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January 22, 1993 - Image 33

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-01-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Bibigate Has Little Affect

D

LARRY DERFNER

ISRAEL CORRESPONDENT

Likud's
Netanyahu admits
to cheating on
his wife but
David Levy takes
the heat for
allegedly trying
to blackmail him.

.4111110,

id you have intimate
relations with another
woman (other than
your wife)," the inter-
viewer asked Binyamin
"Bibi" Netanyahu on the
nightly news one day last
week.
"It happened, but it ended
a few months ago," Mr.
Netanyahu replied.
So began the scandal that
has been dubbed "Bibigate."
Mr. Netanyahu has been
the odds-on favorite in the
race for the leadership of the
Likud, which will be decided
in the party's March 25
primaries. His revelation
about his affair appears not
to have hurt his chances. If
anything, it may have
helped him.
Appearing composed as
ever, Mr. Netanyahu went
on to explain that he was go-
ing public to foil an attempt
at political blackmail. The
previous evening, he said, an
anonymous caller told his
wife Sarah that unless Mr.
Netanyahu dropped out of
the Likud race, pictures and
tapes of him having sex with
another woman would be
released to the public.
"I know who is behind it,"
Mr. Netanyahu declared. "It
is someone very high up in
the Likud, someone sur-
rounded by a group of
criminals."
He did not identify anyone
on TV, but his associates,
speaking off the record,
pointed the finger at Mr.
Netanyahu's main rival,
former Foreign Minister
David Levy.
Mr. Levy's people called
the accusations a
Netanyahu campaign
"gimmick," and challenged
him repeatedly to openly
name his suspect.
Last Sunday, Mr.
Netanyahu filed a complaint
with the police, and the
Yediot Aharonot newspaper
reported that the complaint
identified two leading fig-
ures in Mr. Levy's cam-
paign. The newspaper story,
however, did not name the
accused pair.
In the complaint, Mr.
Netanyahu claimed that
before the telephone
blackmail attempt, he had
been followed by private de-
tectives; his office had been
broken into and he had been
secretly photographed and
wiretapped. On TV, Mr.
Netanyahu portrayed
himself and his wife as vic-

tims and said he was stan-
ding up to the blackmailers
to protect the Israeli polit-
ical system.
"This is not just my
struggle, but a struggle over
the kind of society we live
in," he said. "(The
blackmail) is an attempt to
use Mafia-style methods to
decide whom the public
should elect. If this is not
stopped I won't be the only
tne. Every candidate will be
a target for extortion —who-
ever runs for president,
army chief of staff, Supreme
Court judge, newspaper
editor."
He pointedly refused to
discuss his extramarital af-
fair, saying it was a personal
matter. "If I owe (an ex-
planation), it's to my wife,"
Mr. Netanyahu said. Sarah
Netanyahu, his third wife,
would say nothing to the
press, but Mr. Netanyahu
admitted their relations
were "in distress."
The bottom line politically,
he said, was that he was not
dropping out of the race, and
he trusted that voters would
disregard his affair and
judge him on his public
record.
The early returns in-
dicated he was right. An
overwhelming majority of
Israelis on radio call-in

22 percent of
those polled said
they now
supported
Netanyahu even
more.

shows said Mr. Netanyahu's
sex life was not the voters'
business, and that the
villain in the piece was the
blackmailer.
According to a survey of
Likud supporters by promi-
nent pollster Mina Tsemach,
68 percent said the
extramarital affair would
have no effect on whether or
not they would vote for Mr.
Netanyahu, 22 percent said
their support for him had ac-
tually been strengthened,
and only 6 percent said they
now felt less inclined to sup-
port him. (The remaining 4
percent said they'd never
heard of the matter.) The

Binyamin Netanyahu

irony of Bibigate is that the
whole controversy — the
private of life of public fig-
ures, compromising
photographs, television con-
fessions —smacked of
American-style politics, and
Bibi Netanyahu is Israel's
American-style politician.
At 43, he has been compared
to Bill Clinton for his youth
and telegenic good looks,
and for running on his per-
sonal appeal rather than on
experience. Now, of course,
there was one more com-
parison to be made with
President Clinton.
Bibigate is Israel's first
major political sex scandal.
Mr. Netanyahu is certainly
not the first Israeli politician
to have an extramarital af-
fair, and there is constant
gossip about other politi-
cians and their women. But
this was the first time a poli-
tician's sex life had
threatened his career.
Extramarital affairs are
not exactly unknown in
Israeli society, and people
just seem to assume that
many politicians, with their
big egos, their drive for
power and their long
absences from home, are apt
to cheat on their spouses.
Reporters have left the issue
alone, even if they referred
to it obliquely in newspaper
features, and Israelis seem-
ed to take it in stride.
The private life of politi-
cians was something to

chuckle over, to be used as a
conversation piece, but not
something to take seriously
when deciding who should
run the country.
Extramarital romance never
hurt Moshe Dayan's
military and political career.
"He didn't deny it; he
didn't lie about it," said his
daughter, Knesset member
Yael Dayan. "He would say,
`If I was running for Father
of the Year, or Husband of
the Year, or for the Israel
Prize for Married Life, then
people could say, wait a
minute, there's a contradic-
tion here.' "
Otherwise, she said, Mr.
Dayan considered his pri-
vate life off-limits.
And, she added, unless Mr.
Netanyahu was running on
the issue of "family values,"
which he wasn't, then his af-
fair "really doesn't concern
anyone."
The issues surrounding
the affair concern the police,
who have promised to in-
vestigate Mr. Netanyahu's
charges intensively. The
whole controversy is of great
concern to the Likud, which
has been trying to overcome
its image as a party whose
rivals tear each other apart.
The Levy and Netanyahu
camps are now at sword's
point with each other —if
Mr. Netanyahu's accusa-
tions are proven there will
be prison terms and ruined

political careers ahead. 1:1

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