During her press conference Wednesday, Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev repeated the word “terror” dozens of times in various permutations – “terror elements,” “terror nests,” “acts of terror,” “terror is terror.”
One could have easily thought she was the defense minister reporting to the nation on a mega-attack that had just happened in Israel, a continuation of the murder of the 11 athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, as in her tasteless, disgusting comparison.
Until now we had ourselves Mr. (Fighting) Terror. Now, on the smoking ruins of the friendly match between the Argentine and Israeli national teams, we have Ms. (Screaming At) Terror.
Behind her, in her office, were pictures of the pro-Palestinian demonstrators who were furious at the Argentine team’s plan to hold a friendly match against Israel at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem. As if they were proof of something beyond a demonstration, just like hundreds of others that take place around the world.
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Perhaps Regev envied Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s shelves of binders at his event exposing the Iranian nuclear archive a few weeks ago and wanted her own backdrop. She pointed to a picture of a woman waving a red-smeared shirt and called her a “terror element.”
Her performance last night broke the record for being ridiculous and pathetic. When it comes to Regev, who has a respectable CV in this area, that’s no small thing. We have not heard from her any apology, penance or acceptance of responsibility. Suddenly she had nothing to do with it. The commotion she generated as the game approached, her fiery declaration that Lionel Messi would for surely come “and we’ll see who shakes hands with whom.” Her insistence on playing the game in Jerusalem, the harsh stench emanating from the transfer of the game to Jerusalem by paying the entrepreneur off with 3 million shekels ($841,000) and then hoarding tickets for government workers – none of these were mentioned. Just terror, terror and more terror.
We got a hint of this absurd, cynical PR strategy Wednesday morning when Regev’s director-general, Yossi Sharabi, was repeatedly heard in media interviews calling the cancellation of the game “a terrorist attack of the highest order.”
From an Israeli, a Jew, or any semi-intelligent creature, we would expect to hear some other expression to illustrate displeasure at the cancellation of a soccer game. If we were to follow Sharabi’s line of reasoning, then his minister could, with the same measure of tact, be compared to a helium balloon that falls in a green field and leaves behind scorched earth.
Regevian imperialism, her hunger to seize any good opportunity for publicity, to be photographed and to play to her political base, backfired on her, and how. This huge embarrassment took place on her territory, at an event that she convened.
The failure is all hers. In the public diplomacy battle with Jibril Rajoub, chairman of the Palestinian Football Association, she lost. He did an end run around her the likes of which we cannot recall. Rajoub (whom Ehud Barak liked to call Gavriel Regev) 1, Regev 0. That's what ticked off Israeli, mainly Netanyahu-supporting Likudniks, the most.
The lesson here is clear: If Netanyahu wants to minimize damage, he must remove Regev from the Culture and Sports Ministry. This portfolio, which seemed marginal at the time, has become under Regev's callous hands an explosive device that could blow up in our faces. It won't happen, of course, but one can still dream.
The full column will be published Friday