When Bibi’s good: Netanyahu and the shutdown


For a leader who has made his name as a great communicator, Benjamin Netanyahu has been taking some hits lately, particularly when it comes to the U.S. - Iran relations.

The American Jewish Committee and some of his Knesset colleagues think he’s too shrill. He keeps on saying – most recently in his U.N. speech – that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hassan Rouhani are two sides of the same coin, which, as I’ve previously pointed out, risks suggesting Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial was not worth noticing.

On Piers Morgan’s CNN show, though, he delivered a master class in communication. And his topic was not Iran – but the U.S. government shutdown.

Morgan brings it up – it’s an inevitable question for a leading recipient of U.S. defense assistance – and Netanyahu is ready, not with a plaint, but a solution.

First, he flatters the American system as “probably the best political system in the world,” and better than Israel’s.

Then, in precise, paced tones he structures in three or four sentences how Israel passes budgets. It’s a classic MBA pitch, and could handily be delivered over pre-dinner drinks at an upscale steakhouse: First the problem – not long ago, Israel also couldn’t pass budgets; then the solution: If no budget is passed by Dec. 31, the previous year’s kicks in automatically, and if within six months there’s still no budget, there are new elections.

Then he leans in for the kill, the punchline, delivered as an intimacy: “And you know what Piers? We. Always. Get. A. Budget.”

Ron Kampeas is JTA’s Washington bureau chief, responsible for coordinating coverage in the U.S. capital and analyzing political developments that affect the Jewish world. He comes to JTA from The Associated Press, where he worked for more than a decade in its bureaus in Jerusalem, New York, London and, most recently, Washington. He has reported from Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, Bosnia and West Africa. While living in Israel, he also worked for the Jerusalem Post and several Jewish organizations.