Netanyahu’s Petty Corruption

Many years ago I received a phone call from the Prime Minister’s office. I
was told that Yitzhak Rabin wanted to see me in private.

Rabin opened the door himself. He was alone in the residence. He led me to
a comfortable seat, poured two generous glasses of whisky for me and himself
and started without further ado – he abhorred small talk – “Uri,
have you decided to destroy all the doves in the Labor Party?”

My news magazine, Haolam Hazeh, was conducting a campaign against corruption
and had accused two prominent Labor leaders, the new president of the Central
Bank and the Minister for Housing. Both were indeed members of the moderate
wing of the party.

I explained to Rabin that in the fight against corruption I could make no exceptions
for politicians who were close to my political outlook. Corruption was a cause
in itself.

The first generation of the founders of Israel was free of corruption. Corruption
was unthinkable.

Indeed, purism was carried to extremes. Once a prominent Labor leader was criticized
for building for himself a villa in a Jerusalem suburb. There was not the slightest
suggestion of corruption. He had inherited the money. But it was considered
scandalous for a Labor leader to live in a private villa. A “comrades’
court” decided to expel him from the party, and that was the end of his

At the same time, an official residence was built for the Foreign Minister,
so he could receive foreign dignitaries in decent surroundings. The minister
at that time, Moshe Sharett, believed that it was wrong to hold on to his own
private apartment, so he sold it and donated the money to several charitable

The next generation was quite different. It behaved as if it owned the place
by divine right.

Its most typical representative was Moshe Dayan. He was born in the country
and David Ben-Gurion appointed him Chief of Staff. In this capacity he directed
several “retaliation raids” across the border and then the 1956 attack
on Egypt which ended in a resounding victory (helped by the Franco-British invasion
of the Suez Canal area behind the back of the Egyptian army.)

Dayan was an amateur archeologist. He stuffed his private villa (by that time,
villas were already allowed) with ancient artifacts that he dug up all over
the country. That was strictly illegal, since unprofessional digging destroyed
historical evidence, making it impossible to define the date. But everybody
winked. After all, Dayan was a national hero.

Then my magazine published a shattering revelation: Dayan did not just keep
the artifacts in his garden. He sold them all over the world, with a personal
signed note that shot their price up. This revelation triggered a huge scandal
and inflamed a lot of hatred – towards me. In a public opinion poll published
that year I was chosen as “the most hated…

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