As if the tribulations—and trials—of former political leaders like Moshe Katsav and Ehud Olmert weren’t enough, this week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is being hounded for accepting private donations that reportedly went toward expensive air travel and stays at posh hotels (and a prince’s castle). The Israeli media are calling the story, which first aired on Channel 10 TV, the “Bibi Tours” affair, presumably because the Hebrew word for tours, tiyulim, just doesn’t have the right ring. Netanyahu is suing Ma’ariv and Channel 10 for libel, the state comptroller has announced that ministers’ spouses have to stay home (or pay their own way) when on official travel, and one commentator offered that at least the Israeli first family’s hobby is “less cruel than partridge hunting [and] less kinky than trading partners with other couples.”
In the south of the country, the Kipat Barzel—which translates to Iron Dome, not iron yarmulke (“kippa”)—mobile anti-missile defense system was deployed near Be’er Sheva this week, in what one right-wing blog described as a sign of an “exile mentality” that accepts enemy attack as inevitable. Hamas’ offer of a mutual cease-fire means the defense system hasn’t had a chance to see action. The army is warning that the lull won’t last for long, though, saying the deterrent force of Operation Cast Lead is on the wane.
Yoram Cohen became the Shin Bet security service’s first director to wear a skullcap, which adds another layer of meaning to Yedioth Ahronoth’s front-page headline “New Head” (Rosh Hadash). (Cohen is known as “Captain Sami” to his buddies, a nickname one radio host derided as sounding like the name of a comic book character.) Eli Gabizon, tapped to become the first Israel Prison Service chief to have risen from its ranks, was booted out of the running this week after he failed a polygraph test asking if he had received favors in exchange for arranging special treatment for certain prisoners. Yedioth punned: “Released from Jail,” (Shuhrar Mehakele, in Hebrew).
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s 2009 campaign slogan, “No loyalty, no citizenship,” was translated into law this week, when the Knesset approved a bill making it possible for those convicted of espionage or treason to lose their Israeli citizenship. The Knesset debate got so raucous that an Arab parliamentarian used the word “shiksa” to refer to fellow legislator Anastassia Michaeli, a Russian immigrant member of Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party who previously converted to Judaism, which prompted another Arab speaker to plead for a translation of the Yiddish, adding: “I don’t understand Russian.” Earlier the same day, some of the more than 1,500 Israeli Arab protesters at a Land Day event in Lod had burned images of Lieberman. “It’s because he’s the most racist person in the country,” said one. “We can’t stand the sight of him.”
Yoram Arbel, perhaps Israel’s best-known sportscaster, was suspended by Channel 10 TV for 48 hours after he dedicated Saturday night’s broadcast of Israel’s Euro 2012 qualifying soccer match against Latvia to former IDF soldier Anat Kamm, who recently pleaded guilty to retaining copies of secret documents during her military service and handing them over to Haaretz reporter Uri Blau. Arbel’s suspension ended just in time for the broadcast of Tuesday night’s home match between Israel and Georgia, which ended 1-0 for Israel.
Israel sprang ahead with the end of Daylight Saving Time Thursday night, putting it seven hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time. Israelis renewed the debate over what’s known as “Summer Time” (sha’on kayitz) in Israel, as per the British terminology, pitting business and other interests against ostensibly religious ones. More daylight hours are said to yield higher manufacturing rates, longer shopping hours, and a decrease in traffic accidents, and there have been repeated calls to delay Israel’s early onset of Winter Time (sha’on horef). But Interior Minister Eli Yishai of Shas has expressed little interest in changing the law, which calls for the clocks to fall back just before Yom Kippur every year to make Israelis feel like the fast day ends an hour earlier than it would otherwise—never mind that it also starts an hour earlier. Yishai said in a statement this week that although both he and the public like Summer Time, the “social characteristics of Israel” must be taken into account. A committee is due to submit its findings on the issue in May. There’s no word yet on whether Bob Dylan, scheduled to perform in Israel’s Ramat Gan Stadium on June 20, will be singing “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”