Netanyahu's trial as opposition leader begins with Biden - analysis
August 29, 2021 at 9:08 pm, No comments
During the 2006 Second Lebanon War, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu went to England for six days to help with Israel’s public-relations efforts.
He was interviewed day and night and spoke to more than 1,000 people at London’s Kinloss Synagogue. While that visit is remembered by Israelis more for the £1,000 a night that a well-meaning Manchester philanthropist paid for his stay at the posh Connaught Hotel, Londoners recall that Netanyahu helped defend Israel tremendously during the war, and then-prime minister Ehud Olmert appreciated it, too.
Fast-forward 15 years, and Netanyahu is reportedly staying at a much more expensive hotel, the Four Seasons on Hawaii’s Lanai Island, where a penthouse suite costs $21,000 per night. He was seen doing Pilates in a photograph revealed by Haaretz political correspondent Michael Hauser-Tov.
But Netanyahu has found time during his vacation to criticize Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. He has tweeted that Bennett’s failures fighting the coronavirus have cost lives, retweeted articles about the number of new cases in Israel approaching 10,000 a day and tweeted and then deleted the word “shameful” about Bennett confusing the name of soldier Bar-el Shmueli, who was wounded on the Gaza border.
The former prime minister retweeted a post from 103FM about Shmueli’s mother saying Netanyahu had called and cried with her on the phone, and Bennett called 10 and a half hours later but did not even know her son’s name or where he is hospitalized.
There is nothing wrong with working on vacation, even in Hawaii. With so many potential replacements in Likud hoping he decides to stay there, it is understandable that Netanyahu would want to make sure his presence is felt.
But the next three days will be a test for Netanyahu, or to use a word more associated with him in recent years – a trial period.
It is traditional in Israel that when a prime minister goes abroad, the opposition does not criticize him. Bennett left on Tuesday for Washington, where he will meet on Thursday with US President Joe Biden.
Regardless of political views, it is obviously critical for Israel that the meeting goes well – much better than the first meeting in the White House between Netanyahu and then-president Barack Obama.
Will Netanyahu support Bennett, as he did as opposition leader for Olmert? Or will he give in to the natural temptation to tweet against him?
To prove his statesmanship, Netanyahu could order his Likud Party and its MKs to not tweet anything at all. He could even go further and tell the same to his son Yair, who tweeted from the hotel that Bennett is “the peak of human ugliness, inside and outside.”
If he does that, it would send a message that Netanyahu remains prime ministerial even as the leader of the opposition.