NY Times views Gilad Shalit's release as prelude to gloomy future for Israel
Ethan Bronner, the Jerusalem bureau chief of the New York Times, has a lengthy analysis in the Oct. 13 edition about the likely portent on major players in the region of Hamas's decision to release Israeli Sgt. Gilad Shalit ("Israeli-Hamas Agreement to Trade Prisoners May Reshape Politics in Region" page A6).
Bronner starts off by stating the obvious: "The prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel that is expected to begin next week could reshape regional relationships, strengthening Egypt, Hamas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel while posing an acute challenge to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank."
Quite correct. Egypt gains from its successful mediation between Hamas and Israel. Hamas gains by getting credit for the release of Palestinian prisoners. Netanyahu gains by clinching the return of Shalit, whose sad fate had mesmerized Israelis across the entire political spectrum. The big loser is the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, whose bid for statehood at the UN now has been trumped by arch-rival Hamas, which got something far more concrete -- the actual return of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
So far so good.
But unfortunately, yet not surprisingly, Bronner doesn't stop there. Giving vent to his anti-Netanyahu and anti-Israel imagination, he can't resist injecting a few poison pills against the Jewish state and its leader.
While acknowledging short-term political gains for Netanyahu, for example, Bronner nevertheless manages at the same time to whack the prime minister big-time. "Returning Sergeant Shalit to his family," he writes, "is likely to soften Mr. Netanyahu's image of someone too focused on geopolitics and insufficiently caring toward average people and their daily concerns."
How's that for a back-handed compliment. Bronner takes it as a given that Bibi doesn't sufficiently care for basic interests of average Israelis. What a gratuitous slander and what unmitigated chutzpah by Bronner to peddle his own dislike of Netanyahu under the guise of a pejorative image of the prime minister supposedly shared by average Israelis.
It just so happens that most Israelis do not happen to harbor any such image. Knowing better than Bronner what's really in their interest, they chose Netanyahu and his Likud-led coalition to run the government. And they wouldn't have done so if they saw Bibi as "someone insufficiently caring toward average people."
Actually, most Israelis, knowing better than Bronner what really matters to them in perilous times, not only rallied around Netanyahu's leadership at the polls, but public opinion surveys since the last election consistently have shown that popular support for his right-of-center government hasn't waned.
Far from seeing Netanyahu as "insufficiently caring" about Israeli interests, most Israelis view Bibi as the scion of a family that has fought courageously in Israel's wars and struggles against terrroism. Bibi fought in the 1973 Yom Kippur War; three years later he lost his older brother Yonatan who was killed while leading the fabled Entebbe rescue of more than 100 hostages hijacked by terrorists
Bronner presumes to instruct Israelis on what's good for them. It just so happens that most Israelis beg to differ. The "image" of Bibi as an "insufficiently caring" leader is obviously Bronner's perception. Israelis happen not to share it.
Having flogged Bibi, Bronner ends his piece with a dire forecast that Shalt's release actually may turn out to be a prelude to a gloomy future for the Jewish state.
Here's how he arrives at such dark foreboding: "If Syria implodes and Egypt fails to achieve democratic reforms while Israel's hawkish right wing grows stronger, the Shalit exchange may end up damaging Israel's interests more in the long run than it helps them in the immediate future."
"If," "if," and "if" -- all conjectures to demonize a democratically chosen government ("hawkish right wing" in Bronner's loaded formulation) and its leader. Reminds me of an old saying: "If my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a bus."