Is It Safe?

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch famously used to greet fellow citizens with an enthusiastic handshake, shouting out, "How’m I doing?"

Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn, now into his third year in office and facing what is shaping up as a tough re-election bid, is not that kind of pol. He is friendly enough, but otherwise aloof and detached. When I’ve seen him at events, banquets and the like, he seems to prefer going only lightly noticed, a strange trait for the mayor of the second-largest city in the most populous state of the most powerful country on earth. Los Angeles, City of the Stars, has a mayor who shrugs off the spotlight.

Starting this week, it seems, he will have even more reason for discomfort. All week, rumors swirled that former Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg will announce his candidacy for the mayor’s office. I called Hertzberg on Wednesday as we were going to press, and asked if the rumors were true. He said he’s making no announcements until next week, probably Wednesday.

Charismatic and well-known in Westside political circles and in the San Fernando Valley, Hertzberg, a Democrat, has been an adviser to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. If Hertzberg runs and the popular Republican governor stumps for him, swing voters will start swinging and the free publicity will help neutralize Hahn’s considerable campaign war chest. City Councilman Bernard Parks — the former chief of police, whose ouster Hahn publicly sought — is also in the race, and is expected to siphon votes out of Hahn’s black base. State Sen. Richard Alarcón (D-Van Nuys) will cut into Latino support. The brutal competition could chew up the coalition of black and Valley suburbanite voters who put Hahn in office.

"Conventional wisdom says multiple candidates will split the anti-Hahn vote, ensuring at least a runoff," Sherry Bebitch Jaffe wrote in The Los Angeles Times. "But if Hahn’s base is nibbled away, he could find himself below the top two finishers."

What’s worse, the ballot is filling up as charges of untoward ethical practices over at the Airport Commission and the defection of top aides becloud the mayor’s administration and create the appearance, if not of impropriety, then certainly of fecklessness.

So it was no surprise when Hahn’s office called me to set up a private breakfast meeting with the mayor.

"That’s smart," a caustic observer of the downtown scene told me when I mentioned My Breakfast With Jim. "He needs friends."

We met a couple of weeks ago in a corner booth at the Denny’s on Sunset Boulevard near the 101.

Hahn takes hits — such as those I just leveled — for not being a more potent presence as mayor. But it seems that Hahn has done at least two muy macho things in his first term. He stood up to Valley secession. True, he could have opposed the movement more quickly and boldly — and if it succeeded, it’s not as if its supporters would be able to vote for him anyway — but the move alienated many of the white Valleyites who helped elect him.

He also came out against a second term for then-Police Chief Bernard Parks, working to insert William Bratton as the top cop. His popularity among his crucial black supporters plummeted after that.

"I knew going in this would not sit well with the political base that had supported me throughout my political career," he told me, "but on the other hand I realized I had gotten to this place where I was the chief executive officer of the city, and I had to do what needed to be done. People elected me to make tough decisions, and it was clear to me that we had to make a change of direction, and we had to make it no matter what the cost to me, or we risked having a police department continue to slide and shrink and continue to see crime go up."

Hahn is clearly proud of Bratton’s accomplishments, reducing the homicide rate 20 percent in the past year and adding 400 officers to the LAPD.

In fact, if Hahn were looking for his own Koch-like catchphrase, he might want to co-opt Lawrence Olivier’s question to Dustin Hoffman in "Marathon Man": "Is it safe?"

As we spoke, it became clear that his re-election campaign will present Hahn as the answer to that question, that security is job one for the mayor.

"We’re a lot safer than we were prior to Sept. 11," he said.

He pointed to coordinated security exercises and the purchase of Raytheon equipment that allows emergency responders to communicate with each other effectively in the field as examples of his work toward preparedness. He said he’d like to see the Bush administration carry through on its promise to send federal money for such measures to Los Angeles. Every time the Department of Homeland Security declares an orange alert, the city bleeds an extra $500,000 per day in preparedness expenses.

"Our airport has stayed at yellow-orange," Hahn said. "Thirty-five percent of all container cargo in America comes in through the Port of Los Angeles, and port security is way behind airports. We’re in a war against terrorism. This isn’t a public works project, it isn’t a pork barrel project, we should be trying to protect [ourselves from] the greatest threat."

The city has only received a fraction of the $12.4 million made available to it as part of the Urban Area Security Initiative.

"We’ve received $3 million in actual checks. We’re still almost getting as much as Houston," Hahn said, archly. "We don’t have leverage, we’re just trying to make our case."

The redesign of Los Angeles International Airport is another area that Hahn sees, or at least is selling, as primarily a security concern. The costly and controversial plans for expansion are, he said, a matter of urgent public safety.

"There’s a lot of people who are in the mindset of you can’t make it 100 percent safe, so why try to redesign the whole thing?" he said. "I’m trying to assess what the biggest threat is, and to my mind it’s the vehicle bomb. And we’re trying to design something that protects the central terminal area where all the gates are, which means taking private vehicles out."

Hahn said he would back any federal initiative that would make extra funds available for high-probability terror targets such as synagogues and Jewish institutions.

"I would be very supportive of that," he said.

As for what Bratton has called "domestic terrorism," the violence that wracks many neighborhoods in the city, Hahn said he wants to see the murder rate reduced even more. He supports peeling officers off other details to place them in areas of high gang activity, and he supports Sheriff Lee Baca’s proposal for a 1/2 cent sales tax increase on the November ballot that will fund (by some estimates) an additional 1,200 LAPD officers.

Hahn took office in the midst of fiscal crisis at every level of government, but decided that the conventional wisdom, which blames crime on poverty and a poor economy, is wrong.

"It’s exactly the opposite," he said. "Bratton proved this to me. New York’s economy was in shambles, but they concentrated on making the city safer. As they made the city safer, the economy improved. People wanted to invest, they wanted to come in to New York City."

The mayor has worked to increase affordable housing and for other economic gains, but his primary focus, he said, "is freedom from fear. If we can actually achieve that in neighborhoods that have been terrorized by fear, that’s better than a new library or park or swimming pool. I would like to get as far as we can toward that goal of making neighborhoods in this city that have been plagued by crime for years free from that. We make the city safer and other things start happening, but first things first."

The mayor’s critics fault him for not bringing back more money from Washington for homeland security funding; for not being more outspoken on issues ranging from the grocery workers strike to public transportation to education. The mayor’s actual power in these areas varies, but, say his critics, Hahn is not taking advantage of the bully pulpit his office offers.

"Public safety is really important," said one such critic, L.A. City Councilman Jack Weiss. "It’s the most important function of local government, but the other part of the job ought to be vision and imagination and energy."

Whether Angelenos want a war mayor to match our self-described war president is an open question. But Hahn is clearly betting that hunkering down and focusing on crime and security is the way to keep the city — and his job — safe.

What Went

Four years ago, he was the toast of the Jewish world, the favorite son who became a symbol of opportunity for American Jews in the United States.

But when he went out on his own this time around, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) failed to catch on as a top-tier candidate.

Lieberman formally stepped down Tuesday night, after failing to win any of the nine primaries or caucuses since the presidential season began. He came in second in only one of seven contests Tuesday, in Delaware.

"The judgment of the voters is now clear," he told supporters at his headquarters in Virginia.

It had been clear for a while. Even Lieberman’s mother, Marcia, had acknowledged earlier that her son’s campaign "didn’t catch on."

Now the question will be asked for years to come: What went wrong?

Was his religion a factor — especially for Jews? Are his politics out of sync with Democratic voters? Was it his style?

There are many explanations for Lieberman’s fall.

Some say it was political. Lieberman is a moderate on social, economic and political issues, someone who supported the Iraq war and was campaigning among a Democratic electorate angered by the Bush administration’s handling of Iraq and his domestic policies.

In his announcement, Lieberman said he still believed that moderation was the best way to go. "I offered a mainstream voice and I still believe that that is the right choice and the winning choice for our party and our country," he said.

While that positioning might have served him well against Bush in November, it missed the point of Democratic primaries — playing to the party’s base.

Others say his mistakes were strategic, suggesting that Lieberman had a sense of entitlement because of the election controversies of 2000, and therefore did not lay the groundwork for his candidacy the way his opponents did.

Then there is the Jewish question.

While no one expected Lieberman to receive the full support of American Jews, some Lieberman loyalists say they did not anticipate the extent to which his candidacy would be rejected by some in their community.

Rabbi Irving "Yitz" Greenberg, president of the Jewish Life Network Foundation, and his wife Blu, were circulating an op-ed to Jewish newspapers this week, arguing that Jews were acting as anti-Semites would, casting Lieberman aside because of his Jewishness.

"The community blinked," Yitz Greenberg said, suggesting that his policies were "a good fit" for Jews.

A rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionist sentiment around the world brought old fears to the surface for many Jews, he argued, and Jews looked for a safer choice for president.

"The community made a huge mistake," he said. "A victory for a Jew in America would have been a tremendous refutation of anti-Semitism."

Some Jewish donors said they would have given to Lieberman, based on his political stances, but did not want to support a Jew at this time.

It was easier to support Lieberman as a vice presidential nominee, some Jews say, because he was blazing the trail without being the center of attention.

But as his own candidate — and at a time with increased tension in the Middle East and an uptick in international anti-Semitism — hesitancy grew.

Marvin Lender, a member of Lieberman’s campaign board who raised funds for him in the Jewish community, suggested that Lieberman aides had anticipated raising more money from the Jewish community.

He blames the fear as one element, but says the Jewish community’s political sophistication also hurt Lieberman’s chances.

"Many leaders of the Jewish community, the politically invested people, had already made commitments," he said.

Indeed, many seasoned political donors in the Jewish community had ties to other candidates — such as Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) or Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), or several of the candidates at once.

It was much easier to support Lieberman in 2000, when he was not running against other Democrats.

No one suggests that the mixed reaction Lieberman received from Jews is the whole story of his candidacy’s demise. Many say the candidate did not work hard enough to build off of the name recognition and exposure he received as Gore’s running mate in 2000, reaching out to party contributors in key primary states.

"Unfortunately, he spent two years not doing anything, resting on that flash reputation," said Steve Rabinowitz, a Democratic media strategist. "He didn’t develop it, he didn’t go out and meet big givers and local leaders and mayors."

Some say Lieberman had a sense of entitlement, assuming that Democratic anger over the Florida recount, the Supreme Court decision signaling the defeat of the Democrats that year, and the fact that Gore and Lieberman won the popular vote, would be enough to bring voters to his side.

His campaign appearances often reflected on his 2000 experiences.

"What a shame 2000 was," Lieberman told a retirement community in Boca Raton, Fla. in October. "We had the votes, but not the five votes on the Supreme Court."

When Lieberman campaigned last year, voters remembered the war in Iraq, which Lieberman supported, and the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks a lot more clearly than they did the 2000 election scandals.

He suggested Tuesday night that he would continue to channel the anger left over from 2000 — but now, in service of whomever wins the nomination, pledging to "deny George Bush a second term."

Others say that he was handicapped by his choice to wait to launch his campaign this year until Gore decided not to enter the race. However, Gen. Wesley Clark entered the race late, but has fared better than Lieberman.

Lieberman did not stress his electability enough on the trail, analysts suggested.

"Voters wanted somebody who could really stick it to Bush and is confrontational and aggressive," said Steve Rothenberg, an independant political analyst.

That wasn’t Lieberman.

"He’s like your favorite uncle, but he doesn’t portray that kind of dynamism," Rothenberg said. "He doesn’t cut a big political profile."

He was true to form Tuesday, starting his drop-out speech by congratulating rivals Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) for their wins, and praising all the others for fights well fought.

Jewish political leaders say that despite his poor showing, Lieberman’s candidacy was historic.

Only two other Jews have tried to seek the presidency — Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) in 1996 and the late Pennsylvania Gov. Milton Shapp in 1976 — but neither got as far as Lieberman.

"He has carried himself as a national candidate and handled masterfully the few times people brought up his religion," said Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council.

"In doing that, even that small gesture, he has blazed a path for future candidates who might one day be president of the United States."

Lieberman never shied away from his faith, citing it as an inspiration Tuesday night. He ended his concession speech by paraphrasing traditional morning prayers, saying he would continue "to serve the Lord during the day with as much gladness and as much purpose as I can."

Lieberman supporters, frustrated by how their candidate did in the Jewish community, suggest more dialogue is needed to convince Jews that having a member of the tribe in the White House is not a bad thing.

"We have to square our shoulders and look at these issues directly and talk more about it," said Blu Greenberg, founding president of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance.

"We have to examine how comfortable we are with our standing as citizens of the United States and as citizens of the world."

World Briefs

Lieberman to Announce CandidacyMonday

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) will announce on Monday his intention to run for president. Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2000, will announce his candidacy for president at his high school alma mater in Stamford, Conn. Lieberman received international attention three years ago when he became the first Jewish candidate on a major party ticket for the White House.

Israeli Tally 2002

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict claimed the lives of 447 Israelis in 2002. In addition, some 2,344 Israelis were injured in the conflict, according to the Israel Defense Force. Of those killed, 292 were civilians and 155 were security personnel. Of the dead, 299 were male and 148 female; 57 were children.

Some 50,000 businesses closed in Israel during 2002, according to Israel’s Association of Independent Businesses. The association predicted that 60,000 businesses will close in 2003, Israel’s Army Radio reported.

Britain Postpones PalestinianConference

Britain reportedly postponed plans for a conference on Palestinian governmental reforms that had been scheduled for next week. Although British officials are saying that preparations are continuing as usual, they have stopped sending out invitations, according to the Israeli daily Ha’aretz. Sources told the paper Britain is planning to reschedule the conference as soon as possible.

The foreign ministers of Britain, Greece, Jordan and Saudi Arabia also were to have attended the conference, but Israel was not invited. On Tuesday, the office of British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that Blair is pressing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to allow the Palestinian delegation to attend the conference. Earlier this week, Israel announced it would bar Palestinian officials from attending as part of its response to a deadly terror attack Sunday in Tel Aviv.

New Accord on War Criminals

A planned agreement between the U.S. government’s Nazi-hunting unit and an unnamed European government could lead to more prosecutions of suspected Nazi-era war criminals living in the United States. The agreement, scheduled to be announced later this month, could help the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI) “identify previously unknown suspects,” said Eli Rosenbaum, OSI’s director. The OSI recently announced that during 2002 it initiated a record 10 prosecutions against suspected war criminals in the United States.

French Rabbi’s Car Set Ablaze

The car of a French rabbi who was stabbed last week was set on fire. According to news reports, Rabbi Gabriel Farhi’s car was set ablaze Monday outside his Paris apartment. Just hours before Farhi was stabbed last Friday, the synagogue received an anonymous letter threatening both him and the building.

Meanwhile, The University of Paris backed down from a campaign to cut ties with Israeli universities. The school issued a statement Monday saying school officials hoped the European Union would expand its educational accord to include Palestinian universities, according to The Associated Press.

Danish Police Crackdown

Danish police seized money belonging to a Palestinian charity that allegedly aided Palestinian terrorists. Danish officials would not comment on the case, but a spokesman for the Al Aqsa charity said Jan. 2 that the police were acting on new anti-terror laws making it a felony to give financial support to terrorist groups.

The charity denied that it backs terrorism, saying it gives money to groups in the West Bank that help orphans. for Jews

A new Web site is aiming to find jobs for Jews in theUnited States. The site, , was created recently by the Rabbinical Board of Greater New York as a resource for job seekers — and for employers as well.

Hatzlachah (Hebrew for good luck) was created “in a time when more pink slips are likely to find their way to the hearts of an even larger number of Jewish households around the country, thousands of which have their children studying in private yeshivot,” the company said in a news release.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency

One on One With James Hahn

Aping the famous Army recruitment commercials, the mayoral candidates have all urged Los Angeles to “be all you can be.” But City Attorney James Hahn, ostensibly the one shoo-in for the run-off election in June, has come up with a novel approach to realizing his own mayoral ambitions — by being the people’s second choice. Hahn knows that outside of his base constituency within the African American community, few people are genuinely fired up about his candidacy. But that’s okay, he says, because only one of his rivals is going to win the primary in April. And the people who supported the others, often with great passion and fervor, will most likely transfer their allegiance to their second-choice candidate — himself. It’s a strange race, to be sure, and its Aesopian undertones may well inspire future tales of “The Tortoise and the Hahn.” Still, at press time Hahn’s lead over Steve Soboroff and Antonio Villaraigosa had narrowed — and while Hahn shares the endorsement of the Los Angeles Times with Villaraigosa, the Valley-based Daily News has endorsed Soboroff.

We visited Hahn at his Crenshaw headquarters.

Sheldon Teitelbaum: You’re often mistaken for your father. Are you also often mistaken, by virtue of your surname, for being Jewish?

James Hahn: Yes, there have been folks … sometimes when I visit Christian churches. Sometimes people don’t know I’m a Christian, and I try to explain it to them.

ST: Of course, your father was an honorary member of the tribe.

JH: Totally honorary — he was beloved by the Jewish community. Dad was a mensch. He was somebody they really liked. They knew he was real. He really cared about people, he led an honorable life, and I think the values he stood for were ones that could be appreciated by the Jewish community.

ST: Are those values that you share intact and unadulterated?

JH: I think they’re the same. My sister and I learned our values from our parents. We had strong family values, we believed in being ethical and honest. To be in public service means you need to be a public servant, which is kind of a humble title and don’t forget it. We feel that we are our brother’s keeper, that we have an obligation to each other, to see how we can improve peoples’ lives.

ST: Which among your key issues and positions most resonate within the Jewish community?

JH: Honesty and integrity, the support for tolerance, my strong stand as a prosecutor against hate crimes — those are some issues I think have resonated very strongly. I’ve sent all my prosecutors through training courses at the Simon Wiesenthal Center. I want people to understand that hate destroys the fabric of a community and that you have to stand up against it whenever you see it.

ST: Do you have a sense that the Jewish demographic has moved to the right since your father’s day?

JH: I don’t know if I’ve noticed that. A lot of people when they get older tend to be more conservative. I don’t know if you can identify that with a particular community. The importance of your own personal safety, public safety, it all becomes very important; the feeling that you want to make sure people accept personal responsibility for their actions becomes more important as they get older.

ST: It’s also a community that’s enjoyed unprecedented success in establishing itself.

JH: What I’ve seen is that [in] the Jewish community, regardless of financial success, individuals still believe they have an obligation, that it’s still about helping people who haven’t got a break. I think the appreciation for discrimination, that some people are prevented from reaching their potential because of that discrimination, resounds quite strongly. They are very sensitive to that regardless of whether they made it and recognize that others are in the position they were in not too long ago.

ST: You’re the front-runner. Does that take a burden off you?

JH: Being the front-runner simply means if you slow down or stumble they all run over you, so you have to stay ahead of the pack.

ST: At some of the debates I’ve seen you participate in, you’ve seemed tired and distracted.

JH: If you’ve heard one of your opponents tell the same dumb joke for the 15th time, it’s hard to look interested. Hopefully I come out with something that expresses to people that I really know what I’m talking about, that I am genuinely concerned and committed on these issues and I’m not just looking to get a laugh.

ST: You’ve been described as the quintessential moderate. What can we expect from your leadership?

JH: I think we’re going to see a city that works for more people than it does now. We’re going to reach out to those communities that get left behind, like Watts or Pacoima or Wilmington or Boyle Heights. You’re going to have a city that worked hard to build bridges to bring people together, a city that’s more tolerant of differences, where community policing is no longer an on-again, off-again thing but becomes the culture of the LAPD. I hope you also see a city where neighborhoods feel they really have a voice in city government.

ST: Some of the candidates are worried about meltdowns, others about massive defections by police. Are we looking “Blade Runner” redux?

JH: A candidate who comes in and says doom and gloom, everything is on the verge of collapse and only I can save you is a little ridiculous. But if you say nothing’s wrong with the way things are going and nothing needs to change, that’s not realistic either. What I see is that L.A., of all the cities in the world, is best positioned to take advantage of the new economies, global trade, technology; that we have the most talented people of any city on earth. We just haven’t had the commitment to meet our challenges in improving our schools and transportation system and housing that we need.

ST: With a recession on the way, will we be able to do that?

JH: Ain’t here yet. So the market had a bad few weeks…. I think we came out of our last recession in the early ’90s stronger than we were going into it. We were heavily dependent on one industry before. When aerospace collapsed, we became much more diversified. We have to be aggressive about attracting new industries and protecting our existing ones, like entertainment.

ST: We’re coming on Passover, which reminds me that in the 15 years I’ve lived here, this city has gone through the 10 plagues and a few more to boot. Are they over yet?

JH: I think L.A. has had challenges that would have broken the spirit of a lesser city. But we always come back.

ST: Maybe that’s because there’s no center here to come apart?

JH: We’re the new city. We’re not a city where you have to have a center people feel [is] the hub of the city. We’re a collection of neighborhoods. People feel strong ties to their neighborhood. If you feel good about your street you feel good about your city, and our challenge really is to have people take government for granted. We need to find it in ourselves to be able to say that we’re glad to live in this place, it’s a pretty nice place to live. But we allow others to define us.

One on One With Steve Soboroff
One on One With Antonio Villaraigosa
One on One With Joel Wachs
One on One With Kathleen Connell
One on One With James Hahn

Is This Really a New Bibi?

Just 18 months after Benjamin Netanyahu was voted out of office, public opinion polls show that he would decimate Prime Minister Ehud Barak in a head-to-head contest — if Netanyahu can only get around the legal obstacles to his candidacy.

Ever smooth before the cameras, Netanyahu gave little hint when announcing his candidacy for prime minister Sunday about his positions on the issues, but he did offer some insight into how his campaign will be run and what image he hopes to project.

Two themes were especially prominent:

The “new Bibi,” as Netanyahu is known, is a more mature, sober and chastened leader who admits to past errors and faults and openly seeks to mend inadequacies.

His ostensibly failed first term must be reappraised in light of the subsequent failures of the man who ousted him, Barak.

If the law is amended so that he can run, Netanyahu is expected to try to reprise his old formula of political inclusiveness, which some Israeli analysts have referred to as “Bibi’s rainbow coalition.”

His 1996 victory and subsequent coalition, which he hopes to rebuild, were based on an alliance of the right, the Orthodox and the Russians.

As part of that alliance-building, Netanyahu deliberately distanced himself Sunday from Barak’s “civil revolution,” a package of reforms that Barak introduced, and subsequently dropped, to counter Orthodox rabbinical control of personal status laws and of public Sabbath observance.

The plan included the introduction of civil marriage, public transportation on the Sabbath, limits on Orthodox draft-dodging and the dismantling of the Religious Affairs Ministry.

For his part, Barak, in announcing his resignation Saturday night, said he had been wrong to ease up on the “civil revolution” program in hopes of wooing the Orthodox parties. He pledged to resume that program with renewed vigor.

The maneuvering between Barak and Netanyahu over the “civil revolution” shows the importance of the huge Russian vote to both candidates.

Much of the Russian community, which was crucial to Barak’s election in 1999, has swung back to the right.

Barak accepts the fact that few Orthodox Israelis will vote for him, and he made no mention Saturday of “One Israel,” his present Knesset faction that joins the moderate Orthodox Meimad Party to Labor.

For Netanyahu, who needs both the secular Russian vote and the Orthodox vote, the balancing act is trickier. He believes, he said, that issues of religion and state should be resolved by dialogue, not by fiat.
That had been his watchword during his premiership, he said, and it would continue to guide him if re-elected.

Of course, the “new Bibi” message is bound to encounter skepticism, but Netanyahu is prepared for it.
“Look,” he said smiling, “I even came on time to this press conference.” Coming from a formerly chronic and notorious latecomer, this should have scored some credibility points — at least with the media.

Netanyahu noted repeatedly that he was “not free of fault” and admitted, eyes downcast, that interpersonal relationships had not been his strong suit in the past. His decision-making now would be measured, he said, and he would seek advice widely.

No more would he be the loner who disdained his own allies and aides and repeatedly surprised them with his moves, sometimes rash and impetuous.

What he did not say, but what others say on his behalf, is that this time around Netanyahu would be more circumspect with his choices of appointees, political friends and acquaintances.

Twice, in the past, Israel’s attorney general severely reprimanded Netanyahu for the ethics of his conduct.
In the “Bar-On Affair,” which occurred while he was premier, Netanyahu’s now-imprisoned ally Aryeh Deri, head of the Shas Party, tried to have an underqualified but pliable lawyer appointed attorney general.
In exchange, Deri’s party would support Netanyahu on the controversial Hebron agreement with the Palestinians, which handed over most of the West Bank city to the Palestinians.

Later, when he left office, Netanyahu was investigated for his handling of debts and gifts. Though he wasn’t indicted, his behavior was severely criticized.

The “new Bibi,” most likely, will be at pains to broaden his social milieu in order to stay above suspicion.
At the same time, many believe that the lengthy and hostile police interrogations after Netanyahu left office smacked of persecution — especially since they ultimately were fruitless.

Netanyahu certainly will make good use of the victimization claim if he runs for office.

Alongside the new Bibi, Netanyahu will ask voters to revise their view of the “old Bibi” in light of what came after his first term in office.

On the peace process, he claims that his slower, more cautious approach — often called obstructionism at the time — has been vindicated, given the new uprising by the Palestinians.

The fact that people worry more about terrorism today than they have since the rash of bus bombings in 1995-96 is incontrovertible.

While statistics on terror are open to debate, Netanyahu certainly will seek to use the current security anxiety to his advantage in the campaign.

Netanyahu will stress that Barak has proven remarkably prone to the same criticisms, on both personal and policy levels, as Netanyahu.

Barak, too, has feuded with his own party, despised his ministers, fought with his coalition partners, and inspired intrigue and back-biting among staff.

As to whether his season in the political wilderness has been long enough, Netanyahu had a ready response on Sunday: “I never expected to be back so soon.”

It is hardly his fault if the public, through the opinion polls, already is demanding his return.