Stop giving Netanyahu publicity

The best way to object to Netanyahu, his Congress speech and his policies, is to ignore him.

Since the Netanyahu Congress speech episode began last month, the press, and specifically foreign press, has been flooded with items on the Israeli prime minister. Not a day has gone by without a headline about Netanyahu’s lavish spending, incompetence regarding the housing crisis, his assault on media and academics, and of course his incitement against centrist political rivals.

Netanyahu has redefined the phrase, “bad publicity is good publicity,” since none of this appears to be hurting Netanyahu in the least at home. As Gershom Gorenberg previously wrote,”I’ve come to realize that the focus on him is a strategic success for the prime minister’s election campaign. It distracts voters’ attention from minor questions such as the Palestinians, peace, housing prices, and poverty.” Attacking Netanyahu hasn’t helped either, which Herzog and Livni’s Zionist Camp has learned. And this is why, for example, Israeli news site Ynet (whose owner, Noni Mozes, is anti-Netanyahu) has decided to make the high cost of living and labor disputes the top headline every day for the past few weeks — rather than explicitly attack the prime minister.

It also has yet to be seen how this position hurts him vis-a-vis diplomacy with the U.S. Sure, Democrats have condemned the planned speech, while others have gone as far as to boycott it, and yes, it will be great to see the room half empty when he gives his speech. But I am talking about real consequences, such as economic pressure that could force the Israeli leader to change his policies. Until that happens, Netanyahu will continue to act with impunity, going so far as to turn down a closed-door meeting with Democrats, which he called “partisan. Remember, this is coming from the prime minister who is blatantly identified with the Republican Party, and who openly supported Mitt Romney in the last U.S. presidential election.

J Street, the DC-based liberal Zionist lobby group that supports postponing the speech until after the elections, published a large ad Thursday morning in the New York Times condemning the planned speech. The ad, along with their “Bibi doesn’t speak for me” petition, both included a large photo of the the prime minister. Why give the man more publicity? Why make it about him when we should be talking about the issues? This is exactly what he wants.

J Street ad in the New York Times.

J Street and others —  Democrats, American Jews, activists and media outlets — who oppose Netanyahu and everything he stands for, should be focusing their attention on the issues that are important to them, rather than the person mishandling them.

In the countdown to his speech in Congress, Netanyahu is only getting increasingly more publicity, which will likely peak with over-saturation on the day of the speech. It would be great to just ignore Netanyahu completely, the way some Democrats have decided to not attend his speech have done.

The best way to express objection and utter disgust with Netanyahu is to ignore him. Who’s with me?

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