Ten years ago, I wrote an article for my web-based weekly newsletter BibiWATCH on the subject of my service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). My views have not changed in those years, and I reprint the article below.
[Editor's note: Several issues of BibiWATCH are now available once again to read on this blog. Click here.]
Palestinian suicide bombers attack Tel-Aviv. The Israeli government blames Hamas. As support within Israel for any kind of peace deal with the Palestinians withers, pundits write that the Oslo process is dead.
It is June 1996 and Binyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu has just been elected Israel’s Prime Minister.
In Israel these days, everyone is talking about the next war.
I had intended to write this column this week about the various scandals and foul-ups which have troubled the Netanyahu government in recent days. Lots of material was available.
The Honorable David Levy
Minister of Foreign Affairs
When you established “Gesher” — which calls itself a “national social movement” — many thought that for the first time in many years we were seeing in this country a political movement based not on different positions vis a vis the Jewish-Arab conflict, nor on an ethnic or religious basis, but rather a movement based on social class. “Gesher” could have represented in Israeli politics what was once called “the working class” and today — “the underprivileged”.
Remember the 1985 film “Back to the Future”? Of course you do. One of the charming elements of that movie was the recreation of an imaginary American town in the year 1955. It cost Hollywood millions of dollars and required the talents of experts — but the new Israeli government has done far better than that. At far less cost and in less than two months, Prime Minister Binyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu has created a nearly perfect replica of the Middle East in the fall of 1991.
A friend of mine on the Israeli Right recently asked me what seemed to him to be a tough question to answer: two months after winning the election, what terrible things has Netanyahu actually done? “Forget what he’s said,” my friend told me. “You point out one really bad thing that’s happened.”
So I mentioned Bibi’s economic policies. And rested my case.
If I believed what I read in the newspapers, I’d be devoting this issue of BibiWATCH to the question of how the CIA kidnapped Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sometime during his visit to Washington, replacing him with a double — which was exposed, of course, during last week’s state visit to Cairo. (Egyptian President Mubarak was quoted as saying that the Netanyahu he met was a different man from the one who spoke to the U.S. Congress a week earlier.)
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s most important statement of government policy regarding the peace process came, as expected, during his appearance before a joint session of the U.S. Congress last week. To the assembled elected representatives of the American people, Bibi proposed three “pillars of peace” — which were received with more than a dozen ovations.
Israel has a tradition that state visitors are taken to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial before they go anywhere else in the country. Before they speak to the assembled Knesset, before they visit the President’s official residence in Jerusalem, even before they get to unpack their bags in the King David Hotel, they pay homage to the six million Jews whose murder is permanently bound up with the creation of the state of Israel.
State visitors to the United States, on the other hand, are required, upon their arrival in the country, to report to the CNN studios in Washington for an appearance on “Larry King Live”. Because of the “special relationship” between Israel and America, our Prime Minister gets to make part of his state visit even before boarding Israel Air Force One; he paid a “virtual visit” to Larry King late last week.