Netanyahu didn’t know. We have a first-hand witness to this: Knesset Member Nachman Shai, who was at the PM’s Office Tuesday evening when Netanyahu got the news. Shai arrived in order to present his doctoral dissertation on the issue of public relations to Bibi. Netanyahu was supposed to later leave the office and return to his home in order to host Joe Biden and his wife for an intimate dinner.
The conversation flawed easily. After all, it was about an issue that both Shai and Netanyahu are deeply familiar with. Shai detailed his thesis and the importance of Israel’s public relations efforts being concentrated under one source of authority – a system that can both collect the information and pass it on.
And then, ironically, Spokesman Nir Hefetz entered the room and informed the prime minister about the mess that was just materializing. Netanyahu was stunned, Shai says. It certainly appeared as though the news came out of the blue. The PM quickly made phone calls to his aides and to the interior minister; it appeared that he was gradually grasping the scope of the mishap.
What’s happening to us? What kind of a joke do we have for a government? How do we manage to turn every friendly American visit into a farce? How do we manage to embarrass a friend like Joe Biden, who arrived here in order to express the US Administration’s support for Israel and reassert the confidence that our mutual ties constitute a deep partnership of values and interests?
Foolishness, indifference, and insensitivity
Netanyahu could have complained of not knowing, misfortune, bureaucracy, a miserable coincidence, or anything else. After all, how could he predict that the district committee in Jerusalem would approve the construction of 1,600 residential units precisely on the same day when the US vice president is here? Yet had the PM really wanted to know what’s happening right under his nose, instead of sticking his head in the sand, he could have done it.
For example, Netanyahu could have ensured that the new planning and construction legislation would call for a representative on his behalf at the district committee. Alternately, he could have demanded that he be informed of anything on the committee’s agenda. This is not an original idea: It was happening during the Olmert government’s term in office.
Yet it appears that again we are dealing with disorderly conduct by the Prime Minister’s Office that allows such grave matter to materialize. Time and again, we see incidents happening here that attest to foolishness, indifference, and insensitivity. Otherwise, how could it be that every time an American envoy arrives here, ranging from George Mitchell to Hillary Clinton to Joe Biden, we embarrass them with acts that look like sticking a finger in one’s eye?