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The Real Scandal Wasn't the Israeli Lawmaker's Selfie With Trump

How are Israelis supposed to sleep at night when Gilad Erdan, the cabinet minister who is responsible for their safety, is so reckless and unserious?

Uri Misgav
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MK Oren Hazan took a selfie with Trump
MK Oren Hazan took a selfie with TrumpCredit: Youtube
Uri Misgav

The accelerated initiation that Donald Trump was put through at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Monday was a faithful reflection of Israel, in itself and in the reactions to it. They too revealed major flaws: problems – a lack of proportion and focusing on the trivial while ignoring what’s important.

We all need to chill: Likud MK Oren Hazan is not a war criminal, and his selfie with the U.S. president was not a diplomatic disaster. Selfies have become one of the most common actions in human society. Already in 2013, “selfie” was the Oxford Dictionaries word of the year. A month later, U.S. President Barack Obama introduced it into the diplomatic pantheon when he took a selfie with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who was sitting next to him at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. “We too are just people,” Thorning-Schmidt said, in response to the storm that followed.

Oren Hazan is also a person. All he did was what most people, especially younger people, do when they find themselves in the presence of someone famous. It might be a little embarrassing, given the circumstances. But anyone who was shocked to the depths of his soul by “such conduct from an elected official” should first be shocked by the fact that Hazan is an elected official.

What’s more, at least this time there was an element of charm to Hazan’s mischief, both due to the ease with which he disrupted the security and ceremonial arrangements, breaking into the reception line uninvited, and also because he simply took the show of flattery and self-deprecation before the guest (which was the real embarrassment) to the extreme. And of course, there was his honest and accurate summary the next day, when he told several interviewers, “If I hadn’t made a ruckus, no one would be talking about me.”

Minister Gilad Erdan.Credit: Mark Israel Salem

By contrast, among those greeting Trump at the reception was a senior official who seriously misbehaved. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan took advantage of his 15 seconds of fame with Trump to tell him that a traffic accident in Tel Aviv that morning was being investigated as a car-ramming attack.

It was the third time Erdan jumped the gun to spread unconfirmed suspicions and fan the flame of ultranationalism and terror. It’s a pattern, a modus operandi. During the wave of fires in November, Erdan hastened to label them “arson terrorism.” On the day that a civilian and a police officer died in the course of evictions and protests in Umm el-Hiran, in January, both Erdan and the Israel Police, which is under his authority, quickly spread nonsense about a ramming carried out by an Islamic State sympathizer.

This time Erdan outdid himself; the rubbish that he whispered in Trump’s ear had been contradicted by the police themselves two hours earlier. Classic fake news — perhaps as a symbolic gesture to the guest who paved his way into the White House with the help of the genre — straight from the mouth of a senior minister who holds a particularly sensitive post.

Not only does Erdan refuse to learn from his mistakes, he’s also careful never to apologize for his harmful chatter, and in his arrogance even does the opposite — he attacks his critics. “The Israeli media have become accustomed to saying false things without anyone throwing the lies back at them,” he has said. A topsy-turvy world. Sometimes Erdan gets snagged by his dubious explanations. For example, this time he claimed that he hadn’t received the police update about the accident because before the airport reception, participants were required to hand in their cellphones. But as journalist Ben Caspit pointed out, if that’s the case, how exactly did Hazan manage to smuggle in his cellphone to take that selfie?

But even if it turns out that Hazan violated the sterile area, that’s not the point. The question is why the honorable minister allows himself to repeatedly report unsubstantiated information. And there’s a follow-up question: How are Israel’s citizens supposed to sleep at night when the minister responsible for their safety is so reckless and unserious?

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