Israelis had a rare opportunity Monday night to hear how the next generation of entitled young men, sons of leaders and billionaires, sound when they are on their own, driving around town on a Friday night, from one strip bar to another, and what the Israeli viewing public saw, on Channel 2 News, was as ugly and off-putting as one can imagine.
The sons of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Billionaire Kobi Maimon – who were at the time, in 2015, in mid negotiations over the prosperous natural gas fields – had been recorded while riding in a government-paid car, driven by a government-paid chauffeur, and protected by a government-paid security guard, and the sum of their drunk conversation was how many strippers they knew and how many shekels they spent on their services.
At one point, Yair, the prime minister’s son, turned to Nir, the billionaire’s son, and said, My dad fixed your dad for 20 billion dollars, how can you begrudge me 400 shekels?
At another point, the son of the prime minister offered to introduce his girlfriend to his two fellow spoiled brats in the car. Then his mom, Sara Netanyahu, called and her son let it go to message.
It was the nightmare recording of every parent of young adults, and the fact that the main character in it was the son of the man who’s been leading Israel for nearly a decade made it impossible to look away.
Yair Netanyahu, 26, is easily the most reviled young man in Israel this Tuesday morning, and the local media cannot have enough of it. It would have been a thrilling story at any time, but for it to land on Israelis’ screens when Benjamin Netanyahu is the subject of several police investigations for corruption, alongside a string of coalition crises, and when thousands of Israelis—not all of them on the left—are calling for his resignation in persistent demonstrations every Saturday night – makes this tape priceless.
“Let every parent who watched the report think how he or she would have reacted if every idle remark by their children were to become a headline on Channel 2, if every night out were subject to an investigation and every conversation the target of a secret recording,” the prime minister said in a press release, artfully turning a moment of humiliation into a raging self-pity.
Intentionally or not, that opening line, “Let every parent think,” was disturbingly reminiscent of an immortal line from a speech by Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, who in 1963, when describing the IDF’s ethics, said, “Let every Hebrew mother know that she deposited the fate of her sons in the hands of deserving commanders.” Typically, the first PM spoke of sacrifice and honor, the last PM of the pesky media.
“It turns out that this rotten barrel is bottomless,” wrote Netanyahu’s long-time nemesis Yossi Verter in Ha’aretz. “Once again, we realize that this family (Netanyahu’s) is devoid of values, that something very basic is spoiled in the residential floor of the prime minister’s official residence, and that these people will never accept responsibility, will not atone for their sins, will not ask for forgiveness. Instead, they will retreat to their default position, mud slinging, smearing, and slandering everything that moves around them.”
Ha’aretz devoted five different stories to the Netanyahu Jr. fiasco, plus the complete transcript of his late night fling. The bastion of Israel’s left was so heavy with dripping disgust, it should probably have been delivered to subscribers in plastic bags.
But every single Israeli media outlet that covered the story (some Haredi outlets opted to ignore it) was aghast at Yair Netanyahu’s obvious sense of entitlement.
Labor MK Eitan Cabel expressed what many Israelis were probably thinking: kids repeat what they hear at home. And what Yair Netanyahu was saying in 2015 regarding the $20 billion his dad arranged for Kobi Maimon with the natural gas deal – most likely reflected what he was hearing in the family living room on Balfour Street in Jerusalem.
“Put their laughter aside for a moment, and still, a frightening picture emerges here,” MK Cabel wrote. “They say that every joke contains a drop of truth. In this case, a year and a half after Netanyahu committed [political] suicide over passing the gas outline and called it ‘the battle of his life,’ no less, his son Yair’s conversation with the son of the gas tycoon Kobi Maimon gives me a bad feeling. [He spoke] as if it was his father’s money and not the public’s.”
“As one of the leaders in the struggle against the gas outline in the Knesset and in the courts, we realized that there was something stinky about this whole story, but we did not know just how stinky,” Cabel continued. “This money belongs to the public, and even if there are those who forget it or choose to laugh at it and at us, we remember.”
Yair Netanyahu issued a statement saying, “This evening I watched a shameful, yellow-journalism story that presented illegal tapes from a conversation two and a half years ago. It was a nighttime conversation, under the influence of alcohol, I said some nonsense about women and other nonsense that should not have been said.”
He then proclaimed that the Channel 2 report “does not represent who I am, the values on which I was raised and what I believe in. I regret what I said and apologize if anyone was hurt by them.”
“Also, the things I said to Nir Maimon were an unsuccessful joke, I was just teasing him, and every reasonable person understands this.”
Regarding that unsuccessful joke about the gas outline and the $20 billion his dad arranged for Nir’s dad, the Prime Minister’s son noted: “I was never interested in the gas outline and had no idea about its details.”
Or, as Eitan Cabel put it, kids just repeat what they hear at home.