How I wish I could have been a fly on the wall during one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent meetings with the media.
Those who attended these meetings reported a frenetic performance, not always politically correct, not always factually accurate, but certainly awe-inspiring.
Since the participants were not allowed to bring recording devices to the meetings and the encounters were declared “off the record,” we can only guess what went on – besides a master performance by a master performer.
The two reasons I wish I had been there are that I am a great lover of dramatic theater, of which Netanyahu is reported to have provided over 30 hours in recent weeks, and am curious to know whether he actually provided some real answers to questions that fall beyond his usual repertoire of animated statements, in which he tries to prove how much his government has actually achieved and how great and irreplaceable he is.
On July 18 this list of achievements was recited twice in the Knesset plenum – first by Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, who was appointed to reply to motions of no confidence in the government that day, and the second time by Netanyahu himself, at the end of a 90-minute prime minister’s question time, during which he managed not to answer most of the questions (except for those that were planted).
At least Hanegbi admitted that the first year of Yitzhak Rabin’s second term as prime minister was as rich in achievements as the first year of Netanyahu’s fourth term – a comment for which Hanegbi would undoubtedly have been told off, had Netanyahu known about it.
The full list that Hanegbi and Netanyahu read out was as follows: “The natural gas outline; strengthening relations with the African continent; enhanced cooperation with the states of the region; a regularization of relations with Turkey; a numerator for controlling government expenditure; reduction in the price of water; the raising of the salaries of enlisted soldiers, non-commissioned officers and police; a rise in the minimum wage; an extension of free dental care for children; a continued reduction in electricity tariffs; the breakfast cereal reform; a reduction in public transportation tariffs; the development of infrastructures, roads and railways; the reduction of the number of children in classes; relief for new small businesses; an increase in the supplementary income allowances for the elderly; a savings program for every child; the reinforcement of five-unit matriculation exams in mathematics; the reduction of VAT and the corporation tax; increase in the supply of apartments, and measures to facilitate the acquisition of apartments by the public and young couples; the promotion of trade agreements with China, Japan, India and Korea; strengthening of relations with Russia; and encouragement of investments in the cyber sphere.”
I would like to note a few of the subjects and topics clearly absent from the list: Activities to reduce social and economic gaps and emotional schisms in Israeli society; activities to strengthen the foundations of the Israeli democracy and stop attempts by various forces in the country (including in the Likud) to weaken these foundations; activities to strengthen the rule of law – not only in the Arab sector but within Israeli society; real steps (not just declarations of intent) to stop the growing estrangement of American Jewry from Israel; efforts to fortify Israel’s relations with the Western democracies (none of them mentioned in Netanyahu’s list of achievements).
Did Netanyahu relate to any of these during his meetings with representatives of the media? It is no secret that Netanyahu believes that the media (excluding that funded by Sheldon Adelson) is prejudiced against him – and he is right.
But is this prejudice based on lack of information or appreciation of Netanyahu’s talents, or on an authentic aversion to his ideology, policies and/or public and personal conduct?
If it is all or any of the latter, then Netanyahu’s recent meetings with the media will apparently have no long-term effect, even though he managed to impress one of his greatest nemeses – Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy – with the depth of his ideological convictions, none of which Levy shares. Levy admitted that he prefers “rigid ideologues to hollow cynics” (Yair Lapid?).
Personally I have an aversion to both, and would prefer a mild ideologue, mildly cynical, with an appreciation for the limits of power – especially Israel’s power, and an understanding of the concept “it isn’t done.”
If I understand correctly one of the few media providers Netanyahu’s hasn’t met with is TV Channel 10, and my guess is that such a meeting will not take place unless Channel 10 agrees that another of Netanyahu’s nemeses – Channel 10’s Raviv Drucker – is excluded.
A direct confrontation with Raviv Drucker would be an ultimate test for Netanyahu’s integrity, but he is apparently wary of it. Is Netanyahu afraid of a confrontation with Drucker ending like the Richard Nixon-David Frost interviews back in 1977, even if unrecorded, “off the record,” with Netanyahu calling all the shots? Didn’t Netanyahu recently declare that he wants a free media?
The writer is a political scientist and a retired Knesset employee.