Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not in the habit of giving many interviews. Netanyahu, currently in his third term, prefers to steer clear of the Israeli media, evading questions and stressful encounters with journalists. While he does give the occasional interview to foreign media, the prime minister prefers to communicate with the Israeli public through speeches and recorded messages he recites at openings of Cabinet meetings.
The 33rd government will mark a year in power next month. Fourty-four meetings have been held since the first meeting on March 19, 2013, and against the backdrop of his silence, the messages Netanyahu delivers to the public at the cabinet meetings are meant to signal us what his plans are, what issues are him and his ministers dealing with, and what issues are important to him – and it's hard to say that these are the same issues that bother the public.
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A Ynet investigation reveals that national security (32 references) and Iran (19 references, with some overlaps) are two central topics that have preoccupied Netanyahu in the past year. Each week, the prime minister repeats the well-known messages in front of the cameras: We will not give in to pressure, we have no one to trust but ourselves, we will respond to any provocation against us, and in general – we will fight terrorism and maintain the security of the nation's people.
Netanyahu made sure he addressed security matters in practically every meeting. In many cases, the topics were related to Iran and the nuclear talks. Syria also came up frequently in Netanyhu's remarks, as well as negotiations with the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority's incitement against Israel.
Economic and social issues were also addressed, but the topic of housing, by all accounts a burning issue for many Israelis, was barely mentioned.
Poverty? Never heard of it
The subject of cyber-security and Israel's successful high-tech sector are of interest to Netanyahu, as is reflected in his remarks, much more than the housing crisis, the high cost of living, or poverty. In fact, the issue of poverty was never mentioned (except once, in relation to aid for Holocaust survivors), even on days in which reports about Israel's highest poverty rate among OECD countries topped the headlines.
The issue of infiltrators and asylum seekers from Africa (referenced six times) and attempts to boycott or hurt Israel's status in the world (five times) showed up on Netanyahu's table more frequently than the housing shortage. In terms of international relations, the friction in relations with the US prompted the prime minister to make 13 references to the United States at the openings of the meetings. Europe was mentioned five times, and international organizations were addressed seven times.
The topic of education (six references) has the same priority as infiltrators, as reflected by the prime minister's remarks.
Netanyahu does not appear to be particularly interested in the issue of equal share of burden and drafting of yeshiva students. He mentioned the issue only four times, and always within general statements, without taking a firm stand on the dispute that threatened to topple his coalition.
A rough categorization of the subjects can be sorted according to their number of citations (including overlaps):
1. Security (IDF, military operations, Shin Bet, terrorism)
3. Palestinians (negotiations, incitement, Gaza, Hamas, the bi-national State option, de-legitimization)
5. The United States
7. Infiltrators, cyber-security, homeland security and education
8. Cost of living, housing, equal share of burden and health.
Other topics were mentioned only several times: Jonathan Pollard, the home front, natural gas, racism in society, Jerusalem, sports and immigrants to Israel.