Kafe Knesset for November 6

The noose tightens around Bibi: Netanyahu never really gets any quality time off. And, as has happened in the past, his historic visit to London was disrupted by some legal news from home that surely did not make him happy. Early yesterday morning, the police detained his lawyer, David Shimron, and another close associate whose name is still protected by a gag order, for a 15 hour interrogation about File 3000, a/k/a the Submarine Affair. This morning, the Israel Securities Agency’s investigation team announced its recommendation to indict two Netanyahu allies for fraud, violation of conflicts of interest rules and insider information sharing: One of the two men indicted is Shlomo Filber, Netanyahu’s confidant and Communications Ministry Director-General. The other person indicted is telecommunications tycoon, Shaul Alovitch, the owner of Bezeq, the Israeli telephone monopoly, and its subsidiaries, satellite TV company YES and major news site and e-mail provider Walla. Neyanyahu himself is also set to be questioned again any day now, and his rivals are doing their best to make sure the public knows the noose around him is tightening.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said today that he is certain that the Submarine Affair will reach Netanyahu, even though sources close to the Prime Minister continue to emphasize that he is not a person of interest in the case. Still, Lapid said: “I know what has not been publicized yet. There is no scenario, no situation, in which Netanyahu is not summoned to be investigated in the Submarine Affair. This is not about takeout.” This latter comment is a reference to Sarah Netanyahu’s indictment for overusing state funds to order food. “This is national security. It is the Holiest of Holies.” Labor leader Avi Gabbay took issue with the fact that the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a bill that could soften the blow of the investigations on the same day that Shimron and the other Netanyahu ally were arrested. “My grandmother would have said about that ‘chashuma.’ In Moroccan, that means ‘shame.’ There are some things that should not be done on the same day!”

Gabbay’s reverse psychology: Gabbay had a good reason to smile last weekend, as several consistent poll figures reflected that he is maintaining his high momentum, but two other significant players did their best to wipe off the smile. In what appears to be a coordinated move, Kulanu’s Moshe Kahlon and Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Liberman both announced over the weekend that they will not join a government headed by the Labor Party and Gabbay. “Gabbay is irrelevant, Yisrael Beiteinu and Kulanu will never sit in Avi Gabbay’s coalition,” Liberman said in an interview on “Meet the Press.” An hour later, in another interview, Kahlon declared “there is no way that we will all join the leftist Labor government.”

Liberman and Kahlon both have a poor relationship with Gabbay. Kahlon makes no attempt to disguise his disdain and anger towards Gabbay, who was actually one of the founders of his party and his number 2 until his resignation last year. Liberman, for his part, holds a grudge against Gabbay and the vocal protest he waged against his appointment as Defense Minister. Moreover, both Liberman and Kahlon have good relations with Yair Lapid, Gabbay’s main contender for leading the center-left bloc in the next election. Kahlon and Lapid are also rumored to be considering future cooperation and creating a center party bloc, and recently met last week for a long conversation. Gabbay brushed off the statements as a kind of reverse psychology, in a Labor faction meeting today: “They see what we see, and it is not just the polls. They are afraid. They hear people who used to vote for them saying they will vote for me. We are the only alternative.”

The mutual declarations are aimed at casting a doubt over Gabbay’s ability to form a coalition after the next elections but should also be taken with some typical campaign promise styled skepticism, and at the moment elections are nowhere in sight. Gabbay said that “When we get to the elections and we will get 30 seats, everyone will come to our coalition. The fact that everyone is dealing with what will happen in my government is good.” He refrained from attacking Kahlon, but declared that Liberman is the last person he wants in his coalition, and sarcastically remarked that “we have to wait 48 hours and see if his statement has any validity.”

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