Op-Ed: Slandering the Prime Minister of Israel
Shalom FreedmanShalom Freedman is a freelance writer in Jerusalem, whose work has appeared in a wide variety of Jewish publications.
There is no leader in the Western world subject to the kind of personal vilification and defamation that is aimed at Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Most recently in an embarrassing incident for all leaders involved, Prime Minister Sarkozy of France called the Israeli Prime Minister a liar, only to receive President Obama’s sympathetic reply indicating Sarkozy has it easy because Obama must deal with him all the time.
A few weeks ago former President Clinton unfairly accused the Israeli Prime Minister of being the major obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace. This occurred shortly after the supposed peace partner Mohammed Abbas made a U.N. speech in which he refused to acknowledge even minimal Jewish historical connection to the Holy Land.
Several days before that, former U.S. Defense Secretary Gates said the Prime Minister was an ingrate for not helping the United States through refusing to make one-sided concessions (In diplomatic-speak ‘gestures’) to the Palestinians.
The attacks on the Israeli Prime Minister do not, however, come only from outside the Israeli and Jewish worlds.
There are, of course, legitimate criticisms that come from within the Israeli political world and are a vital part of the democratic process. That is not the issue at hand.
There is the apparent lack of acting acording to accepted behavioral norms by the opposition and that criticizes, sometimes behind his back, the Prime Minister in meetings with foreign, not so friendly, powers.
And there is another kind of criticism practiced in Israel by leftist journalists, radical left academics and just this week, by students at Tel Aviv University. . This criticism might be called the Amira Hass- Gideon Levy- type Haaretz criticism. It is one in which the people of Israel and the Prime Minister are taken to be warmongering, brutal, insensitive tormenters of the wholly innocent Palestinian Arabs. The TA University students carried signs intimating that he encourages rightists taking the law into their own hands against Arabs who harrass and often endanger them.
These kinds of attacks on the Prime Minister are simultaneously an attack on the people of Israel as a whole and are made regularly by the haters from within.
There are of course more moderate, if still frequently unfair criticisms, all the gamut of the political spectrum. Most often these criticisms have to do with ‘lack of flexibility’ on the non- existent Peace process. But there are also criticisms from the Right in which he is accused of cracking under pressure, having no backbone, taking his orders from Washington, selling out the Zionist dream.
What unites all these critics is an almost total obliviousness to or lack of understanding of the situation and special responsibilities of the Israeli Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has possibly the most difficult job of any world leader. He is the leader of the one nation in the world whose destruction is continually threatened, and whose legitimacy is persistently denied.
He must deal with a world in which the great majority of nations are automatically hostile to his own. He must deal with military threats of the widest possible variety, from small- scale terror through conventional war to the nuclear weapons with which a radical Islamic Iran is now threatening.
He must continually make decisions that consider the overall security and well- being of the people. He must do everything possible to maintain Israeli independence, not become what Menahem Begin called a ‘vassal’ and yet at the same time retain and strengthen the one vital relationship Israel has i.e. with the United States.
He must deal with a whole host of troublesome neighbors from the outright hostile Iran to the now more problematic post- Mubarrak Egypt to the newly angry Turkey.
He must seek peace but not give in to illusions and false dreams, but not abandon the striving for a peace which is solid and real.
At the same time he must labor to continually strengthen Israel economically and militarily, so that it outpaces any potential enemy or combination of enemies. That combination includes not only a good share of the Arab world but also now powerful nations once allied with Israel like Iran and also possibly Turkey and Egypt. The number of immediate threats and challenges to his nation is again far larger than those facing any other world leader.
In his second term in office, Netanyahu has contributed to a respectable performance of the Israel economy both in terms of employment and growth.
He has managed to strengthen military ties with the U.S. despite the Administration’s initially putting one- sided pressure on Israel.
He has contributed to a security situation in terms of diminished terror that is far better than Israel has had in years.
He has great challenges ahead of him but he has done a decent job in all areas, treading "between the raindrops" as Israelis say. And he radiates a deep conviction in the Zionist enterprise, a faith and strength in building Israel, although not always as much as his critics on the right, the camp that elected him, think he could and should.
He has not solved all the problems and he will not, but he is truly worthy of being supported and encouraged, rather than villified, by his own people and all those who have real concern for the Jewish state.