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Rose Report: Thinking Out Loud about Trump

Binyamin Rose

Israel Hayom editor Boaz Bismuth supports Trump’s realistic approach to Mideast peace

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

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T

hinking Out Loud about Trump

Reading Boaz Bismuth’s interview with President Trump in the weekend edition of Israel Hayom brought back fond memories of Eilat, when Bismuth and I were part of a six-member panel at the annual Eilat Journalists’ Conference scrutinizing the inscrutable: Trump’s first year in office.

Conference organizers dubbed our discussion “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

It was their choice of words, not ours.

The panel was equally balanced between journalists associated with right- and left-wing publications, and not everyone — especially not Bismuth, Israel Hayom’s editor-in-chief, viewed the Trump presidency in dire terms.

In a parting shot, the moderator asked our opinion whether Trump would keep his campaign promise to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, and if Trump would complete his term.

Bismuth answered both in the affirmative.

“If you remember, I didn’t hesitate,” Bismuth said when I called him on Monday for his firsthand impressions of his interview with Trump. “I wasn’t inventing anything. I know them, and I knew they would do it.”

Bismuth’s professional radar was locked onto Trump early. “I was one of the first ones, in February 2016, after he won the Nevada caucuses, to tell him he was going to become president,” Bismuth said.

Bismuth has also met Trump four times in the Oval Office, and wrote that this time, he could sense a change: “In my view, the change was for the better. He was more serious, more thoughtful, considering my questions before firing back, and also more inquisitive.”

Trump told Bismuth that declaring Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital was a highlight of his first year in office and indicated that prospects of the administration offering its own plan for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiation were dim. Yet when Bismuth asked Trump if settlements will be part of any new negotiations, Trump seemed to fall back on the mantra of previous administrations, saying “the settlements are something that very much complicates and always have complicated making peace, so I think Israel has to be very careful with the settlements.”

What did Trump mean by “being careful”?

“Good question,” Bismuth said. “I’m thinking out loud now, but I would say all he’s saying is that if you wish to avoid putting an obstacle to renewing negotiations, then you will not build.”

In either case, it’s academic, Bismuth says, because neither party is interested in peace, and that won’t change whether Israel builds or doesn’t build, so there’s no harm in Trump’s statement.

“I know it’s not trendy to give President Trump compliments, but I have no problem with that,” Bismuth told me. “He understood after one year what President Obama understood only after seven years.”

And what does that understanding consist of?

Bismuth ticked off the titles of two famous Charles Dickens novels. “Great Expectations and Hard Times. Unfortunately, in the Middle East, great expectations will lead you to hard times. If you lower expectations, maybe we’ll get to easier times.”

Political Theater

A Truly Free Press

Israel Hayom breaks news every day, but it could be squarely at the center of the news, if police recommend indicting Prime Minister Netanyahu in what’s become known as Case 2000.

Case 2000 is a probe into recorded conversations between Netanyahu and Arnon “Noni” Mozes, the publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth, the main competitor of Israel Hayom.

In those tapes, Netanyahu and Mozes discuss an arrangement whereby Yedioth would tone down its strident criticism of Netanyahu and his family in return for legislation to crack down on Israel Hayom’s competitive position.

Some background.

Israel Hayom’s publisher is US casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, a conservative Republican and a longstanding Netanyahu supporter. Adelson established the paper in 2007 to provide Israelis with a right-wing alternative to the leftist-dominated press. Adelson is also a marketing genius, and he offered Israel Hayom at an unbeatable price.

Free.

Young people hawked the paper at transit points, street corners, traffic-clogged intersections, and parking lots. In short order Israel Hayom supplanted Yedioth as Israel’s largest daily by circulation, and many more Israelis who trust Israel Hayom’s reporting have turned more conservative themselves.

If you can’t beat the competition, you might as well cheat them, so at the end of 2014, in a bill rooted in Israel’s Bolshevik past, opposition parties introduced a measure that would have forced Israel Hayom to begin charging for their papers. The bill passed a preliminary reading, but the government fell before it could go any further.

The $64,000 question is why Netanyahu would backstab a supporter like Adelson and make a deal with a longstanding political enemy. One school of thought is that cagey as he is, Netanyahu figured he could play both ends against the middle and soften his opposition, while still retaining Adelson’s support.

Does any of this constitute an indictable offense that could potentially chase Netanyahu from office?

No matter what the police decide, only Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit can legally level an indictment. And as long as Netanyahu keeps his coalition loyal, and in line, over what’s viewed as a questionable offense, only the voters will make the ultimate decision on his political future.'

Numbers Game

Who Says Americans Can’t Agree on Anything?

82%When national pollster and political strategist McLaughlin & Associates asked 1,000 people likely to vote in a general election if they approved of a constitutional amendment that would place term limits on members of Congress, 82% answered yes.

There is still a bit of difference between the two parties. Republicans (89%) like the idea of term limits better than Democrats (76%).

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 698)

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