GRAPEVINE: Bibi close up

Initially screened in the US in January of this year, Israeli viewers will have a chance to see the first part of the PBS Frontline documentary Netanyahu at War on Channel 1 at 9 p.m. on Wednesday

Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Benjamin Netanyahu
It’s both interesting and often aggravating to see ourselves as others see us. We can say whatever we want about our prime minister. After all, it’s like being part of an extended family. But we’re none too happy to get an outsider’s take on him, even when that includes opinions culled from Israelis. It’s bad enough when it’s in print, but can be even more irritating on screen.
Initially screened in the US in January of this year, Israeli viewers will have a chance to see the first part of the PBS Frontline documentary Netanyahu at War on Channel 1 at 9 p.m. on Wednesday. The second part will be screened next Wednesday. The fastpaced two-hour documentary takes a close look from the perspective of various insiders and outsiders at Benjamin Netanyahu’s rise to political power , the manner in which he has handled his points of difference with US President Barack Obama, and his relationship with the US in general.
The documentary was written by Michael Kirk and Mike Wiser and produced by Michael Kirk, Mike Wiser and Jim Gilmore.
The extent of its archival material is mind-boggling, and it includes stills by former Jerusalem Post photographer Ariel Jerozolimski. The number of people associated with the production is even more mind-boggling and, if anything, gives weight to the importance of Israel’s prime minister in addition to giving testimony to the lengths that Frontline will go to in order to get as comprehensive and accurate a story as possible.
The special report begins with a young Netanyahu in America and includes intercuts of scenes from Israel and comments by Americans, Israelis and Palestinians. The story is not Netanyahu’s alone. It also deals with his opponents both in Israel and the United States and with chapters of history with which many viewers will be familiar because they lived through it.
■ WEDNESDAY’S DOCUMENTARY follows that of Tuesday night on Shimon Peres, also on Channel 1. Many jokes are made about the seeming immortality of Israel’s elder statesman who, at age 92, shows no signs of letting up on activity, and last Thursday flew to South Africa to be the guest of honor at a Salute to Israel, which took place in Johannesburg on Sunday night. The documentary carried the tongue-in-cheek title Shimon Peres: The first hundred years.
Some people even believe that he may decide to return to the Labor Party and wrest the leadership from Isaac Herzog.
WOMEN ARE very much in the news this month, both in Israel and abroad. On the home front, Galia Woloch, the chairwoman of Na’amat, has been elected chairwoman of the Council of Women’s Organizations in Israel, an umbrella association linking the 10 largest women’s organizations in the country and an affiliate of the International Council of Jewish Women.
She succeeds Gila Oshrat, the chairwoman of WIZO Israel. The changeover, which took place on Monday at WIZO House in Tel Aviv, comes just ahead of International Women’s Day.
Woloch, who the previous evening participated in the Zionist Union’s mega celebration of International Women’s Day at the Viola banquet halls and convention center in Holon, announced there that Na’amat’s focus on International Women’s Day would be the next generation of young women, to ensure future involvement and leadership in the struggle for gender equality.
Within the framework of her new role, Woloch announced that she will also focus on promoting women into leadership positions.
This aim is common to most women’s groups, and at the Zionist Union event it was pointed out by Zionist Union MKs that despite their ideological differences, female lawmakers have banded together on issues pertaining to gender equality.
Apropos Na’amat, its own International Women’s Day campaign against discrimination will be led next week by actress and model Ayelet Zurer, 46, who was humiliatingly dropped as a fashion presenter by Golbary on the grounds that she didn’t look so good any more following surgery.
Many women in her age group protested the brutal manner in which Golbary violated its contractual arrangement with her, and some said that they would no longer patronize Golbary stores. Zurer is giving her services to Na’amat free of charge.
At the Zionist Union International Women’s Day event, Herzog was one of the last MKs to remain in the hall after the formalities were over and the entertainment began. Sy Hyman, the high-voltage live-wire singer, who inspired many of the women to spontaneously get up and dance, tried to get Herzog onto the dance floor, but he bolted.
■ RECENTLY ELECTED president of World WIZO Esther Mor is busy getting to know all the organizations with which WIZO is affiliated. Some are familiar to her, but joining in the activities of others is giving her a whole lot of interesting new insights.
Last Friday morning, she traveled from her home in Herzliya Pituah to Jerusalem to attend a breakfast meeting with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov, which was hosted at the King David Hotel by the Israel Council on Foreign Relations and was also attended by the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nikolay Mladenov, the former foreign minister of Bulgaria.
Earlier in the week, Mor attended the festivities hosted by the World Zionist Organization at the David Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv to mark the 30th anniversary of the release from Soviet incarceration of the most famous of all Prisoners of Zion, Natan Sharansky, who is today chairman of the Jewish Agency. That event included the screening of Sharansky’s first television interview in Hebrew with Mr. Television himself, Haim Yavin. Sharansky and his wife, Avital, were both fascinated and amused as they watched. Needless to say, Sharansky’s Hebrew has improved considerably since then.
AS FOR the Bulgarian event, Mor was not the only resident of Herzliya Pituah who rose early to get to Jerusalem on time. There were several ambassadors from EU countries, including Lars Faaborg-Andersen, the head of the European Union delegation in Israel. Among the ambassadors of EU member countries who did not attend was Swedish Ambassador Carl Magnus Nesser, who, along with several other foreign diplomats, was running in the Tel Aviv Marathon.
Sharon Pardo, the director of Ben-Gurion University’s Center for the Study of European Politics and Society, in introducing Mitov at the ICFR event, said that it was a very emotional moment for him because were it not for Bulgarians, he would not be there. His Bulgarian-born father along with other Jews had been en route to Auschwitz when saved by Bulgarian non-Jews. As is customary at ICFR events, the guest speaker, if not Israeli, is presented with a watch that has Hebrew letters instead of numerals on its face. Mitov said that he would wear it the next time he came to Israel. Displaying the one on his own wrist, Bulgarian Ambassador Dimitar Mihaylov told him: “You can wear it in Brussels, too.”
■ DIFFERENT AMBASSADORS celebrate their national days in different ways. Some hold a reception at their residence; some hold a larger reception in a hotel, thereby enabling all guests to partake of refreshments, given that the hotel is almost always one that observes the Jewish dietary laws; some have a concert or an art exhibition aimed at promoting the talent and creativity of their country; and some have a food festival to introduce Israelis to their country’s cuisine.
Estonian Ambassador Malle Talvet-Mustonen invited diplomatic colleagues, Estonian expatriates and others on her guest list to join her in the auditorium of the Tel Aviv Museum for a concert by soloists and the Boys Choir of the Estonian National Opera.
Not everyone in the audience was familiar with the slight figure in the marine-blue dress who mounted the stage just before the start of the performance. “I’m not the choir conductor, I’m just an ambassador,” she said self-effacingly, “but I’m the luckiest Estonian ambassador on our 98th anniversary of independence.” Estonians in Tallin and all over the world were celebrating, she said, but “here in Tel Aviv we can celebrate with the best we have – the National Opera Boys Choir and full two-part operatic program.”
Since its establishment in Israel six-anda- half years ago, she said, the embassy has done all that it can to bring Israeli and Estonian people together, and has succeeded best in cultural events. The choir, conducted by Hirvo Surva, was indeed a delight, with a repertoire that included operatic, liturgical and jazz compositions. The singers absolutely deserved the enthusiastic applause that they received, but didn’t quite steal the show from opera soloists Monika Evelin-Liiv, Oliver Kuusik and Helen Lokuta, accompanied on the piano by Ivo Sillamaa. The crowd gave a roar of appreciation for each of them, and there were murmurs of “Bravo! Bravo!” throughout the audience.
But the best was yet to come. At the conclusion of the concert, when the audience filed out into the lobby, the choir was already there. The acoustics in the lobby are different from those in the auditorium, and the impromptu a cappella concert was an extraordinary treat for music lovers. People stood entranced, and many of those who were already on the escalator going up to the entranceway when the boys started to sing promptly turned around at the top and came down again. It was a memorable experience not only to listen, but also to see people who had been intent on going home turn around and return to the source of the beautiful sound.
■ THERE ARE people who believe in coincidence as some kind of an omen, and there are people who say there is no such thing as coincidence and everything is part of some hidden master plan which ordinary mortals do not understand.
There are some who might want to see coincidence in the narrow time frame between the refusal by the chairman of the Israel Museum’s board of directors to confer an Israel Museum fellowship on President Reuven Rivlin and the announcement that the museum’s longtime director, the inimitable James Snyder, is moving back to New York, where he will serve as international president for the museum’s worldwide Activities. One can only presume that someone who serves on the museum’s board of directors leaked the veto story to senior Yediot Aharonot political journalist Shimon Shiffer, who published it last Friday.
The announcement of Snyder’s return to New York in January 2017 was released on Sunday.
Shiffer speculated that chairman of the board Isaac Molcho, who is one of Netanyahu’s personal legal representatives and special diplomatic envoy, had, to the surprise and shock of other members of the board, put his foot down with a firm “no” to please his master, or rather the master’s mistress, and, overriding the protests of other members of the board, closed the meeting, indicating that the subject was closed.
Molcho was reported to have said that it was nothing personal and that he and Rivlin had grown up in the same neighborhood and had been friends since childhood.
Rivlin had not helped the museum, he said, and therefore this was not the time to make him a fellow. Considering that Rivlin is six years older than Molcho, it is doubtful that they were childhood friends.
It is highly possible, however, that they crossed paths on many occasions in the years when Rivlin practiced law. Be that as it may, Shiffer’s speculation was quickly taken up by the electronic media, which are generally very well disposed toward Rivlin.
All one can say is: Stay tuned.
■ ON THE day of the mini electronic media commotion about the fellowship, Rivlin’s head and heart were somewhere else. Together with his wife, Nechama, and some 200 other people from all over the country, he went to the Sycamore Farm, where former prime minister Ariel Sharon lies buried alongside his wife, Lily. It was the second anniversary of Sharon’s death and the 16th anniversary of the death of Lily Sharon. In actual fact neither the Hebrew calendar date nor the Gregorian calendar date corresponded with the actual anniversary of the death of either husband or wife.
He died in January, and she died in March.
If they were to be commemorated at the same time, February was as good a time as any, particularly as February 28 was the date of Ariel Sharon’s birthday.
Among the well-known figures in addition to Rivlin were Construction Minister Yoav Galant, who was Sharon’s military aid-de-camp, Herzog, who since his childhood had known Sharon personally, MK Tzipi Livni, whose political career began under the administration of Sharon, MK Amir Peretz, who is a former defense minister, as was Sharon, OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir, along with other senior military officers and naturally members of Sharon’s family, headed by sons Omri and Gilad.
Rivlin said that even though he and Sharon had opted to take separate political paths, especially after the withdrawal from Gaza, they had remained friends. Sharon, whose colorful history indicates that he was somewhat of a renegade, did not hold it against others if they did not think and believe as he did. He recognized freedom of thought, speech and action, even if he did not always condone it. Rivlin recalled that on the day before Sharon’s collapse and his slipping into a coma, the late prime minister had telephoned him and said, “Ruvi, don’t think that I don’t admire you for standing up for what you believe in.” Rivlin had replied: “Arik, look at how much Israel admires what you stood for, even if many disagreed with you in the past.” Then, as was his custom, Sharon, the farmer, asked to speak to Nechama Rivlin, for whom he had a special fondness as the product of an educated moshav family that worked the land. It was the last time that the Rivlins had spoken to their friend Ariel Sharon.
■ A SIGNIFICANT anniversary on Sunday passed almost unnoticed. It was the 50th anniversary of the courageous flight to Port Said made by peace activist Abie Nathan, whose intentions were recognized and respected by Egypt, which, after interrogating him, sent him back home instead of keeping him as a hostage. Nathan, escorted by Israel Air Force planes, returned to Israel the following day and reported that the Egyptians had treated him well.
He never gave up on his dream for peace, dialogue and coexistence and organized numerous marches and demonstrations in which both Jews and Arabs participated. He flew to Egypt again the following year, was again arrested and again sent home.
In January 1968 he announced that he was establishing a radio station that would broadcast from a ship beyond Israel’s territorial waters. It took nearly five-and-ahalf years for that dream to be realized. He called the station the Voice of Peace, and its first broadcast took place on May 19, 1973.
The station’s around-the-clock broadcasts were relayed throughout the Middle East and consisted of lots of music and discussions on current topics. The DJs were all English-speakers, and Nathan’s own mellow voice was frequently heard.
During the Yom Kippur War in October 1973, Nathan anchored the ship opposite Port Said and called for a cease-fire and dialogue. Broadcasts were subsequently suspended because the ship required heavy maintenance for which Nathan didn’t have the money. He went to Europe on a fund-raising mission and while there made contact with various Arab groups.
In 1975, while in Marseilles, he began a 40-day hunger strike in protest against the escalating violence in the Middle East. It didn’t attract sufficient attention in France, so he continued it in New York, where it also failed to have the desired effect.
Eventually, he received sufficient funds to fix the ship and to resume broadcasting in the second half of 1975. His call sign was “This is the Voice of Peace broadcasting from somewhere in the Mediterranean.”
The ship stayed afloat and the station made money from commercials. This money was used over the years for humanitarian aid in Gaza, Africa, Guatemala, Thailand and many points elsewhere.
Prior to Israel’s Entebbe rescue operation in 1976, Nathan flew to Entebbe airport in Uganda to try to secure the release of the hostages from the plane that had been hijacked by Black September, but was ordered by the Israel authorities to return home. At the end of 1976, he received the permission of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to enter the Suez Canal. He subsequently flew on humanitarian missions to Beirut, Moscow, Addis Ababa and other places of violence, conflict, oppression and natural disasters. In Israel he set up organizations for the needy and the aged.
In 1989, he flew to Tunis where he met Yasser Arafat and urged him to renounce terrorism and enter into peace negotiations with Israel. The meeting with the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization earned Nathan six months in an Israeli prison, but he was undeterred and continued such meetings following his release. By that time other Israelis had also begun to have meetings with Arafat and other PLO 0fficials, even though such meetings were illegal. Nathan was again sentenced to prison for initiating meetings with the enemy and for calling for the law against meeting with them to be abrogated. International organizations demanded his release, but Nathan himself refused to express contrition or to ask for a pardon. President Chaim Herzog nonetheless pardoned him after he had been behind bars for 173 days.
Toward the end of 1993, financially strapped by his many humanitarian activities, Nathan decided to stop broadcasting and to sink the ship. The last song he broadcast was Pete Seeger’s “We shall Overcome.”
In September 1996, Nathan suffered a stroke and remained disabled for the rest of his life, eventually losing his ability to speak. He died in August 2008 at the age of 81. He is survived by two daughters: Sharona, who was born in wedlock, and who has followed his example in taking up humanitarian activities, albeit on not so wide a scale; and rowing champion Yasmin Feingold, who was born out of wedlock and who Nathan refused to acknowledge.
■ ROMANIAN PRESIDENT Klaus Iohannis is due to arrive in Israel next week on a state visit aimed at attracting greater Israeli investment in his country. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein met Iohannis last October when he visited Romania. While Israel has good relations with most of the countries that were once part of the Soviet Bloc, the relations with Romania are particularly special, as Romania was the only Communist country that did not break off relations with Israel; and the notorious Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu even helped to facilitate the meeting between Sadat and prime minister Menachem Begin which led to the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.
Iohannis is particularly keen to attract greater Israeli investment to his country.
■ FIRST THERE was the close connection between those Holocaust survivors turned back by the British and placed in prison camps in Cyprus. Then there was the establishment of diplomatic relations between Cyprus and Israel. Then there was the potential for both countries to benefit economically from the off-shore gas fields in the Mediterranean. Then there were meetings to this effect between Cypriot and Israeli officials at the highest levels, and now close connections are being forged between the chambers of commerce of both countries.
A delegation of the Tel Aviv and Central Region Chamber of Commerce, headed by Uriel Lynn, was hosted last weekend by the Limassol Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which is headed by Costas Galatariotis.
In the course of the visit to Cyprus a cooperation agreement between the two chambers of commerce was signed, and it was decided that the Limassol Chamber would pay a reciprocal visit to Israel, in particular to check out the possibilities of greater cooperation in the fields of tourism, technology and service industries.
Their itinerary in this regard will be facilitated by Zeev Lavie, who heads the international relations division of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce in Israel.
Lavie was also a member of the delegation that went to Limassol and then continued on to Nicosia for a meeting with Phidias Pilides, the president of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The latter meeting was also attended Ambassador to Cyprus Yael Ravia-Zadok.
Among the issues raised at the meeting was the continuation of the strategic cooperation that was initiated by the governments of Israel, Cyprus and Greece at the historic meeting that took place in Nicosia at the end of January this year. It was decided that a joint team would be appointed by both chambers to consult among themselves about the best ways in which to improve strategic practices to benefit both countries.