Taking Netanyahu seriously

Some days it seems that nobody gets a worse press in the US than Prime Minister Netanyahu. Israel’s left-leaning media and academic establishment hate him with a grand passion, they are articulate, speak English, and understand the importance of telling their story here. They are happy to cooperate with their counterparts in the US media, and often with the White House and State Department, where Bibi is seen as an obstacle on the road to a 1949-sized Israel. So Netanyahu is often presented in the US as a symbol of right-wing intransigence or worse.

But Time Magazine, which once helped us pronounce “Begin” by saying “rhymes with Fagin,” and whose cover much more recently explained “Why Israel Doesn’t Care about Peace,” has published a story (Bibi’s Choice, by Richard Stengel [subscription]) which is mostly  positive about the PM, despite its overall silly slant: “Will Netanyahu now make peace — or war?” the cover asks, as if ‘making peace’ were something an Israeli leader could do if he just chose to do so!

Nevertheless, Stengel makes it clear that Bibi has experience, brains and courage. And something else. Here he quotes Bibi:

When I became Prime Minister, I asked [my father] What attributes does one need to lead a country? He was older then and he asked me, What do you think? I said, You need convictions and courage and the ability to act. He said, You need that for anything. He then said what you need to lead a country is education, and by that he meant an understanding of history, the knowledge to be able to put things in perspective.

For an example of that understanding, see the PM’s Jerusalem Day speech delivered on Sunday:

We will preserve Jerusalem because an Israel without Jerusalem is like a body without a heart.  It was on this hill, 45 years ago, that the heart that unites our people began to beat again with full strength; and our heart will never be divided again.

There are people who believe that if we just divide Jerusalem, which means eventually conceding the Temple Mount – they believe we will have peace.  They believe that, but they are wrong.  I am doubtful, to put it mildly, that if we grant other forces control over that square above the Temple Mount, we won’t see the situation deteriorate so quickly that will devolve into a religious and sectarian war…

Sustainable peace is made with strong nations, and an Israel without a unified Jerusalem will be like a body with a weak heart.  I want to say something else: a nation that is willing to sacrifice its heart will only convince its enemies that it lacks the willpower to fight for anything.

On this last point, he agrees with Israel’s most implacable enemies:

With the two-state solution, in my opinion, Israel will collapse, because if they get out of Jerusalem, what will become of all the talk about the Promised Land and the Chosen People? What will become of all the sacrifices they made – just to be told to leave? They consider Jerusalem to have a spiritual status. The Jews consider Judea and Samaria to be their historic dream. If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse. It will regress of its own accord. Then we will move forward. — Abbas Zaki, former PLO Ambassador

Unlike his predecessor Olmert (probably the worst PM Israel ever had), Netanyahu is not “tired of winning.” He understands, as Olmert did not, that the alternative to winning is disappearing.

While not a coronation, the recent coalition deal provides Bibi with much more freedom to maneuver. And despite what the noisy remnants of the Israeli Left say, most Israelis give him their support. He will need every bit of it to get Israel through what may be the most dangerous period in its history since 1948. Perhaps it will also finally persuade the American media to take him seriously.

What can I add? As an American I’m envious of Israelis, who have a leader who was a combat soldier and is also an intellectual, who actually knows something about history, war, economics and yes, even politics. We, on the other hand…

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3 Responses to “Taking Netanyahu seriously”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    The new Western media and also Leftist media in Israel take on Prime Minister Netanyahu is as follows: He has unprecedented power and has the historic opportunity and responsibility to make Peace. They do this while ignoring or minimizing the major problem i.e. The Arabs do not want Peace, but rather insist on by whatever means they can achieve this, the end of the Jewish state.

  2. Robman says:

    I saw this article. It was superficially nice, but really pretty enraging, the closer you looked at it.

    For example, it draws a parallel between Bibi’s father and Joe Kennedy, in that Bibi and JFK were “second sons” from whom not as much was expected in relation to a “first son” who died in combat.

    Including this was something of a non-sequiter, but there was a very deliberate subliminal message here, which was that they were putting Bibi’s father on the same plane as Joe Kennedy, a fascist, an incredible bigot and anti-Semite, a Nazi sympathizer. Thus, the influence that Bibi’s father has on him, per this article, is overwhelmingly negative. The article is whispering here, “Bibi’s father was a Jewish fascist tyrant; therefore, to whatever extent Bibi follows in his father’s footsteps, so is he.”

    The article also characterizes Bibi’s demand that the PA recognize Israel as a Jewish state as an unreasonable “hard line” demand, that requires the Palestinians to “accept the Israeli narrative”, as if this would be some huge concession. No, what Bibi is demanding is that the PA accept the Jews as a people whose identity as such warrants self-determination, the same as any other national ethnic group. Bibi is demanding that the PA give up THEIR narrative, that requires the dismantling of the Jewish state as such, completely. There is no discussion in the article of what the Palestinian “narrative” entails, even though this is clearly spelled out in the PA charter.

    It is an atrocious article dressed up in the false costume of responsible mainstream journalism, but it is anything but. TIME is yet another mouthpiece for Obama; their reportage on Israel – as with most other issues – revolves around Obama’s preferred “narrative”.

    I swear, it is like living in the Soviet Union, anymore here….

  3. Vic Rosenthal says:


    I noticed the Kennedy remark and like you, thought it was a poor comparison. As far as the politics of the article, I agree with you and noted that the idea that Bibi should use his coalition power to ‘make peace’ idiotic. Time Magazine hasn’t changed its anti-Israel spots. But my point was that Stengel clearly admired Bibi as a leader, which is a big change from the way the press has treated him until now.