In excerpts from a book he wrote in the early 2000s but never published, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls corruption “a cancer that grows in the dark”
The excerpts were published on Friday by the Haaretz newspaper, which did not say exactly when the book, “The Israeli Leopard,” was written, though it was done somewhere between the end of his stint as finance minister in 2005 and his reelection as prime minister in 2009.
Netanyahu, now leader of the opposition, evidently decided to freeze it when he returned to the Prime Minister’s Office in 2009.
The quotes, which rail against corruption, bloated governments and the dangers of over-concentration of centralized power, are especially relevant as Netanyahu is currently on trial in three corruption cases, after being indicted in 2019 for fraud, breach of trust and bribery — largely revolving around his alleged efforts to secure better media coverage as he tried to maintain power during his decade-long stint as prime minister.
The book dealt mostly with his actions as finance minister in 2003-2005, and in it, he detailed his neo-liberal agenda and worldview, but also touched on corruption.
“Corruption is like cancer that grows in the darkness. It distorts competition, hurts citizens’ morale, and discourages them because it signals that the path to material progress is not dependent on effort and talent, but on bribery,” Netanyahu wrote.
Protesters demonstrate outside the trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, February 8, 2021. (EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)
“In Israel, corruption bubbles up from a single source: concentration of power. For years immense financial power has been concentrated in the government, the labor federation and the parties,” wrote Netanyahu who played a key role in liberalizing Israel’s economy.
“A hundred years ago Lord Acton warned against the corrupting effect of absolute power. The way to prevent corruption in the political system is to decentralize or limit the government’s economic power,” he said.
He also railed against moguls who monopolize the Israeli economy.
“There are moguls who have become accustomed to a ‘regulated’ market, meaning a private sector working in large monopolies and duopolies whose heads enjoy government sponsorship and are protected by politicians,” he said.
Later has was charged with colluding with one.
In Case 4000, the most serious against the former premier, he is alleged to have worked to illicitly and lucratively benefit the business interests of controlling shareholder of the Bezeq media company Shaul Elovitch in exchange for positive coverage on the Walla news site, owned by Elovitch.
Shaul Elovitch arrives at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court for a remand hearing in Case 4000, February 26, 2018. (Flash90)
In Case 2000, he is accused of attempting to make a deal with Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes for softer coverage of him in exchange for legislation to curb the reach of rival daily Israel Hayom.
In Case 1000, he is accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gifts from two billionaires — Hollywood-based Israeli movie mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian magnate James Packer.
The publication of the excerpts comes amid a series of reports that Netanyahu is currently trying to negotiate a plea deal with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.
Netanyahu — who has long publicly proclaimed that his innocence would be proven in court, and previously vowed not to accept any plea deal — is reportedly consulting with aides about moving forward with a deal. Reports have indicated that Mandelblit may be eager to wrap things up before his term ends at the end of the month.
The book also contains advice on maintaining a small government that Netanyahu himself quickly jettisoned on becoming prime minister again.
“A government of 18 ministers is too big for the management of a small country, and in fact any country. The truth must be said: Most government ministries are bloated far beyond their desirable size. Any person who has worked one day in a ministry knows this.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the first cabinet meeting of the Israel’s 34th government at the PM’s office in Jerusalem on May 15, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
During his terms in officer Netanyahu frequently oversaw governments with many more ministers and deputy ministers as he doled out positions and even set up new ministries in a bid to appease his coalition partners.
According to reports, the details of the plea agreement that have already been agreed to would include dropping the bribery charge in Case 4000, as well as the entire Case 2000, and seeing Netanyahu admit to fraud and breach of trust in both Cases 4000 and 1000. The sides have reportedly agreed that Netanyahu will not see prison time, and would be sentenced to three to six months of community service.
The main sticking point said to be that prosecutors will only agree to a deal that includes an admission of moral turpitude, which would see him barred from office for seven years. Netanyahu is said to be trying to avoid the moral turpitude designation in order to have a chance at returning to politics.