Kafe Knesset for September 5

The Chief of Staff Curse: The criminal rope involving Netanyahu’s present advisors, past advisors and associates is increasingly tightening in recent days. The Police have shifted into high gear in the investigation of File 3000, a/k/a “the Submarine affair.” Early Sunday morning, Bibi’s former Chief of Staff, David Sharan, was arrested and was charged of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust. Yesterday, Eliezer (Modi) Zandberg, the world chair of Keren Hayesod, was also detained and interrogated on similar charges. Both arrests were based on information provided by Miki Ganor, the State Witness in the case. Ganor had allegedly established a very wide and generous network of Israeli officials and contacts in order to promote the interests of the German ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems GmbH which he represented. Zandberg is considered one of Netanyahu’s closest confidants for many years, and the allegation is that Zandberg cooperated with Ganor while ostensibly representing a South Korean company who was competing with ThyssenKrupp.

David Sharan, who served in the Prime Minister’s Office between 2014-2016, is Netanyahu’s third chief of staff who has gotten into trouble in recent years. First was Nathan Eshel, who was forced to resign his post in 2012 due to a sexual harassment charge. His successor, Gil Shefer, is currently awaiting an Attorney General’s decision on indictment on a sexual assault case. A third Chief of Staff, Ari Harow recently signed a State Witness agreement, in which he will be convicted of breach of trust but he will only be sentenced to community service and a fine of 700,000 NIS. In fact, only the serving chief of staff, Yoav Horovitz, is clean and innocent of every misdoing. A source close to Netanyahu told Kafe Knesset with humor that Horovitz “probably should be changing the Mezuza on his office door because it appears there might be some kind of curse on the office itself.”

Sharan’s arrest, however, is considered much more troublesome for a different former boss, more so than than for Bibi. Before joining the Prime Minister’s Office, Sharan was one of Energy Minister Yuval Stenitz’s most loyal advisors. Sharan accompanied Steinitz for 14 years of his political career. Indeed, Sharan is not the only Steinitz confidant to be involved in the Submarine monkey business. Rami Tayeb, Steinitz’s longtime political adviser, was also arrested this week, and is suspected of bribery, conspiracy, and money laundering. Avriel Bar Yosef, a former deputy on the National Security Council, who is one of the main suspects in File 3000, is also a Steinitz guy.

Steinitz himself has not yet been summoned for testimony or investigation. Senior sources in the political system told Kafe Knesset they find it “hard to believe that Steinitz knew anything about what was going on.” Sources close to Steinitz said that he was “shocked by the reports, which he had only heard for the first time from the media,” adding that Steinitz’s integrity was well known and had never been put to the test. If Steinitz is called to testify, they added, he would do so as required.

Bibi versus Barak – the Facebook Video Battle: Close associates of the Prime Minister always talk with enthusiasm about his skills as a mimic. The Israeli public got a rare taste of Bibi’s talents yesterday, as Netanyahu imitated Ehud Barak on Facebook. During one of his regular video updates, in which he shares “the things you will not hear about in the media,” Netanyahu ridiculed Barak’s lisp. The PM repeated the word “Tsunami” – which the former PM and Defense Minister uses quite commonly when warning about the diplomatic isolation that Israel is facing due to the political freeze between Israel and the Palestinians. After Bibi shared his impressions from his visit to South Tel Aviv, he detailed his high level meetings and showed off with Israel’s achievements in the world, Netanyahu signed off from the video with a question: “Where is the isolation [of Israel]. Where is the Tsunami?” – using Barak’s diction.

A few hours later, Barak published a video of his own, in which he referred to Netanyahu’s imitation and slammed him for corruption. “Yes, Bibi, the Tsunami of corruption came faster than the political Tsunami,” Barak said. “The whole inner circle around him is apparently infected with corruption. The man who was the first to recognize the theft of the trays by the chief caretaker of the PM’s residence knows nothing. If you believe that, do you trust such a blind goat to handle the most sensitive state affairs?” The Bibi- Barak exchange is likely to be continued.

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