Volume 3, Number 155
'There's a Jewish story everywhere'

Sunday-Monday, July 12-13, 2009


Sometimes a father can be a politician's big problem

By Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM—Fathers are a problem.

A television journalist interviewed Ben Zion Netanyahu

Dad long ago set himself off from the Israeli establishment by his extreme right wing views. The prime minister has not denied his parentage, but neither has he emphasized it. Since his first term as prime minister, he has also kept his wife away from the cameras and microphones, but that is another story.

Ben Zion still has most of his buttons, or at least a much larger percentage than most 100 year olds. Commentators have asked if it was wise or fair to interview someone of his age, and then quote him on a matter of public importance.

Ben Zion would not have accepted the idea of a Palestinian state. But no matter, his son imposed conditions on the establishment of a state that no Palestinian could accept.

The interviewer asked if that was Ben Zion's conclusion.

He heard it from his son, the prime minister.

I once encountered Ben Zion when he was a younger man of about 90. The occasion was a visit at memorial week for a mutual acquaintance. Ben Zion talked about all the famous people he had met. I don't recall him pausing long enough to allow anyone to ask a question or make a comment about him, his experiences, or the chap whose passing we were there to commemorate.

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Does Ben Zion's latest bit of fame cause any problems for the prime minister?

Not likely.

Anyone listening to Bibi's speech in response to Barack Obama's speech should have known what he was doing without his father's explanation. Soon after the speech there were condemnations from Arabs and others on the same point that we now hear that Bibi told his father.

Dad adds to the noise, but as Shakespeare wrote some time ago, sound and fury signify nothing.

Ben Zion's news joins the American demand, repeated by several officials, that Israel stop all construction in the West Bank, including the new neighborhoods of Jerusalem.

The latest news from on high is that construction continues on about 2,000 units. The latest from below is that Varda ordered curtains not only for the dining room, but also for one of the bedrooms. As yet, no inspector from the US State Department has arrived to stop the transaction.

Other news from the heights is that Obama has not abandoned his commitment to engagement with North Korea and Iran. The president of France said that Israel would create an international catastrophe if it attacked Iran. The Germans are joining the Americans in demanding a stop to Israeli construction in the West Bank.

A friend asks why it is more objectionable for a Jew to build a house than for a Muslim to build an atomic bomb.

American unemployment is reaching toward 10 percent, and the Bush-Obama efforts to save the economy might not be doing it. A major proposal to reform health care is eroding toward a minor adjustment due to the objections expected.

Will Change rule the world, or will it be the Highwaymen's refrain that the road goes on forever.

I'll bet on the Highwaymen.

Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University. Email: msira@mscc.huji.ac.il

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