Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The First Time Netanyahu Ran for Prime Minister: New Blood, American Style

This was Benjamin Netanyahu's first entry, in what turned out to be the start of his career as Israel's Prime Minister.  For the first time in Israel's history, a good looking guy with communication skills brought new blood to Israeli politics. A 'Generational leap' he called it.

Below are some excerpts From the NY Times, March 1993:
"I'm Bibi's lover," the bumper sticker said in Hebrew grammar reserved for women.
The car owner's message, with its deliberate wink and leer, left it to passers-by to imagine whether she was talking about the bedroom or the voting booth.

Definitely the voting booth, says Bibi, better known as Benjamin Netanyahu, a former Deputy Foreign Minister and delegate to the United Nations.

Indeed, Mr. Netanyahu is loved by many in Israeli politics, and, having weathered a noisy bedroom scandal, he stands poised to assume control of Israel's once dominant, now struggling, opposition Likud Party this week. It means that Mr. Netanyahu, whose television skills and command of idiomatic English have made him instantly recognizable to many Americans, now has a chance of realizing his ambition to become Israel's next Prime Minister. 

Political power will pass from Israel's founders to its sons, from the worn-out Likud leadership of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, 77 years old, to a group of fortysomethings. Labor, while led now by Mr. Rabin, 71, is not many years from a similar transition. 
Also at issue is the evolving nature of Israeli politics, which no longer has the clubbiness of the days when leaders could count on their loyalists in the parties' relatively small central committees. Now there are primaries and voters to seduce -- a system starting to resemble American-style Presidential politics.

And there is television, which Mr. Netanyahu, 43, has mastered with good looks, sculpted sound bites and a brand of campaigning that includes crisscrossing the country by bus, not unlike an Arkansan who made it to the White House.

"This is a first test of the new politics," said Yitzhak Galnor, a political science professor at Hebrew University. "Bibi is the product of mass media, playing on image.