Netanyahu - Salman - 2011
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo by Emil Salman
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Self-deprecating humor is the most essential quality for a politician. A politician endowed with this rare characteristic will be less irksome to those around him, do less damage to his voters and himself and make fewer mistakes. When he errs he will hasten to make right. Yesterday, signs of self-deprecating humor were discerned where least expected - in Benjamin Netanyahu.

At the opening of his speech to the plenum Netanyahu aimed some barbs at his own expense. He referred to the embarrassing incident at the Carmel fire ceremony, at which the narrator made excessively laudatory comments about Netanyahu's handling of the disaster. Many Knesset members, among them, Eitan Cabel, mocked those comments at the plenum meeting held after the ceremony. Paraphrasing Cabel's mock-laudatory speech, Netanyahu said, "Eitan, I was the first to recognize your great talent."

Kudos. Apparently the prime minister's aides are capable of producing texts that don't turn whoever recites them into a laughingstock. The daily ultra-Orthodox thuggery is no laughing matter, as far as the prime minister's office is concerned. At the end of almost two weeks of massive, not to say obsessive, media coverage of various manifestations of violence and discrimination against women, Netanyahu's aides have concluded, as they did last summer at the height of the social protest, that this is neither accidental nor naive. Large mysterious powers are at work behind this wave, fueling it, bringing up story after story, day after day. They have concluded that the goal, like in the summer, is to topple Netanyahu, to make him look bad and to cause a rupture between him and his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners. All this is geared toward the next goal - preparing the ground for the formation of a secular center party that will rock the political system in the next elections.

Netanyahu's aides were confident yesterday the conspiracy had been foiled. Netanyahu came out sharply against the attacks on women. The ultra-Orthodox are kicking and screaming (which is good for Netanyahu ), but the coalition is stable, his people say.

Does he personally believe in this conspiracy theory, or is it just spin? Probably both. Netanyahu and a few of his associates will not let any conspiracy, no matter how vague, formless and unfounded, escape their notice. Suspicion is working overtime in the prime minister's office. It never sleeps or takes a nap.

These statements also have a unifying political factor. When Likudniks hear that left-wingers or anonymous foreign donors are conspiring against their leader, they immediately rise and rally around him.

For the full commentary see Weeks End in tomorrow's paper.