Netanyahu to Vanity Fair: 'I'm Not Naturally Manipulative'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to intrigue the foreign media - after being crowned as 'King Bibi' on TIME magazine's cover, he is profiled in Vanity Fair's July issue, which tries to decipher 'The Netanyahu Paradox.'

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Vanity Fair has published an in-depth profile of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in its upcoming July issue, in which Netanyahu emphasized that he is "not a natural politician."

In the article, David Margolick explores Netanyahu's effort to "vanquish his domestic foes" such as the Israeli media and the political opposition.

In an interview in Jerusalem, Netanyahu echoed recent statements by U.S. President Barack Obama to Orthodox movement leaders in Washington. Obama then said that he personally gets along well with Netanyahu, and Netanyahu told Vanity Fair that the "relationship with Obama is friendlier than it has been portrayed" and that they are “two people who appreciate the savviness and strength of the other.”

On the other hand, he did downplay the reported friendship with the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. “I remember him for sure, but I don’t think we had any particular connections. I knew him and he knew me, I suppose," he said regarding the period they both worked at the Boston Consulting Group in the 1970s.

The Israeli prime minister who makes many people wonder who is the "real Bibi" was also eager to clarify how he sees himself. "I’m not naturally manipulative,” he told the magazine. “I’m not a natural politician. I’m not consumed with political machinations.”

And, despite the consistent reports of his strained relationships with people around him and being controlled by his spouse, Sarah, he insists he does have friends. “I’m not a glad-hander, I’m not a backslapper, but I’m not [this] icy presence". His wife, if anything, he says, made him "more open with people" and "given him the serenity he needs."And he said he is irritated by reports his Defense Minister Ehud Barak "spins me on his little finger.”

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat is quoted as saying he doesn't believe Netanyahu's right-wing stance changed in the past quarter of century (“Yes, he is different. He’s older, and a little fatter. Politically speaking, I haven’t seen any change.”). But Netanyahu is adamant in his opinion that he is not the one to blame for the current impasse with the peace process.

"There were five other prime ministers since Oslo. They did not make peace. Forget about the ‘two Bibis.’ I think about the single [Ehud] Olmert, the single Barak, and the single Rabin. Why couldn’t they make peace?”

Relating to Netanyahu's combative rhetoric on Iran, the author offers an astute observation: "The Iranian threat has made Bibi even more politically formidable: a supreme leader in Tehran has helped create a semi-supreme leader in Jerusalem."

The article offers a broad scan of the tale of "two Bibis", Netanyahu's complex relationship with the Israeli media and American Jewish moguls, and mentions that "arguably, his sole accomplishment this time around has been to trade 1,027 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel for the release of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held by Hamas for five years in Gaza."

Though the article was favorable, Netanyahu is probably not completely happy with the cynical way it described the long line of politicians that came to Netanyahu's father-in-law's shiva less to show their respect and more to suck up to the prime minister ("more from fear than from love"). The description of Netanyahu as an impulsive decision maker probably won't please him much either.

Mostly, Netanyahu is likely to find the incongruence between the way he views his campaign against Iran's nuclear program – a heroic struggle against – and the way it is described in the article – a " self-serving and hysterical and diversionary and even counter-productive as some consider his warnings to have been, he may finally be right: cry wolf long enough, and a wolf may actually be at your door."‬




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