Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Monday night cabinet video conference lasted well into the wee hours Tuesday morning, and its tone on occasion recalled a bar at about the same time of the night. In short, it was not quiet.
According to Channel 12 News, which reported the story Tuesday night and updated some details Wednesday morning, one point of contention was over the leaks from these meetings, and the PM’s threat to start demanding his ministers submit to a polygraph.
Government Secretary Yitzhak (Tzahi) Braverman: “Everything we say here goes out right away; if you’re leaking, at least leak accurately.”
PM Netanyahu: “Stop Leaking from here, I’m begging, stop leaking already.”
Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud): “It’s a shame what’s going on here, might as well run it as a live broadcast, save the leakers the energy.”
PM Netanyahu: “Leaking to the media won’t help you.”
Minister Bezalel Smotrich (Yamina): “We need a polygraph.”
Netanyahu: “Maybe, really. I will not hesitate to test.”
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit rejects the idea.
Netanyahu: “These meetings are ineffective. Maybe we should appoint a ministerial committee on coronavirus issues?”
Mandelblit: “It can’t be done, these are emergency regulations that require the approval of all government ministers. It has the status of a legislation, every minister has the right to participate.”
But the above rough exchange was only a prelude to heated exchanges between the prime minister and his defense minister – first on the issue of expanding the number of tests for the virus.
Minister Naftali Bennett: “I repeat what I said, we must expand the tests.”
Netanyahu: “We’ve reached 15,000.”
Bennett: “Not true.”
PM Netanyahu: “Then maybe 13,000.”
Bennett: “Also not true. Much more needs to be done.”
Netanyahu: “Naftali, we understand it already. We understand. If there’s no right model – use the tests for kapparot (meaning chuck them – DI).”
Bennett: “You said there would be 13,000 tests and how many have we had? Not even 6000.”
Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman Tov raises his voice: “Stop saying this about us, we manage it and that’s it. You come down on us, but the Defense Ministry is not delivering the goods. We’ve been waiting for the procurement of swabs you promised. Waiting only for you.”
Bennett: “You won’t shut me up.”
Netanyahu: “We got it, we got it. We got it. We will stop the debate now and you’ll continue it on television.”
Bennett: “You can keep coming down on me, but those are the numbers.”
The subtext is, of course, that Bibi is about to chuck Bennett from his post on the 14th floor of the Defense Ministry building in Tel Aviv, after three election cycles in which Bennett and the rest of the National Religious crowd have been as loyal as trained French poodles to the PM. The coronavirus crisis is just another opportunity for these two men to loath one another.
And so, right away, the caged match continued with the PM reviewing the images of IDF soldiers who were captured sitting densely together, quite in violation of the health ministry’s and the defense ministry’s guideline.
Instant retaliation is so Bibi these days.
Netanyahu: “I was appalled by what I saw. It’s unacceptable. The IDF must be disciplined and enforce the rules. What is this thing? The IDF does not implement the guidelines, you take care of the IDF.”
Minister Yoav Galant (Likud) is only to happy to dump on Bennett: “It’s the most disciplined entity in the country, is it a problem to apply the guidelines there?”
Another subtext: Galant used to be IDF Deputy Chief of Staff and was rejected when it came to promote him to the big chair. So right now he is seething over the fact that Bennett, not a professional soldier, is running the army.
Bennett: “All right, all right, I understand. I’ll deal with that. Let’s end with that, we have to go back to work.”
Netanyahu: “Yes, we all have many things to do.”
Ouch. Betcha Bibi said it with a wry smile – stick the knife in, turn it once, pull it out, smirk.
The cabinet meeting ended at two in the morning, Tuesday, and new regulations (very restrictive) were approved – until next time.