Every dictator has to have an enforcer. Every political leader needs a pitbull. Someone who will bare their fangs at the master’s command. Bibi Netanyahu has always had his own personal pit bulls. They’ve changed over time, as pit bulls sometimes turn on their masters and must be disposed of.
Netanyahu (and particularly Sara) are obsessed with media coverage. Unflattering stories enrage them. In fact, that’s what got him into such hot water with the state prosecutor; he bartered millions of dollars worth of regulatory breaks to a media owner in return for favorable coverage on his news channel. That is now one of the corruption counts against him.
So Bibi needs a media bully or two. He’s found one in the former editor of the far-right Israeli daily, Maariv. Shai Golden. When he lost his job, Bibi placed him as a news anchor on Channel 14, where he launches his attack dog tirades. In fact, I imagine him sitting in a room where Sara shows him pictures of the Enemy of the Day and barks; KILL! Golan then lunges at the picture and tears it to shreds. Then Sara pats him on the head and says: “Good boy! Now go off to the cameras and take care of him like a good boy.”
But yesterday’s rant went far beyond targeting the usual suspects. This time he sank his teeth into a US secretary of state, telling him to “get his nose” out of Israeli affairs and mind his own business. He claimed that Blinken insulted Israel by considering it a vassal state forced to do US bidding.
This of course is a line used by dictators for centuries. Build up resentment. Grievance: they demean us. They insult us. They treat us like dirt. We won’t stand for it. Such resentment comes in very handy at the ballot box. A voter properly conditioned with anger and resentment will vote the right way, just like Pavlov’s dog salivating at the ring of the bell. It’s instinctual.
Netanyahu is a master of such political games. He plays the Israeli public like a fiddle. And in fact, I’ve featured here a video of him regaling a family of settlers telling them not to worry about the Americans. They think I will honor the Oslo Accords. Let them think it, I’ll do what I want. Because “I have them wrapped around my little finger.” He is the master manipulator. And he gets a little help from friends like Shai Golden, who barks with just the right cadence in this insulting anti-American rant:
Good morning to the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken: Sir, you are confused. A different government rules Israel. It’s not Yair Lapid and his pals. Nor Naftali Bennett and his pals. This is not the previous unstable and weak government. Really weak. By the way, Bennett was weak. They were weak. They said to the Americans they would not take any actions without coordination and, in effect, permitted the Americans to conduct Israeli foreign policy. Antony Blinken was used to having Yair Lapid on his speed-dial. He could manipulate him right and left [like a puppet] as he wished.
There is another government in Israel [now]. A sovereign government elected by a huge majority. A sweeping majority, even larger than the Democratic victory in recent US elections. As we are very, very, very careful, because every attempt by Israel to interfere in American politics has been met with rebuke from them, every time an Israel speaks out or takes action involving American political affairs.
So we are asking very, very nicely: keep your nose out of internal Israeli matters. Obviously, the US presence in Israel is welcomed. But in things that are internal affairs [to Israel], let us take care of things ourselves. We’ve gotten along fine without your help. We will never interfere with American sovereignty. And I hope that you who made such efforts for us as allies, rather than as a satellite state or a lesser state; because there is a new prime minister here who is nobody’s clown, Mr. Blinken. So safe trip back to America, Mr. Blinken.
I hope you succeeded in getting commitments or even action regarding Iran’s nuclear program. But you were confused: we are not a satellite state of the US. We are not the 51st state. We are the State of Israel. And we have a sovereign government with a prime minister who knows quite well how to protect the interests of Israel without harming them–both foreign and domestic. And a very good morning to you, Antony Blinken.