Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s leg injury prevented him from going to
Netanya with Russian President Vladimir Putin to inaugurate the monument to the
Red Army. It also prevented his attendance at the American Independence Day
festivities hosted by US Ambassador Dan Shapiro and his wife, Julie Fisher. It
was, in fact, the first time in living memory that the prime minister of Israel
did not attend the traditional Fourth of July party, which this is year was held
on July 3.
However, Netanyahu did not let his sore leg or his crutches
impede him from attending the funeral of Israel’s seventh prime minister,
According to a very reliable source in the Prime
Minister’s Office, it was extremely important to Netanyahu to pay graveside
respects to Shamir, and he worked hard on the eulogy to illustrate both the
private and the public character of the man who had been an anonymous soldier
out of uniform as a Lehi underground fighter and subsequently in the Mossad, and
saw himself in that role until the end of his days.
from the American Independence Day celebration caused a slight relaxation in
security, which resulted in a speedier entry into the residence for the hundreds
of invitees waiting in line for their invitations to be checked.
home, the residence takes on a new appearance with the change of
The Shapiros are the third Jewish couple in which the husband
is the US Ambassador, but theirs is the most recognizably Jewish home. When
Martin Indyk and Daniel Kurtzer lived in the residence, there were Jewish ritual
objects on view, but there was not that sense of Jewish homeyness that exists
now, with welcoming Hebrew folk art on the walls and colorful mezuzot on the
In previous years, the formal part of the festivities was
coordinated with local television news broadcasts, but this year, because
Netanyahu was not there, the speeches by Shapiro and President Shimon Peres
started after all the main news broadcasts had concluded, so there were fewer
journalists than usual and fewer TV crews and photographers.
was really interested could watch the ceremony on the US Embassy website. But
for people gathered on the ambassador’s back lawn, video camera operators hired
by the embassy panned the area and showed scenes from the crowd on a giant
screen, as well as scenes from inside the house where Shapiro his wife and
senior aides were greeting VIP guests. Non-VIP guests entered through a side
path. The close relationships the Shapiros have formed in the year they’ve been
in Israel were obvious by the number of spontaneous bear hugs.
fewer government ministers than usual among the guests – presumably because
Netanyahu wasn’t there. There was also a paucity of ministers in the late
afternoon at the dedication ceremony of a memorial at Har Adir for fallen
soldiers of the Second Lebanon War.
Representatives of the families of
the soldiers had in the days leading up to the event expressed anger at the
ministerial dropout rate. Despite the negative publicity, hardly any ministers
attended. Environmental Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan was there – and he may well
have been the minister one in a crowd of several hundred
Empathizing with the families, Peres reflected on how hard a war
it had been, with a death toll of 121 combatants and 44 civilians. In reviewing
the war, Peres made no attempt to whitewash its failures but noted that there
had also been both military and political triumphs. It was important to
commemorate the heroism of the soldiers and the stoicism of the residents in the
North, he said.
Since the war, he pointed out that the Galilee has known
six years of quiet.
Peres also referred to the issue of national service,
saying that there was no greater privilege than the right to serve one’s people
and ones country, and that it was imperative to find a correct and clever way to
unite the nation in sharing the onus of responsibility.
■ BACK TO the
Independence Day party, where guests included Justice for Jonathan Pollard
activist Adi Ginsburg, who following recent developments said that there was
room for hope that Pollard might be released; former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni,
looking tanned and relaxed in an elegant black-and-white paneled dress, former
basketball star Tal Brody, Start-up Nation co-author Saul Singer and a large
representation of the haredi community, including inter alia Tel Aviv Chief
Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and former United Torah Judaism MK Meir Porush. Among the
media personalities who attended was Arieh O’Sullivan, a former prize-winning
defense reporter with The Jerusalem Post and more recently with The Media
O’Sullivan has joined the IBA News team as military affairs
reporter and weekend anchor, and was on his first assignment.
also two special guests from the US.
One was folk singer Peter Yarrow of
Peter, Paul & Mary fame, who said he would not sing his theme song of “Puff
the Magic Dragon” but instead, given the occasion, sang “My Country, ’Tis of
Thee” and US Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, who is on a three-week visit to
Israel and who said she was looking forward to interacting with Israeli judges
and lawyers on this, her first visit to the country.
In fact, she had
already met with several judges and lawyers the previous evening when the law
faculty at Tel Aviv University hosted a reception in her honor. Kagan didn’t say
much at the Independence Day reception but at TAU she shared several
behind-the-scenes courtroom anecdotes with her Israeli colleagues, who included
judges Hanan Meltzer, Uzi Vogelman and Daphna Barak-Erez and lawyers Michal
Herzog (the wife of MK Isaac Herzog), Pinchas Rubin, Dan Geva, Giora Erdynast,
Doni Toledano, Orna Linn and Yossi Mendelsohn, with Prof.
former dean of the law faculty, as MC.
■ THE FOCAL point of this year’s
Independence Day celebrations was the US Constitution in its 225th anniversary
year, and there were giant facsimiles of the Constitution on display. In his
eloquent address, Shapiro referred to the core values laid out in the
Constitution and said it was easy to forget how radical those words were when
they were first written. Where possible.
he said, America has been a
source for good around the world and a tireless promoter for peace. Its deepest
partnerships have been with those who share its ideals. Of these, he said, there
is no people whose story more closely resembles that of the US than
America’s unshakable commitment to Israel is reflected in the
deepest security partnership and collaboration with regard to common threats,
No issue on the American and Israeli agendas is more
important than preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, he declared.
Peres, who also referred to a nuclear Iran as a major threat to world stability,
stated that America was and remains Israel’s greatest friend and ally. Peres
also spoke of the Palestinians, “who are our closest neighbors, and I believe
one day may become our close friends.”
■ IN A video-taped message,
Netanyahu expressed his appreciation for all the great sacrifices that America
has made in order to advance liberty and democracy throughout the
“America’s revolution was founded on two very powerful ideas,” he
said. “First, that people should have the right to elect their own leaders and
be sovereign over their own destiny, and second, that the power of those
leaders, the power of governments, must be checked so that individual rights
will be protected.”
Netanyahu said that he was always moved when reading
Thomas Jefferson’s words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident.
all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain
inalienable rights. That among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of
Turning to the transformations now taking place throughout
the region, Netanyahu commented that he did not regard the forces that are
bringing about change as exactly Jeffersonian, but said that in the long term
there was reason to hope because, with the spread of information technology, it
will become increasingly difficult to keep young minds closed and cloistered in
darkness. “Ultimately,” he said, “the power of freedom is bound to
■ IN JULY 2007, just before he was due to go into the army,
American-born Gavy Friedson met then-chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi at an
American Independence Day party. A year or two later, the two met up again at
the same place. By then, Friedson was a frustrated soldier. Completely bilingual
and raised in a family in which both his parents were journalists, he wanted to
work in the IDF Spokesman’s Office. All of his officers agreed that he was a
natural for the job, but one officer was determined to keep him on combat duty
no matter what.
Ashkenazi asked Friedson how he was getting on in the
army. Friedson said he’d rather be in the IDF Spokesman’s Office but didn’t make
a big deal about his frustration. A friend of the family who happened to be
standing with them during the conversation told Ashkenazi about the youngster’s
frustration, adding that as soon as he finished his army service he was going to
university in America – and if that happened, there was a strong chance that he
wouldn’t return to Israel. Within less than a month, Friedson was transferred to
the IDF Spokesman’s office, where one of his friends was Yair Netanyahu, the
Friedson did well in the Spokesman’s office and he was very
happy. He did return to America after the army, but only on a fund-raising
mission to raise money for Hatzolah, for which he’s been working as a voluntary
paramedic since his mid-teens. This week, Friedson again met Ashkenazi at the
Independence Day party, and the latter was so pleased to see him that he gave
him a big hug and asked where he was studying. He was thrilled to learn that
Friedson is studying communications at the Interdisciplinary Center,
■ STATE COMPTROLLER Joseph Shapira proved that in addition to
empathizing with the call for social justice, he also has a sense of humor. In
Hebrew the word for “comptroller” is “mevaker.” It is also the word for “guest”
Following his swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday, Shapira
quipped, “Mefahdim lehazmin oti levaker” which can be translated as either
“They’re afraid to invite me to visit” or “they’re afraid to invite me to
criticize.” Either way, he may an even tougher cookie than his predecessor Micha
■ IT’S NOT easy for people in the public relations
business to work out a guest list for their celebrations. On Tuesday, when
veteran public relations and strategic consultant Zvi Vilder and his wife, Mali,
married off their daughter, Adi, to Shimi Heiman, there was a heavy
representation of both businesspeople and media at the wedding..
at the tables and on the dance floor were Assaf Hefetz, Gabi Ofir, Shimon
Mizrahi, Yitzhak Kaul, Michael Iluz, Manor Gindi, Uri Levy, Yosef Reichman, Boaz
Dekel, David Zisser, Guy Provisor, Gadi Sukenik, Menachem Horowitz, Yair Weinreb
Secular and haredi guests alike danced in circles to the
music of the Kinderlach and Yishai Lapidott as well as the Kuperman Band.
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, who is a personal friend of Vilder, was
unable to attend because he was in the US, but sent a videotaped blessing to the
newlyweds and their parents.
■ LAST FRIDAY, a listener to the popular
weekly late afternoon show that is hosted by Yaron Enosh on Reshet Bet asked him
why his “Missing Relatives” show had been dropped by the station. Enosh replied
tersely that he wasn’t the address for the question.
This week, Israel
Radio advertised the return of the program – but not to Reshet Bet, and not with
mellow-voiced Enosh. It will now be broadcast on Reshet Aleph and hosted by Izzy
■ JERUSALEM POST staff got together on Sunday to celebrate the
first anniversary of the appointment of Steve Linde as editor-in-chief and David
Brinn as managing editor.
The two, who have laidback personalities and
very seldom lose their cool, have been able to maintain these characteristics
and have proved to be a good and popular team.
Both are always accessible
to staff, considerate and open to new ideas. They also give positive feedback,
and the staff thought that reciprocity on their part was a small way of
expressing their appreciation.
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