Its been a depressing two days. Wednesday was the last day of the GA. I did not participate in the event, but in advance of its happening, I wrote a Newsweek article. The article was toned down from how I felt, after seeing the schedule for the GA. It was titled American Jews and Israel We Really Have to Talk- my emphasis on Really, as opposed to what I felt the GA was going to be, a rather large whitewash of the issues. On Wednesday I had my chance to be at the GA virtually, I was asked to be in the studio at i24 News for Netanyahu’s closing speech to the GA. Bibi was late, and I spent time talking in the studio with the anchor and the other guest a charming gentleman who is personally a Democrat and works for one of the many pro-Israel groups in Washington. In our discussions before Bibi’s speech, he kept on asking if we were off the air, concerned that he might criticize the government or whoever in public. When the address or rather the interview began ( he was interviewed by the outgoing chairman of the NA Federations), I said in the studio off mic this is ridiculous there is no real getting to the issues. The interviewer started with the softest pitch ever how did you decide to get involved in government- I was assured by the other guest who knew the interviewer, that this was an age-old prosecutors tactic to make the “witness” comfortable before coming in for the kill, of course, the kill never came, and Bibi received a standing ovation at the end, after saying little more than standard campaign slogans. Afterward, in the studio, my Jewish professional colleague took on the role of defender of Bibi and the Israeli government while I was more critical. Overall it was clear that my earlier concerns were correct the GA, we need to talk was a show and a bust.
The day became more confusing when I returned in the early evening to i24News, ostensibly to talk about the reports of a French peace initiative. That initiative Macron warned will be started if Trump does not come forth with his long-promised plan. I was asked to come in around 3 for a 7 PM show. Of course between the time I was invited to when the show began the news was far from static, and the reports of the various bomb attempts from the US were breaking. That was the obvious lead story for the 7 o’clock news shows, and I was asked to be in studio to help with the breaking news and so I was on air discussing the bombings trying to put some context etc. ( as much as you can in a breaking news story that you know so little). In the course of the discussion, the anchor Tracy Alexander who does a good job threw me a curve- she asked me how I would compare the recent events to the assassination of Rabin, I gave what I think was a reasonable response talking about how incitement leads to violence. After the break, we moved on to the original topic, and we discussed the Trump vs. Macron plan, two unknowns.
Yesterday’s news, however, tied to the events of the night before. On the 6 PM new show Barak Ravid showed a letter he uncovered, written six months before the Rabin assassination by then Education Minister Amnon Rubenstein to Netanyahu, then head of the opposition. In the letter he beseeches him to turn down the rhetoric against Rabin, warning that if the rhetoric continues, it might lead to acts of violence against Rabin. All very relevant in today’s discourse not only because of the events in the US but also because of the attempt of the Likud here to rewrite history and claim that there was no incitement against Rabin by their people.
Two other troubling events yesterday. The news show that I watch London and Kirschenbaum led off with an ad that was created by the The Public Forum for a Jewish and Democratic Israel. The ad show kids going to Yasser Arafat, High School. In the classroom, someone asks is it not true that our country was once called Israel. The teacher says yes and asks why, a kid takes out a Tanach- and the teacher asks how does he have a banned book like that. The screen then pans to the picture on the wall of Prime Minister of the country Ahmad Tibi (from the Joint Arab List). The ad was shown according to the host not to scare the listener from the ad but from the organization that was promoting the ad.
Finally for those interested in some inside baseball- but its more than that- Prime Minister Netanyahu has begun a very public campaign against former Minister of Education and Likud Member Gideon Saar and to a lesser extent against President Rivlin. On Wednesday his house organ Yisrael Hayom led with a headline stating the reason Netanyahu did not go to new elections now is his fear that if the Likud leads after the next election the President will not appoint him but Saar to form the government. Rivlin office said it was nonsense and Netanyahu was paranoid. Saar denied the charges and said he supports Netanyahu. Instead of letting the story die on Wednesday night Netanyahu publicly charged Saar with trying to organize a putsch against him. This time Saar did not hold back on attacking Netanyahu for making up false charges and effectively saying what Rivlin said the day before that Netanyahu is paranoid. Up to now, no proof has been presented. Unfortunately for Netanyahu despite his media skills, his Trumpeske fake news has not been as successful even with his supporters.