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Netanyahu. No longer 'King Bibi' Photo: Alex Kolomoisky
Netanyahu. No longer 'King Bibi' Photo: Alex Kolomoisky
 
 

A king of flesh and blood

Op-ed: If Netanyahu wants to return to TIME's 100 list, he must reinvent himself by making tough decisions

Baruch Leshem
Published: 04.24.13, 20:01 / Israel Opinion

Finance Minister Yair Lapid has been selected as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2013 by TIME magazine. Lapid was the only Israeli on the list, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who was included on it in 2011 and 2012 – was left out.

 

What importance should we attribute to this choice? After all, the exact same paper selected Netanyahu as "King Bibi" only last year. The initial thought is that we shouldn't take this rating culture, which affects the world's most prestigious newspapers as well, too seriously. But wait a minute, Netanyahu himself took his "crowning" in 2012 very seriously. His office sent out a press release about the entire event as if he had just won the Nobel Prize in politics.

 

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The prime minister's political rise began after all in the United States, when he was Israel's ambassador at the United Nations in the 1980s. His appearances on American media and enthusiastic reports by commentators there turned him into the political "star is born" here. Now, when he is fading there, what will be his status here?

 

So what should the prime minister conclude from the new TIME 100 list: The king is dead, long live the new king? And more importantly, what does Netanyahu plan to do? In the past, his response to image troubles was to reinvent himself. After he was defeated in the 1999 elections, we got the national politician who rises above political disputes. It's now time for another facelift.

 

This might explain why Netanyahu appeared on satirical television show "Eretz Nehederet" on Independence Day. So far, he has refused to take part in entertainment programs. Perhaps he saw an advantage in a slightly distant leadership. The man sitting on the hill.

 

Late Minister Dr. Yosef Burg once explained the difference between a mountain and a minister. "A mountain, the closer you get to it – the bigger it looks. A minister, the closer you get – the smaller it looks." Appearing on a satirical show is too intimate and could present the politician as a regular guy. Netanyahu has tried to build his image as being above the common folk.

 

Netanyahu wasn't born nice

"What's wrong with me?" Netanyahu must have asked himself when the two Facebook boys, Lapid and Bennett, who were never even Knesset members before, beat him in the elections. Can his biography, a two-time prime minister, be compared to that of those who served in the past as a television presenter and a high-tech man?

 

After responding affirmatively to the Hamlet-style question, to be or not to be, all that is left for him is to decide who to be. He chose to be Yair Lapid. Netanyahu, who is no stranger to any television trick, didn't think it would be too complicated. An easygoing appearance, some punch lines and self-deprecating humor, which could be prepared in advance with people who are proficient in this field, allegedly guaranteed a winning performance.

 

Netanyahu's problem is that he wasn't born nice. What seems as a natural flow of human warmth and love of fellowman with Clinton and Obama, who appeared on such programs, is perceived with Netanyahu as cold and calculated. From this point of view he is similar to Ehud Barak. They are both programmed and digital: RoboCop Barak and Transformer Netanyahu. We must also remember that the prime minister is already one of our older leaders, so his attempt to launch a new career as a comedian could be perceived as too late and perhaps even pathetic.

 

The new Netanyahu cannot settle for posing as a nice person. It didn't help Barak either when he appeared on "Eretz Nehederet" in the past, and he crashed in the 2009 elections. Netanyahu will have to reinvent himself in a field which he has found difficult so far: Making important political decisions. That is, if he wants to return to the TIME list of 100 most influential leaders.

 

 

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