Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I am still a bit excited. After all, not on a daily basis do I get the opportunity to ride along in the car of a former ( and possibly future ) Israeli Prime Minister, and to ask him questions for about ten minutes. For quite a while I tried to get an interview with Binyamin Nethanyahu for a Belgian-Jewish magazine. Through someone very close to me ( S., who normally has or is able to somehow get indirect or direct access to most members of Israel's political who-is-who ) I already got into contact with a close asociate of Nethanyahu, but I did not get any further. With all the political turmoil in Israel these days as part of the aftermath of the second Lebanon War it is hard to have an audience with people like Bibi and Ehud Barak. They are not too eager to speak right now and prefer to wait until the conclusions and recommendations of the Winograd commission become known. Otherwise they run the risk of being politically damaged as well by those conclusions, it is much wiser to wait, see, and talk later. Yesterday S. attended the Mimouna-celebrations in the city where I live. There he heard that Bibi would be visiting the city today for the festival, and when he learnt about my efforts to get an interview Mr Nethanyahu the mayor said that he would see what he could do. This morning S. told me to come to the city hall, where an intimate meeting of some local VIPs with Bibi would take place. After Mr Nethanyahu arrived all of us - about 15 persons - sat down in the mayor's office. After some small talk and a few to-the-point statements - that could not be quoted: when he saw one journalist taking notes Bibi spoke severely to him, saying that this was a private conversation; I put back my notebook into my bag without anybody noticing - the three or four journalists who attended were allowed to ask very few questions ( one of the quotes you can find here and here, I was there when the Yedioth and Ha'Aretz reporters asked the question ). I managed to squeeze one in ( about Europe and Iran ) but did not have the chance to get anything that even remotely might resemble a serious interview. When everybody rose to leave the room the mayor called me to him. He introduced me to Mr Nethanyahu, and I asked him if I could ask him some more questions. He said that he had no time, he was on his way to another location in the city, but that I could join him in the car, where he would answer my questions. We walked to his car, and two of his body guards stopped me. Apparently both the mayor and Bibi told them it was o.k., because seconds later the security men called me back and told me to enter the car. There I sat for about ten minutes literally at Bibi's feet ( I could have hugged his knees if I wanted ), and I was able to ask him all the questions that I wanted to ask, except for a few that I had come to understand he would not answer anyway. When we arrived at the next stop - the central Mimouna celebration in our town - I was the first to get out of the car, right into the arms of the television crews that were waiting, not for me I guess. All in all, an interesting and fascinating experience. Although I do not always agree with him politically I have to admit that Binyamin Nethanyahu - who was a hero for me many years before I came to live here - remains a captivating and enchanting orator and PR-man, presumably the best in this field in Israel.

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