Netanyahu in NYT interview: Churchill & Herzl were even more alone

Amid tensions with paper, Israel’s PM speaks with New York Times. Although Netanyahu reiterates intentions regarding Iran, the paper chooses to focus on his growing isolation, taking jab at Netanyahu, saying ‘such isolation is hardly new to man with few personal friends’.

By Yitzhak Benhorin

 

WASHINGTON – Only a week and a half after taking a jab at the New York Times during his UN speech – a move that earned him a critical op-ed in the prestigious paper – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave the paper an interview as part of his current media blitz.

Netanyahu at UNGA (Photo: AFP)

Netanyahu at UNGA – Photo: AFP

The story mostly focused on Netanyahu himself and depicted the Israeli leader as growing more and more isolated because of his hawkish stance on Iran – a position which according to NYT, the prime minister is no stranger to.

The prestigious New York paper, which has had a bumpy relationship with Israel and Netanyahu recently, noted that in his office, Netanyahu has two pictures of men he admires for recognizing “danger in time”: Winston Churchill and Theodor Herzl.

“They were alone a lot more than I am,” Netanyahu told the paper which noted that “such isolation is hardly new to a man with few personal friends and little faith in allies,” adding that the prime minister “shuns guests for Sabbath meals.”

According to the NYT, Netanyahu is “increasingly alone abroad and at home, where he has lost several trusted aides and cabinet colleagues.”

The story delves into Netanyahu’s Iranian policy, calling it an almost “obsessive” focus which critics and supports alike claim is a “Messianic crusade”.

Despite being secular, the New York Times said that Netanyahu fancies himself a “leader of destiny” vis a vis the Iranian threat: “We’re here for a purpose – I’m here for a purpose,” Netanyahu is quoted as telling the paper.

“(The purpose) is to defend the future of the Jewish people, which means to defend the Jewish state. Defending it from a nuclear Iran.

“I’m not going to let that happen,” Netanyahu reportedly added. “It’s not going to happen,” the paper wrote, noting Netanyahu’s insistence over the past two decades that Iran completely halt its uranium enrichment.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – Photo: AP

The paper depicts Netanyahu’s Iranian policy as based on the Israeli leader’s conception of history as much as of the historical process itself. “You use history to understand the present and chart the future – history is a map,” Netanyahu explained.

“You know what a map is? A map is a crystallization of the main things you need to know to get from one place to another,” and, as the paper noted, Netanyahu believes that “if people would just study the facts, they would surely side with him.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - Photo: Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – Photo: Reuters

“Netanyahu is most comfortable predicting disaster, scaring people into doing something,” Mitchell Barak, a former Netanyahu consultant is quoted as saying. “The problem is now he’s lost momentum. His message is clear, his message is the same, the situation is the same, but everyone else’s perspective has changed. It’s like you’re the only one in a dark room with a flashlight.”

An unnamed Israeli official quoted in the story commented on the tense relationship between Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama. “There’s a deep mutual understanding that we are what there is, there aren’t any other relationships like this, they’re all strained,” the Israeli said.

“That doesn’t mean it’s going to be Bill and Yitzhak,” he said, referencing President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin‘s warm relations. “It doesn’t have to be Bill and Yitzhak. They get one another.”

The paper also noted some personal and private information about Netanyahu. In addition to noting the public criticism at his cigar smoking and life style, the paper also reported that the prime minister has lost 4.5 kg (10 pounds) since undergoing a hernia operation and sits with his son Avner 45 minutes every week to study the weekly Torah portion. The paper also claimed Netanyahu is currently reading “Civilization” by Neil Ferguson and watches the Renaissance-era political drama The Borgias.

After Netanyahu delivered his speech at the UN General Assembly, the paper published a scathing editorial in which it claimed Netanyahu was trying to “sabotage the best chance” to restore relations between the West and Iran.

“Netanyahu has legitimate reasons to be wary of any Iranian overtures… but it could be disastrous if he and his supporters in Congress were so blinded by distrust of Iran that they exaggerate the threat, block President Obama from taking advantage of new diplomatic openings and sabotage the best chance to establish a new relationship since the 1979 Iranian revolution sent American-Iranian relations into the deep freeze,” the editorial stated.

Addressing the General Assembly, Netanyahu countered Rohani’s “charm offensive” by calling the Iranian president a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and urged the international community not to ease sanctions on Iran until it dismantles its nuclear program.

In a jab at the New York Times, he noted that the paper had praised the diplomacy that produced a 1994 agreement between the US and North Korea to freeze and replace its nuclear program, noting that only a year later Pyongyang held a missile test.

 

View original Ynet publication at: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4439579,00.html

 

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