In mid-January, during a reelection fund-raiser at Harlem’s historic Apollo
Theater, US President Barack Obama stood at the podium, leaned into the
microphone and sang, a cappella, the opening lyrics to soul crooner Al Green’s
classic “Let’s Stay Together.”
“I, I’m so in love with you, whatever you
want to do is all right with me.”
He put away the snippet quite
admirably. He was on key, in falsetto, with a very passable vibrato and
eyelids lowered dreamily in the right place. The crowd lapped it up and the
president clearly seemed to be at ease and enjoying himself.
A quarter of
the way around the globe, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had his own
rendezvous with a microphone when Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser, sitting next to
him last week at the end of the pre-cabinet meeting photo-op (and before the
last camera crew had been ushered out), called to an aide.
“Etti, if you
please,” Hauser said politely. “Close the door, and when the prime
minister is talking…” A clearly annoyed Netanyahu cut him off with a lowered,
though clearly audible, voice.
“No. Close the door, not if you please
Close the door! Just lock the door. Lock it!” After a short pause, the exchange
Netanyahu: You didn’t hear me?
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Hauser: No, no.
Netanyahu: No, because they’re opening the door. Just say, “Put a
person there who will stop people from entering.”
Hauser (to someone
outside): Don’t let people come in. (To Netanyahu): Etti will stand outside and
will not let people come in.
Netanyahu: Now, make sure there’s a
lock. Make sure you have a lock. [And] lock it. I asked for this last
time. Just do it. Everything [I say] is… [treated as if it’s just] suggestions
For the sake of fairness, Netanyahu, unlike Obama, was not at ease. According to
Channel 2, which broadcast the exchange, it took place just minutes after he was
informed that his trusted chief of staff, Natan Eshel, had resigned over
allegations that he harassed a female employee and even surreptitiously
photographed her from under a table.
Yet a casual read of some of the
country’s best-informed political columnists indicates that the prime minister
was more upset with Hauser, who played a role in the affair when, aghast, he had
turned to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein for counsel together with Yohanan
Locker, the prime minister’s military attaché, and Yoaz Hendel, the prime
Ostensibly, Netanyahu’s displeasure was over the
fact that the three had not come to him first. But over the years we’ve figured
out that with this prime minister, whose every word and action seems
painstakingly choreographed, altruism is not necessarily part of the script. In
fact, it seems the macho former Sayeret Matkal officer saw his cabinet secretary
– who, let’s face it, with his slight frame, quiet, scholarly demeanor and dorky
horn-rimmed glasses comes across as something less than a commando who kicks in
airplane doors and drops hijackers – as a tattletale.
What is most
surprising about the entire thing, though, is that someone as media-savvy as
Netanyahu forgot the possibility of an open mike.
I AM not a great fan of
Barack Obama. While his desires for America and its people strike me as sincere,
his views of reality appear to be somewhat naïve. But I am not a great fan of
Binyamin Netanyahu, either. While he doesn’t appear to be the least bit naïve,
his desires for Israel and its people… well, I can’t really say what they are.
He tells us what they are with great regularity, but somehow I don’t entirely
It’s not that I think he’s lying.
Maybe it’s the way
he uses his microphones.
Like with those speeches. He’s a paper-shuffler,
so you know he’s got something in front of him. And he turns pages with almost
uniform timing, so it’s pretty clear he’s reading from a prepared text and not
So what’s with all the pregnant pauses and searches for the
right word? Isn’t it there in front of him? Were his speech writers goofing off?
I doubt it. (He’s got a lot of speech writers, I’ve heard, one even at a major
newspaper.) Actually, it comes off being so phony that often I think the text
includes phrases in the margins, such as “make a pregnant pause here” or “look
up, take off your glasses and search for the right word. The word is
[…]. Now continue.”
And away from the mike, Netanyahu almost
always seems so wooden. Not ill at ease, necessarily. More like entirely
Like his posture and facial expressions.
masculine hands-on-the-hips and tough-guy narrowing of the eyes. And those
handshakes! In between the up-and-down is a whole lot of horizontal locomotive
pumping. No one else does it this way, so when he’s shaking hands you know he’s
the one in charge. Pump, hiss, pump, hiss. A real alpha-male shake.
it’s the image. But can’t we get some variety, some spontaneity? I’d like to be
surprised for once. Somehow, excellent communicator that he is, I just don’t
think Netanyahu can wing it – and in a fast-paced, ever-changing and dangerous
world, I want to know my leader can improvise (or at least fake it).
seems Obama can. Maybe it’s because he’s not afraid to get up to the mike and
risk making a fool of himself. By singing, for example.
So I have a
suggestion I’d like to address to our prime minister: Get with it. Get
Get down. Ever hear of Al Green? Make that microphone work for
you, just like you did at the UN. But with rhythm.
Let’s take it up where
Obama left off.
Together with me: “Cause you make me feel so brand new,
and I want to spend my life with you.”
Now close those eyes and raise
that microphone high. And take it home to Sara. She’ll love it. And when Sara’s
happy, we’re all happy.
So say it after me: The microphone is my
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