Monday, 17 August 2015 15:56

U Tern - chapter 8: The genuine story: Who stole the rule off Netanyahu's hands?

Under fire, and the height of the storm, Minister Lipkin Shahak and Dan Meridor, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, came inside the office of the decision-maker. This was in the month of October 2000, the difficult month in which the Intifada broke out, and the peace cabinet who sought to negotiate with Arafat while under fire was about to enter. "Amnon my dear, sit", prime minister Ehud Barak greeted him with a warm welcome, a smile and a wink.  But the decision maker's mind was somewhere completely different: a minute earlier he was still proofreading a complaint that will start-up a new investigation by the state comptroller. And those under investigation: the two men sitting in front of him, the chairman, and "Dear Amnon".

So many things went wrong that October. In the Lebanese border 3 IDF soldiers were killed and abducted: Benny Abraham, Adi Avitan and Omar Suwad. In Joseph's tomb in Nablus a Border Police officer, Madhat Joseph, was injured and abandoned, till he died from blood loss. In the Triangle and in Wadi Ara police officers killed 13 Israeli-Arabic demonstrators and one Palestinian, during rough and violent outbreaks. Another Israeli Jew was killed from rocks thrown at him, and in Ramallah the masses lynched two Israeli reserve soldiers. The second Intifada had begun.

A massive fire raged through Jerusalem as well. The government was on the verge of breakdown, and the flames from the Charities case investigation were threatening to scorch the prime minister's, Ehud Barak, seat. He always believed that when troubles come up its pertinent to use the method of cranes and pressures: You put impossible pressure on your opponent, and send rescue cranes when the opponents are docile. That's the way he acted for years in the military.

So, just like in the battlefield Barak decided to form a first task force, Yasha team. Three close associates of Ariel Sharon were called in: Vladimir Gosinsky, a Russian-Jewish Oligarch and a big contributor that sought to invest in Israel and chairman of the Electric Corporation of Israel, Eli Landau. They thought they were working separately and never realized that the one connecting between was the citizen Yaakov (Yasha) Kedmi - until recently the head of Nati"v, an intelligence body that operated successfully and was linked directly to the prime minister's office.

The team's mission was clear and simple: form a new and stable government for Barak. How? The plan was simple. Their job was to explain to Ariel Sharon, in a way he'd understand, that Barak is going for re-election, and to produce surveys that show that Binyamin Netanyahu is about to return, and soon he'll have to get off the wheel and end his political life as head of the Likud party. And then, when Sharon will realize that his end is near, he'll jump on the wagon and help Barak.

Barak was pulling the strings on a few playgrounds, against several players, like a chess grandmaster playing simultaneously while the clock is ticking. For the second and no less important task Doron's team was formed. The lawyer, the brother-in-law and financial resources, Doron Cohen, that summoned up his old friend from the "squad", Loni Rafaeli, who is also a businessman and the husband of the Minister Yuli Tamir. Rafaeli called his friend from the Mossad David Zilberg, a senior in the operational wing. I summoned my helper in the prime minister's office, Tal Stern.

Doron's team mission was more tricky and the least moral: to make sure that about half of the people in the government will come under scrutiny. Barak thought that this way, the attorney general Elyakim Rubinstein will cave in under the pressure - and prolong the Charities investigation. Our investigation as well. So Doron's team goal was to collect evidence on the election and charities of ministers and officials, and make sure they'll get police records.

White Nights, Black Days

I almost didn't sleep during that October, nor did Lior. Omer and Yotam, our twins, were born only 6 months prior. The house was lit up with great joy and flooded with love. In a single moment we've turned from a young couple to a big family of 4. I'm a dad, amazing. And Lior's a mom. The house became whole instantly, the same he does when a baby joins, only I had a double addition - since two babies joined us. Loads of diapers. Huge packs of wet wipes for a year at least since it was on sale, Materna (Baby food) in boxes that covered a full corner of the house, and two beds. And two strollers. And two baby baskets. And two helping grandmas  and two grandpas staring at the wonders and taking more and more pictures.

And with the happiness there are also sleepless nights. Crying, waking up, bottle, nap and crying and waking up again, nap and waking up again and when will the morning arrive already and back again, non-stop, until you want to bash your head against the mirror.

And while I couldn't sleep the nights though the joy was illuminating, the days I spent consulting in great darkness. Yasha team performed their task well. Sharon panicked, and Barak stitched himself a new and stable coalition. Although, Barak wasn't playing chess but cards, a poker's bluff. In the same time as Yasha's team was trying to intimidate Sharon, another team - Yossi Beilin's one - weaved a safety net for Barak: a stable government for one month with Eli Yishai, in exchange for years of funding for the Ultra-Orthodox Jews. Only Barak and the devil knew the reason behind that.

Doron's team operated relentlessly and non-stop. Zilberg was in charge of recruiting the private investigators and acquiring the evidence. Cohen and Rafaeli on the funds and payments, Stern and I on the reports to the chief. The investigators that were operating in Israel and overseas gained stacks of material regarding the money transfers and donations and guarantees that the young centralist party has mobilized - and Lipkin Shahak, Yitzhak Mordehai, Roni Milo and Dan Meridor who led it. The materials turned into complaints. Citizens, friends and members of the squad and the defense forces, was called upon to sign the incriminating missives. Those were quickly sent to the law enforcement officials: the state comptroller, the police, the charities registrar and the attorney general.

The prime minister was sitting on his sofa and I leaned over his back in one of the final meetings of Doron's team. Barak was making final proofreading corrections in his curly hand writing style with the black Parker 51 pen in his hand, fixing the latest version of a complaint, one more, that will be presented later on to the state comptroller, on the behalf of a charity, another one, recently formed: "Law-abiding citizens". Doron's team left the office and Marit Danon, the mythic secretary of the prime ministers, sent in minister Amnon Lipkin and Dan Meridor, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "Amnon dear", said Barak to Lipkin Shahak. "Sit, why don't you sit down?".

Lior never forgave me about that awful deed. When I finally grasped years later what I've participated in, I couldn't forgive myself either. I told her everything after she surprised that in some event Lipkin Shahak left my hand hanging in the air, while it was presented to him in order to shake his hand. I thought he didn't know about it all, but it turned out that he did - and Lior demanded me to go and ask for forgiveness. So be it about him, that fought with him side by side in "Aviv Neurim" (a military operation), but you? against a war hero? Years passed until I found the wisdom and strength to confess to Lipkin, face to face, and be profoundly ashamed for my shameful complicity in the plot. So be it that a prime minister frames ministers, but a junior clerk, servant of the state, you play along with the black flag and the despicable conspiracy?

Eating desert, Shaking hands

Quite quickly Yasha's team was recalled to their assignment. The safety net disintegrated or rather lived a month as promised then unraveled. There's no alternate government, no hands raised in the hall - and Barak's first and last government stood right before it's merciful death. The team, that just a month ago was asked to form a new government and save Sharon's political career, was now asked to do the same, just opposite: form a government for Sharon, or rather block's Bibi's path, and give Barak another chance. If not as the prime minister, at least as defense minister of the next government.

It was an extremely complex mission. Binyamin Netanyahu was waiting on the lines for Barak to resign. He thought that within a moment he'll take control over the party and temporary Sharon, and within several weeks of another election campaign, he'll take over the entire country once again. A year and half after he was anointed with tar and feathered and thrown into oblivion. For every little thing that Bibi never learned in the squad, Barak already had citations on his chest, and a new and fresh team came into action.

Angela's team mission was explicit and triple: Barak will resign, but this time, he'll call for special elections, without changing the make-up of the Knesset. By law, Bibi would not be allowed to run in those election, since he's not a member of the Knesset.

Afterwards you must make Bibi run wild and run a campaign in which he'll proclaim to anyone who would listen his commitment to run only in the general election - "from ideology reasons", which always comes first for politicians. Sharon will suggest a "compromise" with Netanyahu, and to change the law so that people who are not members of the Knesset could run in the special election. However, Bibi, who already tied himself up with the commitments and made militant and unambiguous remarks - will have to decline the offer. "Either there's general elections, or I'm out", he gave his word to that, and will have to wait aside for the next chance.

Barak did his part and declared resignation. Bibi did his part, got entangled with his remarks and fell into the trap. And now it was just Sharon who had to bring hands for the vote in the Knesset and complete the mission. Accomplish changing the law in a 24 hours period. But Bibi didn't give up that quickly, and put pressure on the stakes: Sha"s. Bibi already stitched a suit for himself: Arie Deri who was in jail wanted to get back at Barak, that crowned Yishai in his place, and told Netanyahu it will be fine. A word is a word. But in the meanwhile prisoner Arie Deri was actually thinking about Martin Shlaf, that wanted Sharon as prime minister. As usual, for the money.

On the other hand Sharon kept sending cranes to the Rabi Ovadia Yosef: Angela summoned a dinner with her crew. Sami Shimon is her husband, and besides he's the closest friend to Rabi Ovadia Yosef, "Sha"s is Sha"s - Sami Shimon", and he also owes a favor to Sharon. In the 90's Shimon bought a citrus growing company from the agency that was just before a large bankruptcy. With this company came a nice obligation from minister Sharon that included great economic significance: Shimon will get the company along with thousands of acres of agricultural land on a lease in the Sharon area - and a promise he could get rid of them with great yield. Sharon, who gave the land nearly for free, also made sure the lands will be enabled to construct upon a moment after signing the deal.

Then Eli Yishai, his spokesman Yitzhak Sudri and Sami Shimon met at 8pm in a villa in Rishpon with Sharon, the creditor who came to collect a debt. Angela made a lot of fine meats, and during desert the hands were shaking already. In the next morning it came clear to all that Shimon had a big debt to Sharon. His good friend Rabi Ovadia caved in, and gave Sharon the prime minister's position as a gift.

And Barak, the man who played everyone so easily, found himself with an arm tied around his body. A little more than 60 days after he sent our crews with contradicting and opposite assignments, he was defeated in the re-elections. But the man who got the Defense minister's position was actually Fuad Ben-Eliezer. Netanyahu remained a concerned citizen, Shimon was faced with ensuring the realization of the oral made promise, given by Sharon, regarding the capital in the government corridors - and Barak escaped again, this time from the Charities investigation.

This Text is based upon the eighth chapter from the forthcoming online book "U-turn" by Eldad Yaniv.