Grapevine: A matter of priorities

Netanyahu did not let his sore leg or his crutches impede him from attending the funeral of Israel’s seventh prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir.

Netanyahu eulogizes Shamir 390 (photo credit: Avi Ohayon / GPO)
Netanyahu eulogizes Shamir 390
(photo credit: Avi Ohayon / GPO)
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, Yitzhak Shamir.
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.
Netanyahu’s absence 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.
Like any home, the residence takes on a new appearance with the change of occupants.
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 doorposts.
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.
Anyone who 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.
There were 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 people.
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 Line.
O’Sullivan has joined the IBA News team as military affairs reporter and weekend anchor, and was on his first assignment.
There were 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.
Nili Cohen, 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 Israel.
America’s unshakable commitment to Israel is reflected in the deepest security partnership and collaboration with regard to common threats, Shapiro continued.
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 world.
“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.
That 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 happiness.”
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 prevail.”
■ 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 PM’s son.
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, Herzliya.
■ 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” or “visitor.”
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 Lindenstrauss.
■ 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..
Mingling 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 and others.
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 Mann.
■ 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.