During the Helicopter Crash in Romania: Celebration at the Netanyahus

A WOJ exlcusive translation of Ben Kaspit’s article from Ma’ariv. See the original here.

While reports were coming out regarding the tragedy in Romania, Netanyahu and his wife Sarah were celebrating their son Yair’s birthday at the Prime Minister’s residence with their friends. PMO: “He was only notified in the middle of the party.”

It was a holiday two days ago at the Netanyahu’s residence. Yair turned 19 and the happiness was tangible. Since they didn’t celebrate last year because Yair was in basic training at the time, this time the boy decided not to simply throw a modest party with his army friends. Private First Class Netanyahu, a soldier in active duty in the IDF’s PR Unit, wanted a full blow celebration. At its head, the happy parents. Our Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his wife Sarah.

Smiling from ear to ear. Hosting guests, expressing love for their child. Shaya Segel, the “strategic advisor” advises Sarah about what to say and what not to say at a night like this. The standard throng was there with all of the PM’s friends and close confidants.

Up to this point, this is all material not worth publishing. The celebrated a birthday party, so what? And then it hits you. Two days ago, while it was a holiday at the Prime Minister’s house, the whole country was glued to their TV sets. First Romanian TV, then our own. Six air force officers were in a crash on a mountain in Romania. We remind ourselves of the same trauma that happened in February 1997, and we go back for the umpteenth time into national morning.

You ask yourself how could it be that on an evening like this, the Prime Minister allows himself to host holiday guests in his house, the house that the State maintains and funds for him. How there was nobody there who got up and said, even screamed and hit the table, that this is not appropriate. That we need to cancel this party an hour ago. We can celebrate later. On Friday, on Saturday night, but not tonight.

The crash in Romania happened at around 4pm. The defense establishment got the announcement before 5pm.  From the moment the Chief of Staff knows about a crash, there are only a few seconds until the Prime Minister knows as well. The position of army secretary was invented for this purpose. So there was time to cancel the party. Or, at least, to change the format. But nobody thought of canceling. Or changing the format.

It took two and a half hours to inform the Prime Minister

When I was told about this story yesterday morning, I didn’t believe it was possible. I didn’t believe it to such an extent that I forgot to check it. And then, in the Globes night edition in one of the back pages, a small piece appeared under the title “Yair celebrates with love,” confirming that, yes, this actually happened. They were with us, here, two nights ago, while we were all teary eyed staring at the TV, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara were celebrating.

Netanyahu didn’t leave the party until 9:30pm

Another possibility is that his secretary tried to reach but was not successful. One of his officials said yesterday that one of the Generals called but was told that the Prime Minister was in a “private function.” If correct, there’s nothing worse than that. Today it’s a helicopter that disappeared, tomorrow it could be a plane headed for the Azrieli Towers.

Anyone familiar with how things are supposed to work between IDF mission control and the Prime Minister’s Office knows that whoever is trying to tells us that it took two and a half hours for this piece of information to cross that boundary is making a joke out of his job. He’s actually saying that Netanyahu found out about the disappearance of 6 senior IDF officers way, way after many of our everyday citizens found out just surfing the internet or watching TV.

And another thing: Netanyahu’s claim that the second he got word of the incident he left the party, does not hold water. Many of the guests told how he went out for several short phone conversations but did not leave the party, and continued to the end, until 9:30pm.

The PMO’s response: “The Prime Minister immediately left the room to his work room at the residence, continued getting full updates, and even spoke on the phone with the Defense Minister and the Chief of Staff. Throughout the evening, until the last of the guests left, the Prime Minister kept the information secret since the families had to be informed first.”