Last Thursday night, basically the last active news cycle before today’s election day (Friday and Saturday are the weekend, and Sunday is not enough for a new story), the right wing’s favorite reporter, Amit Segal, dropped a bombshell aimed at Benny Gantz, Netanyahu’s chief rival as a leader of Blue White party. Segal played a recording in which Israel Bachar, a senior advisor to Gantz, was heard saying to an anonymous man that Gantz does not have the courage to attack Iran, and that Gantz would also be a “risk to Israel.” (Link.) The anonymous man had his voice changed to disguise his identity.
It’s hard to imagine a heavier body blow to a senior politician than to be described, by their own advisor, as a danger to the nation. And, coming some 84 hours before the elections, it seemed Gantz would be unlikely to recover from the blow. Well, the polls will tell us in 10 hours or so. But the story unraveled quickly.
The recording was fishy. Parts of it were missing, apparently in order to protect the source coaxing Bachar to spill the dirt on Gantz. However, by late Friday, informed listeners reached the conclusion that the confessor was one Rabbi Guy Hubera. As it turned out, Bachar had come to ask Hubera for a blessing and for comfort, and the rabbi used the trust the member of his flock showed him to betray him.
The plot thickened, and fast. It was established that none other than Benjamin Netanyahu met Hubera in the rabbi’s yeshiva last Wednesday. Netanyahu then spent the weekend denying hotly he had anything to do with the tape. He did so on at least three media. This never happened, he kept saying, this was Blue White propaganda; his aides said Netanyahu met Hubera in order to ask him to order his followers to vote Likud instead of Shas.
In the meantime, needless to say, Bachar was fired from his position in Blue White. And last night at about 8:00, Ilana Dayan, a star reporter and muckraker, dropped her own bombshell. (Hebrew).
Dayan played a recording made Wednesday night, after Netanyahu met Hubera. The people participating in the conversation were: Hubera, Netanyahu, and three unknown – for now – aides. Hubera leads the conversation, justifying the exposure of the Bachar tape. Netanyahu then speaks but his voice is unintelligible. The various aides also speak, then one of them says clearly: “OK, listen, Mr. Prime Minister, we heard you… let me get back to you in a few minutes… Anyway, we received this. Mr. Prime Minister, we’ll do it.”
This was likely the most important story of the elections: How the prime minister is intimately involved in one of the dirtiest tricks of the campaign. Unfortunately, Dayan’s mega-story had only a few hours to run before the elections began (six hours ago, as this is written).
The Dayan recording has already had some effect, though: In kicking off the election, President Reuven Rivlin offered not the usual boilerplate at the polls about “a holiday for democracy”, but this bleak message:
“I have an ambivalent feeling, even shame. We do not deserve another horrible election campaign, which lowers us into the dirt.”
Israeli law makes it illegal for a priest or other religious person to divulge words told him in confidence. That law is an exception to Israeli law regarding recording of conversations, which says that if one person participating in the conversation wants to publish it, there is no breach of privacy. Which is to say that Hubera, and by extension Netanyahu and anyone else who listened to the Bachar tape, could be investigated for illegal wiretapping. But I doubt we will reach this point, as the Israeli police are leery of investigating powerful rabbis.
Right-wingers were shocked by the revelation. Not because of what it said about Netanyahu, but because they claimed that by exposing the dirty trick, Dayan exposed a journalistic source of Amit Segal. Left-wingers, who have already dubbed Segal “Shofarico numero uno”– “little mouthpiece [shofar, in Hebrew] number one”– for his constant support of the Netanyahu campaign, couldn’t hide their glee when he was exposed again.
Will this exposure of Netanyahu for (once again) scum change anything? Not likely. Again, Dayan’s exposure didn’t have time enough to run.
The vast majority of voters have already decided. The outcome today will be decided by voter turnout.
Ten more hours to go.