A Festive Interview for Israeli Independance day & 30 Years of activity in Rahav Communications
I tied my bike to the fence next to the museum tower and entered the lobby. From the large frontal wall on the entrance floor, which tells who the occupants of each floor are, you can understand where you have arrived to. “Toto”, the luxury restaurant that closed because of the corona, is still closed, but as you ascend high, the highest, in the elevator, up to the 24th, last floor, where Rani Rahav’s kingdom resides, you realize that there are those whose lives have not stopped even for a moment. After three and a half hours in two sessions of meetings, he gives me a tour of his vast office, which tells the story of his life for the past 30 years, since he transformed from a public relations manager of one hotel to one of the biggest, probably the biggest, and probably the most mediated, leader in this business.
It is rather strange that a public relations person, whose specialty is public relations – which is supposed to be merely an occupation that makes a pleasant sensation in the back – attracts so much fire towards him. One of his best-known clients is the singer Eyal Golan, and Rahav, who layed on the fence for him in the difficult sexual affairs in which the singer was involved, was perceived in those days as someone who would remain loyal even to rebellious clients and even at the price of personal injury to his name.
“Once upon a time,” he tells me, “the most important thing in the world, for me, was to be loved by everyone. Until one day a close friend, the late journalist Mira Abrech z’’l, took me to lunch. Mira was a real-world woman, and she told me: ‘Rani, you got to the top, to all that you ever wanted, but if you want to make an impact, you cannot please everyone and be nice to everyone’.
“I live today without fear and apprehension, except from the one sitting in the sky. I tell the truth and do not hold it in, and I am the most discreet in the world. Yitzhak Rabin once told Giora Eini, who was one of the most important and influential people in politics 40 years ago, that Rani is like a safe in Switzerland. And I’m talking about a safe in the Switzerland of the old days, not of today, where everything is visible and exposed”. Indeed, Rabin and his legacy, and of course his wife Leah, Rahav’s best friend, are well felt throughout the office, which is laden with a collection of Israeli art (“the sixth largest in the country”). There are several portraits of them on the tables here, and photographs from the night of the murder and the weeks that follow hang on the walls. But the presence of the current prime minister is also felt. A large portrait of Netanyahu hangs in the main reception room, above that of Margaret Thatcher.
Rahav says that between 1992 and 1995, when Rabin served as prime minister, the two used to meet every Friday at Rabin’s apartment in Neve Avivim. “He would arrive between five to six from the prime minister’s office in the Kirya, and we would sit for two hours, just me and him. Leah would come in with coffee and cake, put it on the table and close the door behind her. She would come back at eight, at the beginning of the TV news, and we watched together Until eight-fifteen, then I l drove home”.
What connection was there between you two?
“There were many things that if they had gone out, people to this day would have had to go down to the shelters. I made Rabin end a long feud that he had with Yoel Marcus from Haaretz, who in those days was the most important and influential journalist in Israel. Eitan Haber, who was Rabin’s bureau chief, Caused a huge dispute between them. Marcus published in his newspaper a photo of Haber’s payslip, after he was loaned to the Prime Minister’s Office by Yedioth Ahronoth, and Haber condemned him and did not let him meet or talk to Rabin. I explained to Yitzhak that it is impossible not to work with Marcus and to keep him out. Marcus would swim every day at 7 in the morning at the Hilton Hotel, and I got there and told him it was time to talk. I told him: ‘Haber is not interesting, come next Friday at four to the campus, and Yitzhak will receive you’. An hour before the meeting, Marcus calls me and asks me if I am sure it’s okay, and what will happen with Haber. I told him, ‘You’re Yoel Marcus the Great, you should not be afraid of Haber.’ He replied that he was invited to Yitzhak, and then Haber pressed the button and asked Rabin. Rabin asked him to let him in. Haber did not understand where it came from. There is also the peace treaty I sewed between Yitzhak Rabin and Dan Shilon, contrary to Leah’s opinion, which really raged on me. I never spoke about it before. Shilon had the ‘Circle’ program on Channel 2, which was the most powerful on television. He was then the sole ruler of the entertainment programs, and one day I heard him say that “Prime Minister Rabin is cut off from the people.” There were severe Hamas attacks at the time. Leah called Shilon and screamed at him, how dare he say that Rabin is disconnected, and slammed her phone. This man Shilon immediately went on the radio and said that Mrs. Rabin called him from the Prime Minister’s house and screamed at him. He made her a target of public lynching. But I knew he was holding the show with the highest rating, and I wanted Rabin to show up there for Independence Day. A year earlier he was supposed to appear there on Independence Day with Aviv Geffen, but Eitan Haber called it off because Geffen did not serve in the army. I came to Yitzhak and told him that Geffen did not enlist because of a significant medical problem, scoliosis in the back”.
“After the story with Leah, I closed all the dealings between Shilon and Rabin’s spokeswoman, Aliza Goren. On the day of the broadcast at three in the afternoon, she calls me and says that Rabin is not willing to go to the show, telling me: ‘Rani, I cannot do this to Leah, after what Shilon did to her on the radio.’ I said to him: ‘Yitzhak, leave Leah to me. You must appear on the show.’
“Then Leah calls me, and it’s Leah who talks to me six times a day, and she asks, ‘How can you do such a thing to me?’ I tell her: ‘You asked me to help Yitzhak. Let me do what is beneficial, not what is right. ‘ She hung up the phone. In short, Rabin was at his peak in that program with Shilon. At night Leah called me and said: ‘Rani, I was wrong. you were right. It was the most exciting thing that could have happened. Forgive me'”.
You are connected to all the prime ministers who have been here, including the Netanyahu family. Do you find similarities between Leah Rabin and Sara Netanyahu?
“No. Each one in walks her own way. Sara Netanyahu chose to continue working as a psychologist, so naturally her public contribution is different. Leah has been involved in Israeli society more than any other prime minister’s wife, from the start of the state to this day. She took all the autistic children out of mental asylums and set up hospitals for them. She changed the entire scope on autism in Israel from end to end.
As chairwoman of the Friends of Sheba Hospital, she brought donations from all over the world and together with Professor Mordechai Shani and Professor Boleslav Goldman took all the wards out of the crude sheds. They and the current CEO, Professor Yitzhak Kreiss, have made Sheba one of the ten best hospitals in the world.
Leah was also the greatest patron of Israeli art, supporting theaters, and after the murder she traveled all over the world and raised funds to establish the Rabin Center. She deserved the Israel Prize, but unfortunately she was murdered five years after Yitzhak’s murder”.
“She died of cancer, caused by the grief and loss caused by the killer’s damned name, which to this day we fund his Kosher Glatt meals in prison. At three-thirty the night after the assassination I was at Rabin’s house and I said to Shimon Peres: ‘ He has to sit on an electric chair, otherwise a killer’s child will be born, there will be a circumcision, and if there is a circumcision, there will be a wedding, Shema Yisrael. Shimon replied: ‘Rani, unfortunately this cannot happen, he will stand trial.’.
I am very sad that Yigal Amir is alive. No murderer has the right to live. I’m in favor of the death penalty for all murderers.
Rahav, who will celebrate 57 at the end of the month, does not need a reminder to the fact that exactly 30 years have passed since he opened his public relations office, which he runs together with his wife Hila, to explain his role here. “What I’m most proud of is the change we’ve made in the world of public relations concepts. Public relations existed well before me, but it was not one of the three most important professions in the economic world, in addition to law and accounting. A PR manager is the one to represent you, which determines your fate in the media on good days, and certainly on bad days”.
Before becoming Ran Rahav PR, he was the director of public relations and entertainment at the Dan Panorama Hotel in Tel Aviv. “In its previous names – ‘Larom’, ‘Hyatt’ and ‘Astoria’ – it was the most failed hotel in Israel,” admits Rahav. The Federman family bought it in May 1986, and it can be said that Rahav’s professional life, in general, received a huge twist from a phone call in Polish between the hotel’s VP of marketing, Yolanda Rosenthal, and her good friend from Poland, Naomi Ivcher. Rahav testified that he heard that his name came up in conversations between the two, and was given the opportunity for polite words, which became a long-standing friendship with Naomi and her husband, 81-year-old Israeli-Peruvian businessman Baruch Ivcher. Ivcher helped Rahav pick up his PR company, joining as a partner. He later gave him his share of the partnership as a gift.
“There’s not a day in those 30 years that I have not learned something from someone. But our strength is in loyalty to customers (they say there are about 170 of them; AP). I once went with Hila and friends to the sea. They enjoyed their time, and I was mostly connected to an iPad and kept working. A colleague from the advertising world sat next to me, and his cell phone rang endlessly. He did not answer. I went crazy over it. At the end I said to him, ‘Maybe your client is looking for you urgently?’ He told me, “I’m not like you. There are moments when I tune out”.
Rahav manages a team of 40 employees, along with his wife Hila, whose official position is the company’s CEO. Their son Roye (26) is a business administration student at the University of Insied in Fontainebleau, France. “Hila is in charge of fashion, design, cosmetics, and puts me in her little pocket. She is a pharmacist by education but has worked with me for 27 years. When she told me that she wanted to join the company, I told her she was crazy because married couples working together is a recipe for divorce. She said that we will manage, and started from the bottom, as a budget assistant. After a few years, in the middle of the employees’ dinner, without her knowing, I informed everyone that she was becoming CEO. She almost fainted, but believe me, she honestly won the job”.
If you work from morning to night, how do you separate work and family life?
“There is a clear separation. Family, friends, acquaintances – but work first. I once said this to my mother, and she did not know her soul. Then I explained to her that I learned it from her, and that it does not hurt my commitment to the family. My sister, Sharon Ben Porat also works for me as CEO fill-in. At the end of the day, if you are happy at work, you can embrace your family”.
The corona year was not easy for him. “It was very difficult and frightening,” he defines it, “from day one I realized that there was going to be a huge tsunami on the world and on Israel, and that I had to be prepared. For a year and four months, since the onset of the plague in the world, we managed the crisis even when there was chaos. There were clients who could not pay, we informed them that we would continue to treat them with the same dedication and care even without payment. These are clients who went with me for years, so now that it is difficult for them, I will say goodbye to them? No way. There was a lot of compassion in our care. What compassion I have, has been with me for 50 years. At the age of 13, I volunteered at a school for at-risk youth, and for 35 years I have been active in ALUT, in supporting the war on AIDS, in hospitals like Tel Hashomer and Ichilov, in theaters”.
Were you scared on a personal level?
“Yes. I was very afraid of getting infected, getting sick, and I am not at all sure that it’s over. Israelis are used to wars with Arab countries or dealing with suicide terrorism, but we were not prepared for that. We grew up in a generation that knew how to deal with epidemics, polio or measles, but in the midst of the modern era, while surrounded by Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia and Zoom, Ipad & Cellular, you realize that you are merely dust and sand, completely temporary in this world”.
What do you think about the state’s treatment of Corona?
“Overall good, and much better than countries that are considered role models, like the US, UK, Italy, or Spain. In contrast to them, we deserve the Nobel Prize. Then some of my friends will wave in New Zealand, but it is very little wisdom to close an hermetic state as soon as two or four patients are found. On the other hand, I am sorry that there are quite a few rude teachers in our education system, who have allowed themselves not to be vaccinated and have increased the chaos here. This is an unparalleled scandal, and if it’s up to me, such people should not be left in the system. In the war on Corona, as in the war in Lebanon, there is no room for such tricks, and people cannot do what they want”.
You say that the state treated Corona well, but 6,300 Israelis died from Corona. That is a horrible number.
“I do not believe that any government, no matter who the prime minister is, could have prevented 6,000 deaths, just as no prime minister prevents thousands from dying from the flu every year.”
What score do you give Israelis for their conduct during the epidemic?
“Score 9, thanks to the mutual guarantee that was here. People kept discipline, brought food to people right to their house. There was a lot of help.”
What mutual guarantee are you talking about? We have seen here mainly quarrels and wars between tribes.
“There was mutual guarantee between secular and ultra-Orthodox jews as well. People came to the aid of others in Bnei Brak and Jerusalem. There were always clashes around here, but the critical mass has conducted properly. There are tribes and there is democracy, and everyone says what he wants. Isn’t that good?”.
He was barely 13 years old when he got on the bus on line 34 from his home in Ramat Gan and went to a conference of volunteers of the movement for a change of government. “This world interested me. Yigal Yadin, who founded the D.S. party, even came to my bar mitzvah, because my mother was department head of Nahal in the Ministry of Defense and a member of the Histadrut’s executive committee. Peres also came. Even then I saw the intrigues and horrors in politics. I realized it was not for me”.
Despite this, and although his office does not provide PR services to political figures or parties, he himself is connected to politicians from all corners of the spectrum. “It’s no secret that many of the chiefs call me at night to consult at the highest discreet level and get a lot of respect. Out of 120 MKs, I am on friendly terms with about 100. I recruit them for all sorts of voluntary issues in my other hat, as Honorary Consul of the Marshall Islands”.
The past year has taught that Israel is a state of tribes, who apparently can not really connect, as said perhaps in a sketch in “Eretz Nehederet” by Shauli.
“I did not see this sketch. But I repeat in saying that the people of Israel must take to the streets not only because of massacres like Sabra & Shtila, but also in order to change the electoral system to personal-regional. Personal elections of the prime minister, and regional elections of representatives to the Knesset. So that Israel could function for years. Any prime minister who seeks a majority of 61 is blackmailed and cannot run a country. I am also in favor of a French law, not retroactive, but one that will allow governance in the future. I have been shouting this for 15 years, Nicola Sarkozy was tried after he finished his term and was convicted and received a year in prison. Of course, I do not include in any French law acts of murder, rape, sexual harassment and treason.”
And what do you think about limiting a prime minister’s term to two terms?
“It’s not that wise, because experience dictates. In Monaco Prince Albert’s only job is to get up in the morning, call the casino and check how much money the casino made at night. Here it only takes years to understand the systems. If there is someone successful, I do not mind him staying more than eight years. You have more experience that way, so your chances of succeeding in this position increase. Being prime minister of Israel is more difficult than being president of the United States. Netanyahu reached very important agreements with six states and made the Palestinians understand that it is possible to that the process shall continue even without them, and that they should join, before it is too late for them”.
I do not think there was a prime minister here who was remembered well after he finished.
“Prime ministers here have won the Nobel Peace Prize. I am sure Netanyahu is also an excellent candidate for the Nobel Prize, if he achieves peace with Saudi Arabia and the Palestinians. But the only one who got the grace of being said amazing things about him was murdered, and no longer heard what was said about him. Many remembered his amazing work”.
And many did not accept his way, the Oslo Accords.
“Every prime minister has something to be said about by us. We are 50 percent Jewish mind and 50 percent Israeli mind. In times of war, we are the best in the world for each other, but in calm we start raging at each other.
I do not agree with you. The Corona period was a war, and here there was a complete lack of inclusion among the tribes. Where have you seen mutual guarantee?
“Clashes between tribes have always been and always will be, but in the moment of truth we are all one people. This is a democratic state, and there are debates and quarrels, but even if there are breakdowns, democracy wins.”
What do you think about the demonstrations in Balfour?
“Any protest is legitimate in my eyes. This is our amazing democracy.”
And about the lack of decision in the elections?
“It means a lot of trouble. Politicians must understand that the will of the people here is that there will be no clear decision. Therefore, elects must make a supreme effort and sit together”.
There has already been such an experience. Netanyahu did not count Gantz.
“We mentioned Giora Eini, the man who mediated all the difficult crises between Rabin and Peres and knew how to bring about a compromise. There was no such person between Bibi and Gantz. In the end, the human fabric of the public in Israel is not simple. Hertzel declared it the Jewish state, but on the other hand there are Arab-Israelis that live among us, and they are part of the country, and we try to respect their choice as well. The result of the election is not clear cut, and I expect a government as broad as possible”.
A government with Arab parties? With the support of the Arab parties?
“I have no problem with them, as long as they declare that they are against terrorism and martyrs and in favor of peace. It is impossible to talk about democracy all the time, it has to be done in reality. The Arabs will finally be true partners. I strongly believe that the young Palestinians want to move forward for peace, unlike the middle generation. They understand that it is better for them to have peace, and to turn all of Palestine into a thriving Ramallah. This can also happen in Nablus, Jericho and Jenin.
From my acquaintance with senior Palestinians, they want peace like us. The Abu Mazen era should end, because he belongs to the same fixed generation that lives by slogans. Our elections have brought a realization for the Arabs: they want prosperity, health and personal security, but have realized that their elected officials are not getting them anywhere. Mansour Abbas understood this, and he was even willing to risk his personal safety. I hope the security service knows how to protect him”.
But Netanyahu has a problem, Itamar Ben Gvir does not allow him this connection.
“As for Ben Gvir, it is inconceivable that this terrible man entered the Knesset. I prayed to God that the Supreme Court would disqualify his candidacy for the Knesset, just as I prayed that No. 7 in the Labor Party, Ibtisam Maraana, would not enter. Unfortunately, the court decided differently, And I do not argue with the court of law”.
On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Rahav sent me a picture of MK Maraana lighting a candle in memory of the victims of the Holocaust and standing still during the siren: “This conduct of hers makes me happy, and I recall the things I said against her. I hope that she will continue this path and make Merav Michaeli and her party stronger.
What do you think Netanyahu needs to do now to form a government?
“I think he should enter into a few hours of conversation with Yair Lapid and form a rotation government with him. I know it sounds imaginary”.
“I am completely serious. There must be a heart-to-heart conversation to see how to bridge the gaps. We must all sit together – including Gantz, Bennett and Saar, because in the fifth election everyone will lose. The best of our country in politics will disappear. Leah Rabin always had this phrase: ‘Made or not made from a prime minister’s material’”.
What about Naftali Bennett or Gideon Saar? Were they made from Prime Minister’s materials?
“I really like Lapid, my close friend, I love Gantz, Gideon, and also Merav Michaeli and Horowitz.”
You did not answer the question, nor did you mention Bennett.
“I think all the leaders I have appointed have been made by appropriate material, but that does not mean that everyone can be prime minister in the current situation”.
The Rabin family does not exactly like your protection of the prime minister
“Unfortunately, Dalia Rabin, Yonatan Ben-Artzi and Noa Ben-Artzi do not speak with me. It has to do with my relationship with the Netanyahu family. Leah and Yitzhak Rabin were family, soulmates. Sarah and Benjamin Netanyahu are my friends. I am in contact with the ex-wife of Yuval Rabin and their children. (Yonatan Ben-Artzi responded: “The Rabin family has nothing to do with Rani Rahav, and I have nothing to comment on him”).
The change bloc claims that Netanyahu tried to form a government four times and failed.
“It is well in the right of the change bloc to demand that Netanyahu leaves, but it is also his duty to listen to almost two million Israelis who voted for him to be prime minister. There is no other way but to try to respect their choice. I do not accept the saying that there is a majority against Netanyahu if that majority also consists of MKs who do not declare their loyalty to the state”.
Is Mansour Abbas loyal to the State of Israel?
“I heard his speech in Hebrew and connected with him. I did not connect with his speech in Arabic. But I believe in his intentions and am convinced that most of his supporters want to live in peace within their country. I expect the joint list to go his way, then a new page will open. But if they are not ready to do a process, so with all due respect to all the beautiful souls – it is not acceptable to me”.
Which brings me to your conduct on social media, and also to your confrontation with Afif Abu Moch, who attacked you when you said that the Jewish public chose Netanyahu. On Twitter you attacked with harsh words everyone who attacked you.
“There is many times a violent discourse on Twitter. I try to change the discourse for the positive, but if there is a negative discourse against me, I will be 100 times stronger in my negativity. So there are some extreme leftists and all kinds of activists that I do not like, and it took me maybe six hours to respond to them, but in the end I defeated them. As for Abu Moch, I say again: if they want to be part of the State of Israel, they will be full partners in the burden. You cannot want to be equal, and at the same time support terrorist operatives and martyrs.”
Where do you stand on the issue of the nationality law?
“The Nationality Law must be amended immediately so that we can respectfully show our love to the Druze public, which is a real part of the State of Israel. I differentiate them from other non-Jewish populations because they are full partners in the burden. On the day the general Arab public agrees to share the burden and do national service, I am all for another ammendment”.
The ultra-Orthodox do not really bear the burden either.
“Many ultra-Orthodox serve in the army, thanks to Yair Lapid. I respect those who say that Torah study has strengthened the Jewish state, but I expect them to do national service.”
Speaking of the Marshall Islands, what happened there during the Corona period?
“The place is completely closed to tourists. There are 70,000 residents there, and no one is infected”.
How many times have you been there?
“Once. I am the only honorary consul who has no business in the country he represents. The Marshall Islands have a vote in the UN that is considered the same as a vote of the United States or China. In 95 percent of the cases, they vote with Israel. The Iranians try to bribe them, but It does not work”.
You rub a lot against the big rich. Do you have a special insight on particularly rich people?
“The fact that you are a millionaire does not mean at all that you are happy or that you know how to live. More than that – never feel that the money will last. People need to know how to deal with people. A person like me, who is in constant contact with 250,000 people, I have had eight conflicts all my life, it’s nothing”.
Do you fire customers?
“I once fired a client who lied to me, and because he lied, he made me lie to a journalist. It happened a long time ago”.
Who will you not represent?
“Murderers, rapists, drug dealers, traitors in the country.”
What does a company CEO who is your customer get from you?
“The whole truth, discreetly. Not every CEO wants a spokesperson to tell him the whole truth face to face. I know those internal speakers who tell their managers how amazing they are. From me you will not hear that the media is wrong. Many times, when there is no external consultant but an environment that worships the boss than it is in danger of losing control, as has happened many times to Donald Trump during his presidency”.
What do you think of Trump?
“The best American president Israel has had, and a bad president for America. Since I only hold an Israeli passport, and I am only interested in Israel, I will remember Trump forever”.
Did you think he would win the election?
“I thought he would lose. He conducted himself shockingly, on the verge of crime. The American people were in bloom, but his treatment of Corona eliminated him”.
Were you able to manage Trump’s crisis?
“Yes, unless he fired me first. I would advise him not to deny reality. He lost a critical time in the first stage of the corona and had to deal with the crisis without fear and apprehension”.
What scares you?
“Diseases of those close to me. It makes me sad”.
Are you afraid of death?
“No. Everything is written from above. I can go a moment after I finish the interview with you, and I can go in 50 years”.
What music do you like?
“Ilanit, Yehoram Gaon, Eyal Golan, Gevatron, also there is the cute bald woman – well, Rivka Zohar, Mike Brant”.
You are strong in singers of yesteryear.
“Why? I also like contemporary, you name it. For example, Elton John.”
Now you killed me.