First in Talking

The expectations from the "Bibi Show" are so great that people hardly notice how weird it is.

He is the quintessential product of "Channel 2 culture" - a person who owes the start of his career to television exposure in which one's external appearance and behavior in front of the cameras are almost all that count. For years he has been "trying to make a comeback" and "return to prime time," despite the fact that he has become somewhat worn and lost part of that initial photogenic charm.

His nickname consists of two identical syllables that are somewhat babyish and mystical, and would have intrigued the Dada artists; but the way he sees himself is abysmally serious, if not megalomaniacal. He considers himself a kind of unique savior, a genius who alone, without any other competitor, is capable of saving the people of Israel from their woes.

His addiction to ratings and his dependence on surveys are already well known. In some kind of strange duality, his almost messianic sense of mission competes only with an uncontrollable urge to find favor in everyone's eyes. This, of course, never succeeds but rather acts as a boomerang, so that thus far it has merely intensified the suspicions of those viewers who always doubted his qualifications.

But just give him another chance, a suitable stage, and he will prove his greatness to all those with reservations. With the help of the right make-up and stage props, good text and especially timing - right in the heart of prime time - he will once again be in the saddle. He will prove to all and sundry, in one fell performance, that he always was and will be "numero uno."

We are referring, of course, to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The preparations for his speech on Sunday - the building of anticipation, the promos, the leaks and the rushing around behind the scenes - are reminiscent, and not by chance, of the tumult that precedes the launch of a new program on one of the commercial TV channels. It is not clear yet whether this will be a documentary, an entertainment program or a reality program (since consultations about the contents of the speech are continuing until the very last minute and encompass almost the entire political spectrum). But at least the rating has been ensured, and with it the expectations.

The expectations from the "Bibi Show" are so great that people hardly notice how weird it is. After three lethargic, confused and helpless months in power, preceded by an entire decade of attempts to return, with claims of maturity, formulation of a path and having learned lessons, the only thing that managed to get Prime Minister Netanyahu to jump to attention has been U.S. President Barack Obama's speech.

Until the American president threw down the gauntlet, Netanyahu was able to get away with a wink and to scratch his forehead determinedly. He refrained from presenting an orderly, practical vision and supporting it with a suitable coalition; he avoided making a clear and comprehensive policy statement to the Knesset and the Israeli public; even the talks he held with world leaders, if at all, were quite strange - some of them were postponed to another time with all kinds of excuses, and some of them he conducted as if he were being forced.

Until the Cairo speech. At that point, Netanyahu woke up - it is time to act. What's more, in this genre there is supposedly "none better than he." Now he is in his element. Now he has a suitable answer. And what is it? A counter speech.

True, it is possible that the revelation that finally ripened inside Netanyahu is so serious and dramatic that it would have come forth without any connection to the Cairo speech, and would have aroused responses even if it were made in the Likud branch in Karkur, or the faction meeting in the Knesset, or in an interview over breakfast with a senior political analyst.

But the very fact that he has chosen this format and timing, and the very fact that he feels the need for some kind of symmetry with Obama's speech, makes it somewhat suspicious and decreases expectations; something here discloses a lack of maturity in the confrontational approach, one which still believes in the magical powers of a good performance rather than in the substance of the issues and their practical application.

Perhaps, nevertheless, there will be a miracle, and on Sunday we will witness some kind of Mount Sinai event in which Netanyahu's face will suddenly shine with new insight. But, at least to judge by the promos, and with our familiarity with the contender, we can understand that from Netanyahu's point of view, this will be a reality show - a debate, a duel at midday, "mano a mano" between two orators. In the left corner of the ring will be the Black Hope from Chicago and in the right, the Comeback Kid from Rehavia.

"And let the best man win" (as a certain past star said to his director before he found himself knocked out).