Netanyahu’s interview with Aryeh Golan was more of the same - opinion

The interview was typical of recent interviews given by Netanyahu in which he insists on talking about what he wants to talk about, refuses to answer inconvenient questions, or lies.

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel last week.  (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel last week.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Last Monday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was interviewed by veteran radio broadcaster Aryeh Golan on the KAN Reshet Bet morning newscast.
The interview was typical of recent interviews given by Netanyahu in which he insists on talking about what he wants to talk about, refuses to answer inconvenient questions, or lies without shame in reply, while accusing the media in general and the interviewer in particular of “fake news,” dishonesty and ignorance.
The interviewer, on his part, usually (but not always) tries to remain polite in return, but as the interview progresses, loses patience and becomes increasingly agitated and rude. Golan is one of those who manages to keep at least a semblance of composure.
In the course of the interview, Netanyahu – as usual – repeatedly stated that he was personally responsible for bringing the COVID-19 vaccines to Israel for all the Israelis, adding that he had made 30 phone calls to the CEOs of Pfizer and Moderna (the previous time I had heard him, he mentioned 13 phone calls), and that since it would probably be necessary to vaccinate the whole Israeli population twice next year (there is no verification for this assumption), Israel will have to acquire 36 million vaccines next year.
“Who will do this, I or sevel [suffering] – that is the acronym of Sa’ar, Bennett and Lapid.”
This was after Netanyahu had mentioned the vaccines two dozen times, accompanied by I, I, I. When Golan mentioned the close to 6,000 Israelis who have died from the pandemic, he failed to get any expression of sympathy from Netanyahu, whose reaction was: “Ask the Paka Paka [i.e., blah, blah, blah], Shasha Shasha [i.e., MK Dr. Yifat Shasha-Biton from Gideon Sa’ar’s party].”
When Golan suggested that the way Netanyahu had taken the decision to supply states he is pleased with with vaccines from Israel’s stock, without consulting any of the relevant authorities in Israel – such as the Foreign and Health ministries, and wondered out loud whether this indicated that he was fed up with the democratic system, Netanyahu’s reply was “na, na, na, na – what’s wrong with you Aryeh?”
When Golan asked Netanyahu why he insists on calling his political rivals “spreaders of illness” and “morbidity,” Netanyahu’s reply was “lies, lies – enough of these spins,” to which Golan responded: “Is it I who am lying or is it you? It is said that you are a liar....”
Among those who accused Golan of being responsible for the interview deteriorating as it did was veteran journalist Yaakov Ahimeir, who is a gentleman, and for whom I have a lot of respect, despite our political differences.
Ahimeir tweeted: “I was ashamed of the shameful, cheeky style adopted by the interviewer, Aryeh Golan, toward the prime minister. This has no comparison in any well-ordered state. It is unbelievable that this is how interviews are held.”
And what did Ahimeir think of the prime minister’s style? After all, it was the prime minister whose replies derailed the interview from any semblance of decency.
Ahimeir said nothing about the prime minister, and I cannot help wondering how he would react if a left-wing or centrist prime minister would speak to him as Netanyahu speaks to all his interviewers, except for those from Channel 20, who just look at him with sheepish admiration and nod in approval, no matter what he says.
In fact, though there are difficult interviewees from the political Center and Left, I cannot remember a single one who has ever dared put on the shameful Punch-and-Judy show similar to that which Netanyahu and some of his colleagues put on regularly.
ALL SAID and done, I do not ignore the fact that, as a rule, Israeli interviewers have a very aggressive style in their interviews, especially when the interviewee is a politician, and rarely let them complete a sentence, not to mention an argument. On their side, Israeli interviewees are often inclined to be long-winded, and to ignore the questions they are asked.
In January 1990 I interviewed Shimon Peres, who was finance minister in Yitzhak Shamir’s second national-unity government at the time, for Spectrum – an English-language monthly produced by the Labor Party until the mid-1990s, for distribution to members of the Socialist International, of which I was the editor.
At the end of the interview, Peres thanked me warmly for the interview.
“You know,” he said, “it has been a long time since anyone interviewed me and actually asked constructive, rather than provocative questions, and let me say what was on my mind.”
I was thinking about this as I recently reread the three page interview – which dealt with how Peres was coping with the thankless job of finance minister, an emotional official visit he paid to Poland, and his redlines with regards to the national-unity government – and concluded that the difference between myself in this interview and the average media interviewer then, and today, is that I was after as interesting an interview as I could get, which my not-always-friendly readership of European social democrats might find interesting, while the average media interviewer might be looking for a scoop, a scandal or a “show,” and if what they get is a Punch-and-Judy show – so much the better.
During an election campaign the interviewers’ job is much more difficult than usual. They must carry out a battle against their political interviewees who are inclined to try to use the interview for election propaganda purposes (which is forbidden by law), and at the same time – especially in the case of Likud interviewees – to ward off accusations of “fake news,” “media’s lies,” “fabricated accusations against Netanyahu, to which the media is party,” etc. Netanyahu himself has certainly contributed to this trend.
IN AN interview he gave Asaf Liberman on Channel 11 on Saturday night, Bennie Begin, who is running in the elections on Sa’ar’s list, spoke of Netanyahu’s style in the interview with Golan, and especially the Paka Paka, Shasha Shasha, na, na, na, na. He complained that the use of this kind of derogatory language, intended to humiliate his rivals, was unworthy of a prime minister, that it is arrogant, and one more reason why it is high time that Netanyahu leave office.
He compared this behavior to Dudu Topaz referring to Menachem Begin’s Mizrahi supporters as chahchahim (a derogatory word for Mizrahim) who shirk military service and break up Labor Party election rallies, in a speech at such a rally during the election campaign of 1981 – 40 years ago.
I am not certain how accurate this comparison is. Topaz was a popular but mediocre TV entertainer – Netanyahu is the prime minister of Israel, trying to gain a sixth term of office. Vive la petite différence.
The writer was a researcher in the Knesset Research and Information Center until her retirement, and recently published a book in Hebrew, The Job of the Knesset Member – An Undefined Job, soon to appear in English.