Benjamin Netanyahu didn't have a great week in the media department. The prime minister had to put out fires ignited by his defense minister, by his wife and by a few of his weird friends, including his lawyer Yossi (“I swear on my dear departed father, bless him, that Ms. Peretz [a former housekeeper who sued the Netanyahus] never received a cent”) Cohen.
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And as if he hadn't been whacked about by the media enough, on Sunday the premier reported to the studio of the satirical television show “State of the Nation,” to be skewered by Israeli comedy kings Lior Schleien, Einav Galili, Guri Alfi and Orna Banai.
Of Israel’s 12 prime ministers, only four have been certified as having a sense of humor. Netanyahu isn’t one of them. He didn't seem comfortable in the studio. The four comics showered him with jokes written in advance and the prime minister responded with punch lines that his aides had him memorize. In some cases, it was obvious that he didn’t even know the context of the jokes to which he responded, but nevertheless did so in a professional manner.
Things did improve. Netanyahu loosened up and when he abandoned his habit of chuckling at the jokes and waiting his turn – a relatively free dialogue ensued. The prime minister emerged from his shell and even managed to appear human while delivering his political messages in a much more flexible way than usual.
In recent years, surrounded by a physical and political security barrier, Netanyahu seemed to have lost his touch. He turned lumpish, irritable and pompous, associating only with his aides or world leaders. On Sunday he got back the cute slyness of his first term: He sat with (almost) jes' folks and responded to them. The politician of direct contact returned.
The best moment of his performance was undoubtedly when he spoke about his wife, Sara.
“She is depicted as being a burden. She’s no burden, she is the source of my power, she is the woman I love.” It was a moment of awkwardness in its emotional force, a romantic and gentlemanly gesture with more oomph than all the comedy on Sunday’s show.
It also reminded one of Tom Cruise’s loony declaration of love for Katie Holmes on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," when he jumped on the couch and yelled, “I’m in love!”
One can be cynical (in the case of the Netanyahus, it’s even recommended), but it was the premier's Tom Cruise moment: one that was a little loopy, a little too public, a little inappropriate, but at the end of the day a moment when a man stands by his woman, who is being publicly shredded without being able to respond.
That moment was ruined, however, by a crack from Guri Alfi which brought us back to earth and to the depressing reality in which our prime minister is Benjamin Netanyahyu and “State of the Nation” is a leading comedy program.