Netanyahu has a point 311.
(photo credit: Moshe Milner)
You’ve got to hand it to Binyamin Netanyahu, who somehow managed to turn
international outrage over the brutal massacre of a young Jewish family as they
slept in their beds on Shabbat into widespread criticism of his aggressive
The most frequent question I get in speaking to Jewish
groups around the country is “why doesn’t Israel get better PR
The answer is simple: The problem isn’t PR, it’s policy and the
way it’s announced to the world.
One Israeli friend e-mailed me this
week, “For a person supposed to be a seasoned, articulate hasbara
certainly clouded the water in the pond.”
Presented with an opportunity
to focus international condemnation on Palestinian incitement and the PA’s
refusal to return to the peace table, Netanyahu grabbed the spotlight for
himself and turned the discussion to settlements.
A headline writer in
one Israeli paper summed up the prime minister’s response: “They shoot, we
build.” Who benefits? The rejectionists on all sides who don’t want
Playing to his right-wing base, Netanyahu not only announced the
construction of 500 new homes but he also is trying to bring into his governing
coalition the farther right National Union party, which includes an unabashed
admirer of the late Meir Kahane.
An equally tone deaf Mahmoud Abbas
failed to grasp the importance of this heinous crime. After much private and
public prodding – Netanyahu labeled the initial PA response “weak and mumbled” –
he went on Israeli radio to condemn this “abominable, inhuman and immoral”
It remains to be seen whether he will repeat that on Palestinian
media in Arabic.
WHILE THE five members of the Fogel family, three young
children and their parents, were being buried, Palestinians were dedicating a
square in the town of Al- Bireh in the memory of the leader of Fatah terror cell
which killed 35 Israelis and an American in a 1978 bus hijacking.Yisrael
raised the possibility that extremist settlers could put a “price tag” on
the Itamar murders and try to collect from the Palestinians, which could kindle
another violent intifada.
Both Netanyahu and Abbas had an opportunity to
calm the waters and use the incident as an opening to return to the peace table,
but, as usual, neither appeared interested. It seemed as though everyone wanted
to exploit the tragedy for his or her own purposes.
rejectionists it was more evidence that the Palestinians have no interest in
peace and that withdrawing from the West Bank would be a disaster.
the Left it was proof of the need to accelerate peace talks, as if a signed
agreement would somehow tamp down the overflowing animosities that undoubtedly
motivated last week’s murders.
Hamas and the Islamists praised the murder
as an “heroic” act of resistance.
And among Jewish groups there were even
those who saw it as a fund-raising opportunity and mailed out appeals for
Several media organizations looked like they were out to
prove their reputation for anti-Israel bias. CNN seemed to question whether the
murders were an act of terrorism when on its website it put quotes around the
term “terror act.”
The BBC, with a long-standing reputation for bias,
said the killer was an “intruder... whom the Israeli military calls a
And Reuters referred to the IDF as “the Israeli occupation
forces” and then had the chutzpah to say there was nothing pejorative about
using a term popular among anti-Israel activists.
Others used the
incident to spread their ideology, facts be damned.
unreliable DEBKAfile, an Israeli website that claims to be an intelligence and
security news service, offered a totally unsubstantiated but incendiary claim
suggesting Abbas himself was personally responsible for the murders. It
reported, “Abbas had quietly ordered heads of his Fatah organization to throw
its support behind the atrocity.”
Netanyahu is right: Incitement is a
major source of friction and distrust. But both sides play that game. He should
listen to the invective of some of his own ministers.
One took the
unprecedented – and inflammatory step – of publishing the grizzly crime scene
And does he think the announcement of 500 new settlement homes
does not rile the Palestinians as well as Israel’s friends? When he could have
calmed the waters and displayed statesmanlike leadership, Netanyahu, who is
often ridiculed for comparing himself to Winston Churchill, chose instead to
pander to his extremists. Harry Truman had a sign on his desk that said “the
buck stops here.”
Bibi needs one that says “sheket bevakasha