My Word: Now you see them, now you don't

Global movers and shakers are on the go. And now for something completely different.

liat collins 88 (photo credit: )
liat collins 88
(photo credit: )
Israeli TV culture keeps changing. I use the term "culture" lightly. And I can't promise that the change is for the better. But it occurred to me the other day watching the coverage of the pope's visit - broadcast extensively on ITV's Channel 1 - that the "split-screen" syndrome might be a thing of the past. There was a period when the station, trying to cope with more than one major story at a time, would offer a splintered view of life (and sometimes death) with footage from a soccer match competing with images from the aftermath of a terrorist attack in a combination which left the viewer feeling vaguely nauseous. It was like struggling to see everything through broken glasses. Lately, the fractured screen has given way to the jumpy announcer, bouncing between one subject and the next, one place and another, in this increasingly small world. Perhaps the most over-used phrase among Hebrew-speaking broadcasters is, "Bema'avar had..," both announcing and apologizing for a "sharp transition" in the same breath. This is a way to combine the coverage of Pope Benedict XVI's political pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the bonfires and celebrations of Lag Ba'omer, the rock concert by Depeche Mode at Ramat Gan Stadium and the story of the budget cuts all in one broadcast. Meanwhile... It's not just the subjects which keep jumping - from the selflessness of a fallen soldier to the hazards of a poisonous fish - the people, too, seem to be everywhere at the same time. I sometimes suspect that VIPs have been secretly equipped with some kind of improved Time-Turner, that time travel device thought up by J.K. Rowling which allows the bearer to be in more than one place at the same time. One moment there was Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu greeting the pontiff at Ben-Gurion Airport, and the next - or at least by the afternoon news broadcasts - there he was emerging from a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Sharm e-Sheikh. One second he was deliberating on the budget and sparring with IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, and the next, the talk was of his scheduled trip to the US and May 18 meeting with Barack Obama. It is, perhaps, the gift of this generation's leading politicians that they can jump from subject to subject and place to place without so much as batting an eyelid - or maybe that's actually their secret form of travel. Blink. Now you see them, now you don't. MUCH HAS been made of the possible collision course between US President Barack Obama and the Israeli premier, if they stay in the same place long enough to collide. But the two do have certain things in common. In a talk on a seminar on American foreign policy given at the University of Haifa ahead of Netanyahu's trip, Dr. James Lindsay of the University of Texas and former adviser to the United States Commission on National Security said the media have been exaggerating the differences between the two. Obama will not put Netanyahu up against the wall - or make that security barrier - at their meeting in Washington, according to Lindsay. Nonetheless, Obama will likely say some things that Netanyahu would rather not hear (and might, indeed, try to block out). Lindsay said Obama will use his power "smartly," and will not rush into any resolutions or decisions to achieve a peace treaty in the Middle East. "Obama won't be as good as you hope, or as bad as you fear," said Lindsay in response to the lingering concerns expressed by many Israelis in regards to Obama's decisions for change in American foreign policy. It is, however, hard to determine what to think or hope for when the picture surrounding both men is so jerky. One second there is Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad smiling as he launches satellites and reviews military parades through the streets of Teheran. The next, he is addressing a UN conference in Geneva (named after Durban). Here's a world discussing the "two-state" solution as if Hamas in Gaza were still on the same road map as Fatah in the West Bank; there's a forum promoting a "two-track" plan, as if Damascus is on the road to some kind of peacenik epiphany. Obama, being hailed as a "man of peace," is getting tough in Afghanistan. Netanyahu - so often described as "hawkish" that it could be considered part of his title - is hinting in Sharm e-Sheikh that talks with the Palestinians will be resumed soon. In fact, the working lunch in Sharm seems to have been a jaunt aimed mainly at showing Obama how much the Israeli premier has changed since his first term in office. The US president is also learning how to become a master of the "now you see him, now you don't" school of diplomacy, expected to pop over to Cairo to address the Arab and Muslim world on June 4 - moving so speedily that he won't even have time to drop in on Jerusalem. (This is much to the relief of the Jerusalemites who have been going nowhere fast with all the traffic detours caused by the pope's visit.) By June 5, it's time for Obama to show his charm in Europe. The jumping around (whoosh - was that Jordan's King Abdullah II in Washington?) is making the term "movers and shakers" more appropriate than ever. Hopefully, we'll find they can all move so smoothly that relations won't be strained. Just the transitions.