If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears, does it make a sound? Similarly, if a prime minister disappears from his country for an entire day and no one notices, where in the hell was he? In most other western countries reporters track the schedule and physical presence of their leaders. They know where they are at any given moment and, if newsworthy, they’re there to report it. Not so in Israel, a country which neither western or democratic. Nor apparently do its reporters know where their PM is at any given moment. I find that exceedingly strange.
All this by way of introducing the odd story of Bibi Netanyahu’s disappearance from Israel for 24 hours a few days ago. After he’d returned to Israel, he crowed about a coup he’d secured in visiting the sultan of Oman and securing from him a glowing statement that the Israel-Palestine conflict is ripe for resolution. Such a remark from a leading Arab leader is a feather in Bibi’s cap. He’s made much of his strategic inroads in the Arab world via his bromance with the Saudis, who’ve in turn brought along their toadies and allies as new friends of Israel.
In contrast, it’s a betrayal of the Palestinian Authority, which is locked in a deadly dispute with Israel and the U.S. Such normalization by Oman, erodes support for the Palestinian cause in the Arab world. That in turn increases the isolation of the Palestinians and weakens their bargaining position.
In fact, many of these largely Sunni Arab countries have been some of the best customers for Israel’s most advanced and intrusive surveillance gear and military weapons. Further, there are contracts worth billions bringing Israeli consultants to install and train their Arab clients in how to use the equipment to spy on their citizens in the many Gulf states.
Israeli 🇮🇱 bizjet M-ANGO flew TLV >> 🇴🇲 Muscat >> TLV – prob PM #Netanayhu to Oman, his visit revealed several hours ago.
Left Thu, spent almost 24 hrs in Oman, back Fri.
Flew over Saudi Arabia 🇸🇦 , used the 5min groundtime Amman trick.
Earlier this week, plane was in Abu-Dhabi pic.twitter.com/WTC8dprXHe
— avi scharf (@avischarf) October 26, 2018
— srockets (@srockets) October 26, 2018
Aside from the oddity of not knowing your own prime minister had slipped out of the country, it’s equally odd that no plane spotters noticed that an Israeli private jet had chartered a flight from Tel Aviv to Oman and back. Even more curious is the identity of the owner of the plane. In fact, Israelis have now identified the plane as belonging to an offshore company called Waylawn Ltd. Thanks to the Panama Papers, we know that Waylawn is a shell company concealing some of the wealth of one of Israel’s leading oligarchs, Idan Ofer. Thus, Ofer used his private plane to ferry Netanyahu to Oman right under the noses of Israel’s media.
Israel’s have noted that the flight path of Netanyahu’s plane took it over Saudi Arabia, which does not permit overflights of Israeli aircraft. But where there’s a will, there’s a way: the five-minute landing rule is the fiction developed to work around such a dilemma. An Israeli plane lands in Jordan, returns to the head of the takeoff line, then takes off again having become–presto-changeo, a Jordanian flight.
The Ofer family is no stranger to such skullduggery. In fact, the Mossad has thanked the family personally for permitting its agents to enter Iran via its oil tankers, which illegally were shipping Iranian oil, thus breaking international sanctions. The U.S. government actually blacklisted the Ofer family for violating the oil embargo. In Israel, you can get away with a lot if you help the right people at the right time.
In fact, Iran figures prominently in the case of Oman as well, as the latter has a long history of relations and trade with Iran, to the annoyance of the Saudis. Oman was the site of the earliest talks laying the groundwork for the Iran nuclear deal. So why Bibi was there is quite the mystery. Some Israelis have speculated that it may have something to do with negotiating a sulha between the Saudis and Turkey. But that theory seems too vague to grant too much credence to it.
If we want to see an Israeli with a similar career arc to the Ofers, look at the case of Boris Krasny. He is the invisible man: an Israeli double agent protected by Israeli intelligence for betraying Russia’s highest level Israeli agent, Markus Klingberg. Krasny exploited all of his contacts and called in tremendous favors for his exploits, which helped turn him into the most powerful business consultant in the country. But inside Israel, no one may mention his role as a double agent who betrayed both Klingberg and the KGB as a double agent.
Similarly, in return for special favors like the Oman junket and infiltrating Israeli agents into Iran, the Ofers are given carte blanche to rack up enormous profits and control wide swaths of the economy. In effect, Israel is not a capitalist country. It is a country run by and like the mob, who are its eighteen oligarch families.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.