Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long complained that his foreign policy achievements are not properly appreciated and reported in the media.
This is only partially true. If “proper” reporting implies broadcasting every moment of all of his personal foreign policy escapades, without criticism or question – then he is right. I suspect that what Netanyahu wishes for is the sort of reporting autocratic leaders receive in their countries – and that is certainly not what is expected of the media in a democracy.
Regarding Netanyahu’s state visit to India last week, all the media outlets broadcast the exceptionally warm reception he and his wife Sara received from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but in a modest and measured way, without bursting out of their skins.
They all mentioned the fact that India is interested in Israel’s achievements in the spheres of military hardware, hi-tech, agriculture and counter-terrorism (to mention a few), that Netanyahu was accompanied by 150 Israeli businessmen hoping to sign new, lucrative deals with India, but also that in the recent UN vote on Jerusalem India voted against Israel.
It should be noted that Netanyahu is not responsible for Israel’s economic/technological/military attractiveness abroad, which has existed for many decades.
However, in terms of foreign support for Israel’s policies in the territories and vis-à-vis the Palestinians, except for the current American administration his achievements are close to zilch – not because efforts aren’t being made, but simply because the policy itself is not “salable” – apparently not even to Modi, whom no one suspects of being hostile to Netanyahu.
A great journalistic achievement would undoubtedly have been to get Modi to talk about his personal admiration for Netanyahu, but also about the Indian rejection of Israel’s territories/Palestinians policy. I do not know if anyone tried to get such an interview, but suspect that if any of Israel’s serious media personalities had tried, Netanyahu would have done everything in his power to prevent it from taking place.
Netanyahu would have done so for the same reasons it is impossible to hold a real interview with him on the future of Judea and Samaria and the Palestinians, and on his choices regarding other foreign policy issues, such as his unjustified public contempt for the EU, his trucking with leaders with extreme Right and even antisemitic backgrounds, his scandalous “agreements” with Rwanda and allegedly also Uganda regarding African asylum/employment seekers, whose only “crime” is that they are black, and his apparent intention to put the final nails in the Foreign Ministry’s coffin.
In the absence of complete frankness on Netanyahu’s part, none of his personal diplomacy escapades can be dealt with seriously, or elicit the admiration which he seeks but does not necessarily deserve.
Incidentally, with regard to his India visit, the Israeli media outlets also all mentioned the problems with a half-billion dollar arms deal between India and Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems (for the sale of Spike anti-armor missiles), reportedly caused by the objections of government arms development and production interests in India itself, and/or the presence of US competitors also eager to sell sophisticated arms systems to India.
Netanyahu was given full credit – even by the “hated” Haaretz – for his apparently successful efforts to save at least part of the deal. All showed the pictures of the prime minister and his wife at the Taj Mahal, and with the orphan Moishie Holzberg, whose parents were murdered 10 years ago in Mumbai when he was only two (I must admit, however, that Netanyahu’s “fatherly” attention to Moishie seemed more a public relations ploy than authentic sentiment). Only a few media outlets dealt with demonstrations that took place against Israel and Netanyahu – without making too much of a fuss about them.
The problem, of course, has much less to do with what various media outlets and commentators think about Netanyahu’s foreign policy than with the turbid relations that have developed over the years between Netanyahu and most of the media, which prevent the latter from dealing objectively with Netanyahu and his family, and presenting a balanced portrayal of them, and the former agreeing to accept that at least part of the media’s criticism is justified and should not be brushed off merely as “fake news” (police investigations 1000 and 2000 are not fake news – whether or not they end in prosecutions and convictions).
The long and tedious meetings which Netanyahu held with representatives of the various media outlets in the summer of 2016 (several, like Channel 10, were simply boycotted by him), in which he lectured and preached to them, but with whom he did not try to hold a real dialogue, didn’t help much. Nor did his pathetic manipulations regarding the new public broadcasting corporation, which his own government had created, his badmouthing serious investigative reporters like Raviv Drucker (Channel 14) and Ilana Dayan (Channel 12) simply because they dared prepare critical reports about him, or the interviews he and his wife have given friendly reporters from Channel 20, who simply let them say whatever they wish, without any awkward questions or filters.
Incidentally, Netanyahu missed an excellent opportunity to gain some sympathy from the media when he decided to bar his wayward son Yair from joining the state visit to India (though it is not clear why the problematic 26-year-old – with his embarrassing tweets, comments and public appearances – was designated to join his parents in the first place).
Instead of simply saying that due to the recent revelation of the illicit recording of Yair’s embarrassing drunken conversation with friends during a round of strip-clubs and whores it was considered wise that the young man stay at home and do some thinking about his future, Netanyahu, just before boarding his flight to India, with his tearful wife standing beside him, did the exact opposite.
He referred to Yair as a persecuted youth (na’ar) who was brought up properly and loves Israel (what does that have to do with anything – I am sure that the murderer of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin,Yigal Amir, also loves Israel), and that everyone should think what it would be like if their children were attacked ruthlessly like his children are (I do not recall any media attacks on Netanyahu’s haredi daughter Noa, or on his son Avner). All I could think of was that if I had a son like Yair I would be ashamed of him, and would consider myself a total failure as a mother.
My only conclusion from this postscript is that perhaps Netanyahu’s greatest enemy, besides his unbridled hedonism and exaggerated self-esteem, is his poor judgment. The media is the least of his problems.