Hefetz paints Netanyahu as an empty political shell obsessed with the media

On April 5, when the lead prosecutor, Liat Ben-Ari, began opening arguments in the State of Israel case against Benjamin Netanyahu and called former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua as his first witness, to the other side of the city of Jerusalem District Court was developing another drama.

There, in the President’s Residence, the heads of the various parties consulted with then-President Reuven Rivlin and told him who they believed should be in charge of the task of forming the next government.

The nation’s television screens were divided: on one side were images of Netanyahu on the first day of the evidentiary stage of his trial, and on the other side were images showing Likud MPs, at least one who had come. straight from the courthouse you went to. to support the party leader, telling Rivlin that Netanyahu must be given the first chance to form a government.

That split screen was surreal.

Seven and a half months later, Monday was another highlight day in Netanyahu’s trial – the beginning of the testimony of Nir Hefetz, the state’s star witness against Netanyahu. Like that day in April, Netanyahu also attended part of Monday’s session.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu at the Jerusalem District Court on November 22, 2021 (credit: YONAH JEREMY BOB)

And Hefetz did not disappoint.

Hefetz, who served for years as Netanayhau’s chief spokesperson and media adviser, drew a cartoon of Netanyahu consumed by media coverage of him and his family; as concerned about it, according to Hefetz, as about the country’s security problems. In regards to the media, he said that the former prime minister’s close confidante turned state witness, Netanyahu, was a “control freak.”

This first day of testimony provided a lot of copy for the headlines, as did Yeshua. However, it is true that as Hefetz’s testimony builds on days and weeks, followed by careful cross-examination that will try to poke holes and show inconsistencies in the testimony, the public interest will diminish, just as it did with the testimony of Yeshua.

But not yet.

For a moment there was a sense of deja vu on Monday, with the nation focusing intensely on Netanyahu and his legal troubles, as it did for months and even years before the trial began.

For a long time, the public agenda was dominated by Netanyahu and the charges against him. Everything seemed to revolve around this; Everything the government did, or did not do, was filtered through the lens of Netanyahu and the 1,000, 2,000 and 4,000 cases.

Was the country going to new elections due to an incoming impeachment? Did the IDF attack Syria to try to push for a trial? How would an impending trial affect government decision-making regarding the Gaza Strip?

Hefetz painted a picture of Netanyahu obsessed with the media, and it can be argued that this obsession led to his downfall. However, the media became obsessed with Netanyahu and also with the cases against him.

Netanyahu and his cases dominated the news and national discussion. It created a new fault line in the country. The country was no longer divided along right-left or religious-secular lines, but suddenly the division centered on whether Netanyahu was guilty or innocent, if he was being persecuted or justly persecuted, should he step aside or could he continue to serve. as prime minister.

Until April 5th. This day marked not only the beginning of the wise proof of Netanyahu’s trial, but also the beginning of the end of Netanyahu’s reign as prime minister.

On the same day that Yeshua began testifying, Netanyahu received the go-ahead from Rivlin to try, for the fourth time in two years, to form a coalition. When he failed 28 days later, Rivlin turned to Lapid, who was able to form a government in large part because Netanyahu’s trial took place simultaneously.

The various parties that came together to join the coalition and topple Netanyahu, despite the wide ideological differences that separated them, did so in large part because of the trial and the belief that having that divided screen running for months: the trial of Netanyahu on one side of the nation’s collective television screen, and him running the country on the other, was unhealthy and damaging to the state.

On June 13, a new government was sworn in and little by little the focus began to change. Netanyahu’s trial continued but did not attract the same attention. The country’s atmosphere was less electric, somewhat less polarized. Suddenly, it wasn’t all about Netanyahu.

See you Monday. Then, for a brief moment, everything came back: the Likud deputies in court, the megaphones in the street, the scholarly commentary on the airwaves, based on three hours of testimony, on whether the former prime minister is a criminal or a man. . wrongly accused.

However, unlike in the past, this time the developments on the court seemed minor. Sure, they remain of tremendous consequences for Netanyahu: If convicted, he could face a real prison sentence. They are also of tremendous consequences for the legal establishment: If Netanyahu is acquitted, it will be nothing short of an earthquake, and people will be forced to ask, rightly, how an innocent man was harassed from office.

But for the state right, the trial does not have the same momentous significance it once did.

Why? Because it’s one thing if the man on trial is the prime minister who makes life-and-death decisions under the shadow of a prison sentence hanging over his head, and he always wonders how that might affect the decisions he makes.

And another very different thing is that the accused is “only” the head of the Opposition, still very much in public view, but far from the table where those life and death decisions must be made with a clear head, to the maximum. as far as possible, from alien considerations, or at least the perception of alien considerations that could cloud vision.


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