The question is no longer whether Israel will be represented at Nelson Mandela's funeral. Let's admit it: Mandela would not have sobbed in grief had he been told that the prime minister of Israel would be absent from his funeral. It seems that hypocrisy was not one of the traits the former South African president was fond of. And what can you do, even those who refuse to see Israel as an apartheid state can understand why the Israeli policy in the territories could give Mandela's fans heartburn.
But as I said, that is not the question. The really important question is why is our governmental conduct so twisted? How is it that we reached the very last moment to get to the memorial ceremony in time, and the identity of the state representative who would get on the plane was still unclear?
Over the weekend, it was almost certain that President Peres would be the one to attend the funeral. It also seemed to be the right thing: If we're already sticking a finger in the South African eye, that finger might as well belong to Peres, who still represents a different policy in the world's eyes, not to mention his personal relationship with Mandela.
But then Netanyahu decided that he would go. Sorry, that he and Sara would go. Because, as you know, Netanyahu doesn't travel without Sara, and Sara doesn’t stay in Israel without Bibi, not even for a day. Why does Mrs. Netanyahu have to join every trip the prime minister takes abroad – that's a question from a different field, which actually has more to do with Mrs. Netanyahu's profession. But here's another way to reduce Netanyahu's travel costs: He can travel alone. That's not impossible. There are quite a few people, including great leaders, businesspeople, artists and common people, who do that sometimes. Netanyahu may discover that the travel costs can be reduced quite a lot when he travels on his own.
Several hours after Netanyahu informed Peres that he and Sara were going, the President's Residence received another phone call from the Prime Minister's Office, informing him that they would not be going after all. The reason cited was the high cost of the trip. Netanyahu's decision not to travel for that reason is an insult to intelligence. The global coverage, with every remote television station quoting the reasons for the trip's cancellation – that's already an insult to the State.
First of all, the costs could have been checked before the trip was announced. And if a decision is made not to go, there is no need to elaborate on the reasons. So if this excuse is just part of Netanyahu's dispute with those criticizing him over his expense account – it's a bit pathetic. It’s unthinkable that Netanyahu can't tell the difference between an official trip to an event attended by all of the world's leaders and grandiose water bills or expenses related to personal hedonism.
So now neither Netanyahu and Sara nor the ill Peres are representing Israel. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein was pulled out at the last moment and put on the plane. Well, there is an advantage to the limited time after all: The mourners in South Africa won't have enough time to google his name and find out about our speaker's opinions on the occupation.
And anyway, who said that Israel has to be represented by politicians of all people? What's the matter with Israeli intellectuals who are famous all over the world, someone like David Grossman for instance? Or Amos Oz. The presence of a person like Grossman would not only have reduced the costs significantly – it would have also guaranteed that Mandela would not turn in his grave.