn’t disclose these contacts voluntarily, of course, but rather was complying with an Israeli Supreme Court ruling from last month. This ruling compelled the PM to reveal the dates and times of his conversations with Adelson and Regev. Bibi did not publish the dates and times of the talks, as requested in the original petition submitted by Channel 10 journalist Raviv Drucker, but he did post a lengthy Facebook post in which he explained that “Adelson has been a close friend of mine for about 30 years and I am happy to talk to him from time to time.” Then, he presented the figures, divided by the smallest mathematical figure possible, stating that between 2012-2015, on average, he spoke with Adelson 0.75 times a week and 1.5 times per week with Regev.
Knowing that the whole issue of media-politics-business is extremely toxic and explosive, Netanyahu tried to divert the discussion from his apparent close relationship to Adelson and Regev by claiming talks between politicians and media moguls are a standard practice in every democracy: “Everyone knows it.” The Facebook post was accompanied by a clip from a documentary filmed last year about Isaac Herzog, in which the Zionist Union campaigner negotiated a headline with YNET. “All Israeli politicians do this, especially during election campaigns. I also talk to other senior figures in the media industry, usually at night and after work. I occasionally spoke to publishers and editors of other media outlets, “as everyone does.”” He then reminded his request to the court for a further hearing on the matter. “We can not accept a situation in which there is a different standard for me and another standard for the rest. A uniform standard would require all politicians to disclose their conversations with media personnel.”
The “everyone does it” defense line Netanyahu chose to use immediately sparked waves. Amos Shocken, the owner of Haaretz, tweeted in response to a query how many time he himself has spoke to Bibi over the past years that he thinks it was “less than once a year.” Shocken recalled that former prime ministers Olmert, Sharon, Barak and Rabin never spoke with him when he was in office. Ehud Barak also did not miss the opportunity to weigh in, and tweeted: “Everyone talks to publishers? A summary of 20 years in politics: Amos Schocken -1. Noni Mozes – 3. Amos Regev – 3.”
Meanwhile, pundits pointed out that Bibi’s Facebook post contradicts some of his previous statements and affidavits about his relationships with Israel Hayom. In the past, BB told the court that the conversations with Adelson and Regev were private, and had nothing to do with work, while now – he is claiming that these are standard professional talks between politicians and journalists. Moreover, ahead of the 2015 elections, the Likud submitted an affidavit claiming that Netanyahu has no connection to Israel Hayom. Now he has acknowledged the wide extent of the relationship. In any case, this is definitely not the end of the story, since Raviv Drucker, who is behind the petition, already announced that he will not settle with the numbers Netanyahu exposed, and that if the PM will not submit the exact times and dates of the talks, he will go back to court.
Back to School: 2.2 million Israeli elementary and high school students opened the school year this morning. Today was a rare smooth start without any teacher union strikes or disruptions. The festive occasion, which for most parents signals the end of a long and tiring summer vacation, always turns into a political celebration. The PM, President Rivlin, ministers and MKs visited schools around the country, following which they distributed cute and positive pics with the photogenic children. The first day of school also usually produces an otherwise rare joint event of Neyanyahu and his Education Minister, Naftali Bennett, as they traditionally visit a first grade class together. This year they went to the new northern city of Harish, and Netanyahu performed his annual teaching gig. The PM took to the chalkboard and gave the fresh pupils a lesson they will never forget. “Shalom Kita Alef,” Netanyahu opened with the traditional greeting for the schools newcomers, moving on to the essentials: “This is our country, our land, our house, always remember that.” While Bibi focused on the connection with the land, President Rivlin, stressed that the connection with the people of the land is the most Important lesson. “The first thing we learned as people of the world, and as Jews, is “Veaahavta Lereecha Kamocha. Even when we don’t like each other, we need to respect each other, and understand the other side who disagrees.”