Home > Uncategorized > Maariv runs some scary gossip on Bibi and “the Boss”

Maariv runs some scary gossip on Bibi and “the Boss”

Bibi and "the Boss"

Last night, Channel Ten TV News’s Raviv Drucker exposed a letter written to Benyamin Netanyahu in early 2009. The author, one Yisrael Yagel, a former executive in Netanyahu’s 2008 election campaign, penned an indictment of the Prime Minister’s management style, with particular emphasis on the role and influence of Ms. Netanyahu (“the Boss”).

This morning, Maariv also ran the letter, but as the first of a three-part series, with follow-ups from mid-2009 and early 2010. Ben Caspit, Maariv’s senior political columnist who has been a brutal critic of the Prime Minister’s Bureau, explains:

I have been in possession of these letters for more than a year. It was not Yagel who gave them to me. But it was Yagel who urged me not to publish them. After I got to know him, I made a very unreporterly-like decision and acceded to his request. I tried repeatedly to describe in this newspaper the dangers of the prime minister’s behavior. The weakness of his working environment. And most importantly: the degree to which the prime minister’s wife was involved in making most of the decisions, small and big, the power she wields, the terrible fear he has of her, the fact that some of the prime minister’s employees, who are actually our employees, are really her employees and are subordinate only to her will.

Below are translations of the letters as published in Maariv, the response provided by the Prime Minister’s Bureau and Caspit’s (separate) commentary. There’s a lot of “insider baseball”, but a lay reader will still get a sense of the Byzantine politics surrounding Israel’s helm. Here, for example, is a passage from the first letter:

“The matter reached an extreme level, which let a red light, a few days ago, in the debates on how the campaign should be run during the war in the south of the country [Cast Lead]. In a phone conversation, it appears (I only heard him) that Natan Eshel [a confidante of Ms. Netanyahu who was later appointed Netanyahu’s first Bureau Chief] unsuccessfully tried to persuade you to ramp-up the campaign. At the end of the call Natan told Yisrael Bachar (I was also in the room) that  ’he (meaning you) doesn’t yet know that the campaign will change, because I’ve already settled the matter with the Boss (meaning Mrs. Netanyahu.’ So the process is run by an outsider (Natan) who operates you (through Mrs. Netanyahu) like a puppet??? This is the point I decided not to remain silent!!! Even if what Mr. Natan Eshel said was tinged with bluster, it reflects an extremely problematic situation.”

—-

The letters

A view from within

Ben Caspit, Maariv, November 30 2010

Titled “Because a country needs to be run,” Yisrael Yagel wrote a series of letters to the prime minister, in which he cited his impressions of the performance of Netanyahu’s inner circle, which he witnessed in the course of the 2009 election campaign, of which he was an integral part.

Yisrael Yagel is a former high-tech businessman, who worked as a volunteer for the Netanyahu campaign because he identifies with the right wing ideology, and since his good friend, Eli Ayalon, was the campaign manager. Yagel wrote his first letter to Netanyahu after a month on the campaign. After he failed to receive an answer, he wrote another two letters. “All of the people surrounding you point to your wife as the final approval-giver,” wrote Yagel, and added that Mrs. Netanyahu was referred to by the members of the campaign team as “the boss.” Following are the principal points that Yagel made in his letters. It is important to note that not all of the excerpts are transcribed here in full, word for word.

Letter from June 15, 2009

“Because a country needs to be run”

“Mr. Prime Minister, my first letter to you has not received any response. After the elections I came see that no change had been made to your close working environment… since this is an issue of mortal importance, I was forced to take action… I turned to two of your confidants, Minister Yaakov Neeman and your economic adviser Uri Yogev. I sent detailed letters to both of them and appended my letter to you. I met for a long conversation with both Neeman and Yogev about the issue that troubled me and continues to trouble me up to this very day. Regrettably, I was not encouraged by my meetings with them. I do not normally quote third parties, but it  became evident to me that they were keenly and closely familiar with your weaknesses and the restrictions you are subject to from your family. Both of them underscored to me that the situation was more difficult and grave than I had described. In the first letter that I sent to you, I thought that the issue was critical to the proper functioning of the prime minister, that your inability to form a committed team was mortally important… pandemonium reigns about you.”

Yagel cited a list of flaws that he had witnessed up until that point: “The time it took you to man the position of the Prime Minister’s Office director general. What, didn’t you know that you were going to need a director general? Didn’t you have time to prepare?”

He also cited “Modi Zandberg’s hasty entry and exit from the post of cabinet secretary,” the preparations for Netanyahu’s first visit to the United States, the alarmed summons of Dov Weissglas, the drafting of the state budget and the cancellation of Naftali Bennett’s appointment as Moshe Yaalon’s staff director by the prime minister’s wife, executed by Natan Eshel.

Yagel wrote: “your job, Mr. Prime Minister, is the most critical, and the period at hand is critical as well. You need a quiet, professional, independent environment, a qualified office manager, and there are quite a few people in the State of Israel who meet those criteria and would be prepared to accede to your call… I cannot remain silent further, you must make a change in your surrounding… before you are difficult and complex questions [that pertain to] the continued existence of the Jewish people… and yet you are unable to make a far simpler decision… up until now you have not shown leadership or courage… this is of mortal importance…”

Letter from January 20, 2010

Regarding: Who needs to run the country — letter of continuation

[Yagel begins with the first passage of a humbling prayer recited by the prayer leader of Yom Kippur services as a prelude to prayer on behalf of others. Hebrew text here.]

“My name is Yisrael Yagel, I worked as a volunteer in the administration of your campaign in the last elections. After three weeks of intensive work on the team I wrote to you in the blood of my heart a letter about your behavior… I received no answer. Regrettably, no change has occurred in your behavior and the behavior of your surroundings. Out of a sense ofcommitment I continued to work hard and devotedly until the election campaign was over. Afterwards, it became evident that even once you were given the helm of the country you did not change your behavior, your surroundings did not change and the disturbances continued…”

Yagel describes his approaches to Yaakov Neeman and Uri Yogev, says that he presented to them the earlier letters and the materials he had collected since he wrote them, and repeats the assertion that the two told him that they were well aware of the issue, that they were worried at least as much as he was, and that the reality was even worse than the way it was described by Yagel.

Yagel writes that a few more months passed and “after the intervention of Natan Eshel, your Bureau Chief acting on behalf of your spouse, in preventing the appointmnet of Naftali Bennet as the Chief of Staff to Minister Bugi Yaalon, I couldn’t remain silent any longer and approached you on June 15 2009 with another, second, letter. This letter also did not recieve a response and I’m not completely certain you actually saw it, but I kept my promise from the first letter not to breach the trust I received from Eli Ayalon and, indirectly, from you. (I’m not naive, in political life a promise is intended to solve a local problem, with no real intent to keep it. I [however] behave differently.) But this week things have reached a new low, and I cannot remain silent any longer.

“I’m not talking about the Nanny Affair, that’s really a subsidiary issue. (I was astonished, for example, by the way Roni Rimon described Mrs. Netanyahu in a radio interview, but I remember well how he spoke about her during the [election] campaign and [am aware] of how low your sycophants can sink.) It was writing by commentators criticizing the silence of journalists regarding the way your Bureau is run and the involvement of your wife that awoke me from my slumber.”

“I have held a number of conversations in the past number of days with people in your immediate surroundings from the past and present, and the picture painted is not good, to understate matters… it is important to note that the truth, and only the truth, is what has motivated me. I wish to inform you that I am releasing myself from my commitment to keep this information to myself. I think that you ought to be the first to know that.”

“As noted, I have no desire to replace a prime minister who was democratically elected. Today too I think that you are the person best suited for the job, given our familiarity with the others. But I think that there is urgent need to do what is necessary so that your work environment should be the best and the best-suited and without noise, and I am prepared to do everything necessary so that happens… to continue to remain silent is not an option for me…I implore you please do what is necessary (I am confident that you know what is necessary) What is necessary here is great leadership as well as personal and public courage. When we elected you, we were convinced that you had those qualities. Were we wrong?”

Letter from January 1, 2009

The first letter that Yagel wrote to Netanyahu was published last night by Raviv Drucker on Channel Ten TV News:

“You aren’t a manager! Any financial organization that operated the away the meetings I attended were run or the way you try to run your staff and in practice create chaos, would go bankrupt within a short amount of time. Not only are you no manager. Your conduct doesn’t let the managers you appointed do their job.”

Further down, Yagel sharply criticizes the people surrounding Netanyahu: “There is now team spirit in the group that surrounds you. There is no shared goal motivating the people. Everyone manages his own (personal?) affairs. The sword of one is in the back of the other (literally.) The amount of time and energy devoted to [internecine] struggles is completely out of proportion. I’m anxious at the thought that in two months time that’s how the affairs of state will be run.”

Yagel also described his first meeting with Netanyahu: “Our first meeting took place when you visited the election campaign headquarters while it was under construction. You paced the corridors with an earpiece and with Shalom Shlomo (the political adviser) running after you, and talke to various people on your cell phone regarding primaries-related issues that a leader is not supposed to deal with.”

Perhaps the most incisive criticism was directed at Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife, and the manner in which she handles his affairs for him. “I would not be telling you anything you don’t know  if I were to tell you that the decisions that were made by the professionals you chose and which you approved were changed diametrically after your aide, Natan Eshel, called someone (when all the people around you point to your wife as the final approval-giver), something that casts you in a ridiculous light before the professionals you chose. The ridicule grew when we approached Bill, the American consultant, on the issue, and following a talk with him, you changed your decision again, after less than two hours.”

The last and most significant section of the letter: “The matter reached an extreme level, which let a red light, a few days ago, in the debates on how the campaign should be run during the war in the south of the country [Cast Lead]. In a phone conversation, it appears (I only heard him) that Natan Eshel unsuccessfully tried to persuade you to ramp-up the campaign. At the end of the call Natan told Yisrael Bachar (I was also in the room) that  ’he (meaning you) doesn’t yet know that the campaign will change, because I’ve already settled the matter with the Boss (meaning Mrs. Netanyahu.’ So the process is run by an outsider (Natan) who operates you (through Mrs. Netanyahu) like a puppet??? This is the point I decided not to remain silent!!! Even if what Mr. Natan Eshel said was tinged with bluster, it reflects an extremely problematic situation.”

—-

Response from the Prime Minister’s Bureau

Prime Minister’s Bureau reacts

Maariv, November 30 2010

The prime minister’s media advisors respond: “The claims in the letter are lies. We are speaking about a person who served in a junior position, who did not participate and was not a member of any decision making forum. He made up these things after he failed to attain an official role. The fact is that as opposition leader, Binyamin Netanyahu stood firm in his decision not to criticize the government during Operation Cast Lead. That continued after the operation as well. That was his decision, that’s what happened and no one can change that. The prime minister’s wife did not and does not take part in these issues, and Yagel’s claims are little more that libelous rumors.”

Yogev responded: “These things never happened. I never met the man and I certainly never told him the things he’s attributed to me.”

Minister Yaakov Neeman did not respond by press time.

—-

Commentary

Working for her

Ben Caspit, Maariv, November 30 2010

The three letters from Yisrael Yagel that are here before us are an important document. Their power stems, first and foremost, from their author. Yagel is a man devoid of any malice. He wears a knitted kippa, the salt of the earth, the father of four combat soldiers, a true right wing ideologue, who is no personal political agenda. As a personal friend of Eli Ayalon, the man who directed Netanyahu’s election campaign in 2009, he came to help. He was appointed the deputy campaign director and worked full time on the job on a volunteer basis. He didn’t even ask to be reimbursed for his travel expenses.

He is financially independent, made a nice sum of money selling a high-tech company, and is busy with his own affairs. He seeks nothing for himself. He admired Netanyahu, he is a member of the right wing, as noted, and, most importantly, he wrote these letters in real time. The first was written while the election campaign was still under way, on January 1, 2009, three weeks after coming on board the campaign. He was so deeply stunned by what he saw, that he felt duty-bound to write to Netanyahu. Of course, he received no answer. He wrote the second letter on June 15, 2010, after the entire public had already come to witness the catastrophe. He wrote the third on January 20, 2010.

Incidentally, what was Netanyahu’s reaction after the first letter? He demanded that Eli Ayalon fire Yagel. Ayalon said: if Yagel goes, I go.  So Netanyahu went. He stopped coming to the campaign headquarters. That is how he solved the problem. Incidentally, Ayalon also quit at least once during the campaign. He submitted a letter. In the end he stayed out of a sense of responsibility. But he too—a person who hasn’t spoken and probably never will—saw terrible things there.

I have been in possession of these letters for more than a year. It was not Yagel who gave them to me. But it was Yagel who urged me not to publish them. After I got to know him, I made a very unreporterly-like decision and acceded to his request. I tried repeatedly to describe in this newspaper the dangers of the prime minister’s behavior. The weakness of his working environment. And most importantly: the degree to which the prime minister’s wife was involved in making most of the decisions, small and big, the power she wields, the terrible fear he has of her, the fact that some of the prime minister’s employees, who are actually our employees, are really her employees and are subordinate only to her will.

Some people call this “gossip.” But there is nothing gossipy about this information. Other people believe that it is motivated by “Bibi hatred.” They are entitled to think that. There is neither love here nor hate; mainly there is profound concern about the quality of this country’s leadership. It is enough to read  description of the circumstances under which Mrs. Netanyahu made critical decisions in the course of the election campaign, to her husband’s displeasure, to realize just how deep and severe the problem is.

Natan Eshel, a shopkeeper who serves as the chief of staff in the Prime Minister’s Bureau, and discusses with Netanyahu a critical decision that needs to be made: whether to re-intensify the campaign before Operation Cast Lead is over, or to continue to remain supportive of the Olmert government. Netanyahu objected to raising the pitch of the campaign. Eshel hung up and said to the people in the room, one of whom was Yagel, that despite what Bibi said, “the real boss” has already decided. The real boss, incidentally, is a she-boss.

And there is something else that is not in the letter: the angry uproar she raised when the negative campaign slamming Tzippi Livni was aired. “It’s too much for her,” was the slogan, remember? Well, the thing that grabbed Mrs. Netanyahu’s attention at that point was the photograph of Livni on the billboards at the time. That photograph cast Livni as “too pretty,” as per Mrs. Netanyahu.

They all saw that. They, the chickens, have kept that to themselves. They believe that this terror attack, which occurs every day in the most sensitive place in the State of Israel, can remain a secret. The important thing is that everything stay quiet. That’s what Bibi likes, quiet. For the dirty laundry to be kept well out of sight.

But Yisrael Yagel, an honest man who really cares about Israel, couldn’t stay silent any more. No, it was not he who leaked the letters to the media. Raviv Drucker published the first one yesterday. An admirable report. Anyone who loves this country should read the letters and learn where things stand. The reality described therein is the reality in which our most sensitive affairs are managed. The contents of those letters reflect perhaps just one percent of what actually happens there. And I am quoting the people who work on the inside. This isn’t gossip. This isn’t hatred. This isn’t politics. This is about life and death. Our life and death.

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