At a press conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, Israel Resilience Party leader Benny Gantz made the kind of blooper that only someone living in an insulated bubble is capable of.
Announcing his party’s final list for the April 9 Knesset elections, Gantz launched an attack on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that can best be described as an own goal. The assault was so outrageous that it caused even many of Netanyahu’s harshest critics to flinch at its stupidity, and spurred Israeli public relations powerhouse Rani Rahav to tweet that whoever wrote Gantz’s tirade ought to “resign immediately and take responsibility for the damaging speech that no Israeli wanted to hear.”
Indeed, rather than go after Netanyahu’s policies and performance in office – which is what a contender against an incumbent normally does – the former IDF chief of staff ridiculed the PM for not having illustrious enough military credentials – oh, and for being too American.
“When I lay in the muddy trenches with my soldiers on frozen winter nights,” Gantz said, “you, Benjamin Netanyahu, left Israel to learn English and practice it at luxurious cocktail parties. On the days when I commanded the Shaldag Unit in life-threatening operations in enemy states, you, Benjamin Netanyahu, worked your way bravely and with determination between the makeup rooms of TV studios. While I trained generations of commanders and fighters, you took acting lessons in a New York studio. And during the nights of tension and stress, when I fell asleep in my uniform and boots, you, Benjamin Netanyahu, had world’s most respected tailors taking your measurements, and returned safely to your bed in your prestigious hotel.”
Gantz concluded by telling his packed audience of supporters, “In a month-and-a-half, we will all go to choose between a ruler with Boston English, heavy makeup and luxury suits, and Israeli leadership – genuine, caring, not fake or artificial – leadership that can look you in the eye.”
Though it is true that Netanyahu speaks flawless English, as a result of time spent studying and working in the United States, this did not come at the expense of his military service as a soldier and officer in the IDF’s most elite special-forces unit, Sayeret Matkal.
Nor did it prevent him from being wounded in battle and taking part in perilous missions. Prominent among these was the storming of Sabena Flight 971, hijacked on May 8, 1972, by four armed members of the Palestinian terrorist organization Black September. When Netanyahu participated in that hostage-rescue operation, Gantz was a month shy of his 13th birthday, likely practicing for his bar mitzvah.
IT IS also a fact that Netanyahu is no stranger to TV studios, in New York or elsewhere throughout the world. Having to defend the Jewish state as its ambassador to the UN for four years will do that. Subsequently being elected to the Knesset, then rising to become the head of the government, has something to do with it, too. So does the spending of days and nights containing the conflict with the Palestinians, attacking Iranian targets in Syria, forging ties with Arab neighbors, and growing the economy.
To say, then, that all he has done over the years is wear “heavy makeup” and engage in “fake leadership,” after learning English to use at “luxurious cocktail parties,” is nothing short of jaw-dropping. In fact, no member of the Israeli public – including those who never supported Netanyahu and never will – sees him as a shallow fashionista.
Some on the Right think he is too soft on Palestinian terrorism. The Left considers him dangerously militant and diplomatically intransigent, blaming him for everything from a lack of peace to social and gender gaps. Others express weariness with having the same prime minister in power for a full decade, and not for the first time. Still others question his character and bemoan his reputation for alienating inner-circle loyalists.
But nobody of sound mind casts aspersions on his personal military history. And everybody hails his English as a source of national pride, not embarrassment. In fact, he has set the linguistic bar so high, other Israeli politicians are now judged by a standard that most cannot meet. Gantz is no exception.
Despite his best efforts on Sunday at the Munich Security Conference, Gantz was unable to escape the Israeli media’s coverage of his inability to overcome a heavy Hebrew accent, even while attempting to mimic Netanyahu’s elocution and tough stance against the Iranian regime.
For all one knows, this was the real reason why Gantz later put down Netanyahu for speaking English so well.
It does not explain, however, what possessed Gantz to portray the prime minister as a draft dodger who fled to the US to make small talk at parties before retiring to luxury hotel suites.
All Gantz’s false depiction did, then, was enable Netanyahu to release a video showing photos of himself in uniform, and reminding the public of the military missions in which he successfully took part. If Gantz were half as smart as he is handsome, he would be hanging his head in shame for being such an idiot and going too far.
ANOTHER ISRAELI idiot who was penalized this week for going too far was Channel 13 anchorwoman Oshrat Kotler. During Saturday night’s news broadcast – while reporting on the arrest of five soldiers from the ultra-Orthodox Netzah Yehuda Battalion who are suspected of beating up two Palestinian detainees in their custody – Kotler treated viewers to a diatribe.
“When you send your children to the army, they are kids,” she said. “You send them to the territories, and they come back human animals. This is the result of the occupation.”
Kotler’s little editorial elicited a harsh response. More than 2,000 complaints were lodged with the Office of the Second Authority for Television and Radio, and hundreds of condemnations circulated on social media sites.
The next day, Kotler used her platform to defend herself by accusing her detractors of having missed her point.
“I want to stress so that you understand: My children, and also their friends, have been combat soldiers. My criticism was directed only at those soldiers who have been driven to harm innocent people due to our control over the Palestinians in the territories,” she insisted. “I would just like to add that those who truly listened to what I said at the introduction to the story, and didn’t rush to slam me online, realized I was actually in favor of lenient punishment for the accused soldiers, since we are the ones sending them into this impossible reality.”
In other words, Kotler did not apologize; she doubled down, going as far as to call Palestinian terrorists “innocents,” while referring to IDF soldiers as victims of Israeli “control of the Palestinians.”
To add chutzpah to insult and injury, Kotler ended the rant with a taunt.
“Are you happy now?” she asked the audience, sneering. “I will continue expressing my opinion on this show. You won’t be able to silence me.”
Maybe not, though Channel 13 executives have called her in for a disciplinary hearing. No matter how strongly they agree with her political positions, the last thing they want is a drop in ratings.
Like Gantz, Kotler should have known better. Or rather, both of them ought to be more in tune with the society that has blessed them with prominence and showered them with prestige. It is, after all, the very society whose votes Gantz wishes to garner, and whose attention Kotler needs to further her highly coveted career.
Each one lives in their own bubble, however. Gantz has spent the better part of his adult life giving orders to – and being saluted by – subordinates, many of whom undoubtedly were more intelligent than him. Kotler is surrounded by fellow left-wingers in the media, and fans wanting to take selfies with her at restaurants.
The rest of the public lives in the Israel that actually exists – the one whose leaders and soldiers may be flawed, but who excel at making the best of bad situations. When bubble-dwellers suggest otherwise, our pins come out.
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