Netanyahu calls Trump, Putin to his defense - analysis

The message was simple: Look at Israel's standing in the world, look at his relations with the two most powerful men in the world, and don’t squander it.

March 1, 2019 18:59
2 minute read.
Netanyahu Trump

Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump speaking at the U.N. Security Council, Spetember 26th, 2018. (photo credit: GPO PHOTO DEPARTMENT)


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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a man who chooses his words carefully.

In important addresses – like the one he delivered from his residence on Thursday night in response to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s decision to indict him, pending a hearing – he is precise in how he constructs his remarks.

Therefore, at first blush, it seemed odd that he opened his initial defense by talking – for the umpteenth time – about Iran in Syria.

“Last night, I met in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin,” Netanyahu said. “I made clear to him that we will continue to act with all our strength against Iran’s efforts to entrench itself militarily in Syria. I thank my friend Russian President Putin, who welcomed my statements.

“And when I returned to Israel, I heard the words of support for me from US President Donald Trump,” he added. “He praised, I quote, the ‘strong, wise, and determined leadership’ with which I am leading Israel. I thank my friend President Trump for his words.”

Netanyahu was referring to comments Trump made at a Hanoi news conference when asked about Netanyahu’s legal problems: “I can say this,” said Trump. “He’s done a great job as prime minister. He’s tough, he’s smart, he’s strong.”

And Putin, in a press conference in Moscow on Thursday, said that he hopes that “despite internal political events [in Israel] – the pre-election situation, no matter how it unfolds – continuity will be preserved in the development of Russian-Israeli relations.”

Netanyahu said that this “unique connection with the leaders of the world powers is not something that should be taken for granted.” He said that he has built up those relations over long years, and it “helps me to ensure our security and future, and preserve our state.”

And with those first few sentences, Netanyahu revealed his main argument to the public.

The message was simple: Look at Israel’s standing in the world, look at his relations with the two most powerful men in the world, and don’t squander it.

Netanyahu, in one of the few speeches where he has ever actually choked up – doing so when he talked about relentless attacks on his wife and son Yair – made clear Thursday evening that he was not backing down, and that he intended to fight the charges against him.

To do that he needs the electorate to literally give him a vote of confidence. And for that to happen, the public needs to believe that he is irreplaceable, and that whatever allegations there are out there against him pale in comparison to what he brings to the collective Israeli table.

“Are you really going to sacrifice a relationship with Putin over some free cigars?” was the subtext of his words. “Do you really want to lose this great relationship with Trump because I tried – as all politicians do – to get some positive media coverage?”

Netanyahu’s public – as opposed to legal – defense strategy became clear a few sentences into Thursday evening’s address: convince the public of his indispensability.

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