You don’t have to be a journalism professor to know how mainstream media in America feels about Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned speech to the US Congress scheduled for March 4, 2015. Mostly, it’s negative.
The Washington Post sees the speech as trouble for Netanyahu (“Netanyahu’s Congress speech stirs growing backlash in Israel and the U.S.”, January 30, 2015). For NBC News, the short-term reaction is negative for both John Boehner (who had invited Netanyahu) and Netanyahu(“Upcoming Congressional Speech Backfires on Boehner, Netanyahu”, January 28, 2015). For the New York Times, it’s all negative—for Netanyahu (“Netanyahu Talk Stirs Backlash in Israeli Race”, January 27, 2015).
Here’s another opinion: it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. It doesn’t even matter if Netanyahu actually shows up to give the speech. This issue has taken on a life of its own.
This story reminds one of the Super Bowl stories we got to read this time of year: you don’t get to the ‘big arena’ by being a pussy cat. If you want to play in the big arena, you need a big ego.
Folks, this Obama-Netanyahu drama is being driven by ego, mostly Obama’s, but also Netanyahu’s. You’ll see how in a moment.
This isn’t a story about Iran (the topic of Netanyahu’s upcoming speech). It isn’t about Republican- versus-President politics. It’s about personal animus. It’s about an American leadership which has allowed an ally Prime Minister to be called, ‘chickensh*t’, and then allowed that word to hit the press.
It’s personal. It’s about an American President so angry, he’s made a most extraordinary decision: he’s allowing a group of his own campaign advisors to travel to Israel to help unseat Netanyahu. He may even be using US taxpayer dollars to do it (“Obama Funding the Anti-Bibi Campaign”, Front Page Mag, January 29, 2015).
To understand how personal this situation is, The New York Times hasn’t described Obama as ‘angry’ at Netanyahu; it has described a White House ‘outrage’ (see William Jacobson, “Obama’s not offended, he just wants Bibi out of office”, Legal Insurrection, January 30, 2015).
According to one source, this administration has “attempted to interfere in the Israeli elections, and continues to do so through anonymous sources, including the person who called Netanyahu a “chickenshit” ( Jacobson, ibid).
Netanyahu’s speech to Congress is scheduled for March 4, 2015. When he speaks in America, Israelis will already have finished the Fast of Esther, which precedes (and is part of) the celebration of Purim (March 5, 2015). With a seven-hour time difference, Netanyahu’s Washington speech may actually take place on March 5th, Israel time--Purim.
The Purim story is about anti-Semitic leaders (a King and his chief advisor) who plot to harm the Jewish people. It’s about how the passions and decisions of individuals affect Jewish Destiny.
Obama’s behaviour is not rational. He truly seems to have a passion against Israel in general, and Netanyahu in particular (Jacobson, ibid)—and he’s willing to act on that passion.
Netanyahu, on the other hand, isn’t exactly a shrinking violet. He’s got the ego to play in the ‘Super Bowl’.
Here’s a question: how do you think a very bright, competent national leader with a very, very strong ego reacts when a powerful so-called ally treats him like a ‘chickensh*t’? How do you think such a national leader (Netanyahu) responds when he sees advisors from another country come to interfere with his national elections?
You might question Netanyahu’s policies. You might question how committed he is to the Zionist enterprise. But you can never question his ego.
In the ancient Purim story, you see how the Jewish people are saved because bad people make anti-Semitic decisions that back-fire on them, mostly because of their own behaviour. You see Jews save us because of their own decisions.
We might see something like that in March, 2015.
Many of us in Israel feel that Netanyahu has no backbone. We feel that he doesn’t stand up to Obama. We are frustrated by his unwillingness to act for us.
Well, consider this scenario: outsiders from America come to Israel to unseat Netanyahu. That effort somehow goes awry. It gets negative publicity. Israeli voters take offense that Obama—who has harshly accused Netanyahu of trying to interfere with American elections—has sent his own people to interfere with our elections.
Then, as Israeli voters are busy taking offense at such raw interference, Iran acts out, Arabs attack Israel –or some combination thereof.
When Netanyahu arrives in Washington--two weeks before elections--he could show up with polls in his pocket showing Israeli anger at Obama, Iran and/or Jihadi aggression. He could show up angry and firmly in the lead in Israeli polls.
If you’ve followed Israeli politics carefully, you’ll know this about Benjamin Netanyahu: he’s not a man you want to anger.
The original Purim story is about men doing G-d’s work through their own selfish reasons. This Obama-Netanyahu business may turn out to be a modern Purim story. Our Destiny could be tied to powerful men acting for their own selfish reasons.