For a few years in the 1970s, living in the United States, Benjamin Netanyahu went by the name Benjamin Nitay. Well, if Mr. Nitay had remained in the United States, he would have thoroughly enjoyed the prime minister's visit to America.
Bibi and Sara’s feet had barely touched the red carpet and the flowers were in place at their presidential suite in Washington, and later in Los Angeles. The fact that the subject was Israel’s future didn’t stop Bibi from running from one reception to another to collect a string of standing ovations.
In his keynote speech to the Jewish lobby, the participants – of a certain age judging by the number of bald pates – didn’t stop cheering. Every now and then a bald guy would stand while applauding, and everybody else followed suit.
The most noteworthy aspect of the address was that Bibi, beaming and full of himself, his bluish hair the same hue as his tie, didn’t mention Barack Obama’s name very often. That was the punishment for the president’s interview with Jeffrey Goldberg a few days before Netanyahu’s arrival. Obama criticized the settlements and said that if Israel didn’t accede to the framework deal, it would compromise the Americans’ ability to support Israel internationally.
It was as if Bibi were saying: Attack me before I arrive and I’ll get you back double. I’ll scare America with an Iranian intercontinental ballistic missile and accuse you of failure in Syria and Russia.
If Bibi were still Nitay, he could have appeared at the convention as a senator supporting Israel. The distortion of Clark Gable’s famous phrase in “Gone with the Wind” as a way to praise Scarlett Johannson for her work against the boycott seemed cheap. Still, it brought another standing ovation.
Most of Bibi’s speech was devoted to the anti-Israel boycott. Despite his self-confidence, he didn’t deny that the economic boycott frightens him more than anything. Why? Because the boycott means unemployment in Israel.
Some people in Israel called his speech a “mothball speech.” Some said there was nothing new. Optimists noted that this was the first time Bibi had used the word “peace” in an address like this. What does the kindergarten teacher say to her little charge? “Good for you, sweetie.” In the buzz of interpretations in Israel, one key assessment was that the settlers should be worried. The other was that they have nothing to worry about.
Bibi did best what he does well. He went through an official visit abroad and kept his cabinet intact. He said the meeting with Obama was very good; that he had made clear to the president that Iran must not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons.
But he didn’t reveal Obama’s response. We can assume the president was no less clear than he was in the interview with Goldberg regarding the Americans’ ability to stand by if Israel rejects the Kerry plan. We can assume he was no less clear in his assessment that Israel must not lose President Mahmoud Abbas as the most moderate Palestinian leader Israel can hope for in the foreseeable future. A knowledgeable observer said Bibi managed once again to get through an event uneventfully – other than capturing an Iranian weapons ship in an impressive Hollywood-like operation.
Bibi has a talent for stretching things to the limit. He has an unregistered patent in tripping up negotiations. During the days of the road map, he presented the condition that terror stop first. Now it’s recognizing Israel as the Jewish state first. Who needs this recognition from a nation whose hatred for Israel is so great that it has stopped it from achieving statehood?
Sooner or later Israel will accept Secretary of State John Kerry’s framework agreement on condition that Israel receive the proper guarantees. What is certain is that two Israeli billionaires in America, Haim Saban and Arnon Milchan, will continue to vie over who hosts the Netanyahus most dazzlingly. At the moment, Milchan leads Saban 1–0. The rematch comes when Bibi signs the framework agreement. The eternal one of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.
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