Choose your own Trumpventure
Hebrew media review

Choose your own Trumpventure

The US president’s mercurial personality allows him to be a sometimes hero or a total zero, depending on how one wishes to view him

US President Donald Trump (L) and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas give a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)
US President Donald Trump (L) and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas give a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

Donald Trump’s mercurial personality has become the bellwether of the post-facts world. Those who back Trump — like the Sheldon Adelson-owned tabloid Israel Hayom — will take what they want from the US president’s statements and doings and ignore the rest — which will change in a few days anyway. And those who oppose him will point to the fact that the sky may not necessarily be blue in his view tomorrow as a reason to cast anything he says aside. Relying on your broken clock to be right twice a day isn’t good policy. It’s a joke.

Both views are on display in Israel’s print press Monday morning, as well as a return to a focus on domestic politics with the appointment of Netanyahu apparatchik (or remote-controlled robot in Yedioth Ahronoth’s view) Ayoub Kara as communications minister and the legal troubles of ministers Aryeh Deri and Nissan Slomiansky.

A day after conveniently ignoring Trump putting his faith in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as a peacemaker (highlighting the half of Trump’s quote about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instead), Israel Hayom’s top headline leads readers to believe that anything Trump may have said in public about Abbas was just lip service anyway.

“Trump fumes at Abbas: ‘You deceived me,’” reads the paper’s front page headline, and the story, based on a senior Palestinian source, describes the US leader going to town as the meeting between the two in Bethlehem quickly slouched downhill.

“You talk about how much you want peace. In practice you don’t show it at all,” he told Abbas, according to the paper. “The Israelis showed me proof that you personally were involved in incitement, supporting those who hurt Jews and compensating them. That’s not how someone who seeks peace acts. When I was in Washington, you showed me a totally different picture in regards to your efforts to restart talks and the peace process, but I have the feeling you were really deceiving me.”

The fact that the story wasn’t picked up or played up by any other blue chip Israeli outlet (save a less descriptive item by Channel 2 news) should raise some red flags, though given what is known of Trump, it’s also completely possible he did in fact blow up at Abbas in the meeting.

What is picked up by the other papers is German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying “We cannot trust the US and Britain anymore,” which makes Haaretz’s top headline.

Inside the paper, former US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, who knows a thing or two about how these meetings go, writes that Trump has made it so everyone can see in him what they want to.

“The sense one gets is that he just wants a deal, and he is not so particular about the details. But he went out of his way to testify to both leaders’ desire to achieve peace — a hard sell among many in this region, but almost daring them to prove him wrong,” he writes. “His generalities have Israelis on both ends of the political spectrum rushing to associate with him, claiming him as a member of their camp. They pour their own views into his empty vessel.”

The paper’s lead editorial takes a much more positive view of Abbas than Trump possibly did, calling on Netanyahu to seize the words uttered by the Palestinian leader in a message to a Peace Now rally in Tel Aviv Saturday night.

“These are remarks that cannot be ignored; in the clearest, sharpest and most precise terms, they express not only the Palestinian people’s desire for peace, but that of every peace-seeking Israeli citizen who wants to live in a normal country,” the paper writes of Abbas’s call to end the occupation and allow two states to live side by side in peace and harmony.

Neither Trump-Abbas nor Trump-Merkel get much real estate in Yedioth Ahronoth, which is focused on more domestic matters, but in the paper’s op-ed page, Aviad Kleinberg looks at all the different reasons given for why the peace rally was so small compared to similar protests in the past, and comes up with a final depressing answer, at least from the left’s perspective.

“The reason for the right’s success isn’t that left isn’t cool enough, but just that most of the country agrees with their stances. What can you do? Continue to work. Sometimes in the end it works out,” he writes.

The yes minister

One reason not given, though, is that the right plays the game differently, as evidenced by the domestic stories surrounding rightist ministers. While there’s nothing special in suspectedly dirty Deri or allegedly sleazy Slomiansky, both of whom garner major headlines, Netanyahu’s appointment of Kara, another headline-getter, shows his mastery at manipulating the system.

Haaretz reports that Kara’s nomination came after several others turned down the role, and that he will be “expected to be Netanyahu’s yes man,” in one of the paper’s headlines.

Columnist Nati Toker notes that at least the telecommunications market will know who is in charge, though it’s not someone who should be.

“Communications bodies representatives may meet Kara, but it’s Netanyahu who will make the decisions. After the tapes came out of Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Nuni Mozes making corrupt deals, the fact that Netanyahu will have direct control over the industry should raise significant worries in the hearts of every citizen,” he writes.

The fact that no deal was made for more favorable Netanyahu coverage rings out loud and clear in a column by Yedioth’s Sima Kadmon, who compares Netanyahu to Caligula and Kara, whom she says isn’t fit to be minister of anything, to the horse he appointed to the senate.

After going through Kara’s various embarrassing misdeeds, like blaming the Italy earthquake on an anti-Israel UNESCO decision, she notes that Netanyahu knows full well what kind of clown he is dealing with.

“And that’s exactly why he promoted him,” she writes. “Because that’s his way of letting known his thoughts about the media. Like childish taunting — that’s how you seem to me. To Ayoub Kara.”

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