- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 22, 2009




I first met Benjamin Netanyahu in 1982. He was a quiet, almost shy young man, unlike the articulate and hawkish Likud Party leader he is today.

Our meeting was on the anniversary of the death of his brother, Jonathan, the elite Israeli Defense Force leader shot in the back during “Operation Thunderbolt,” the raid on the Entebbe airport in Uganda. Jonathan and a contingent of highly trained Israeli soldiers had dropped into Entebbe to free 105 Jewish hostages taken captive when an Air France Airbus was commandeered by terrorists. Two hostages died in the crossfire during which all eight terrorists were killed.

From that painful experience, Benjamin Netanyahu founded the Jonathan Institute on Terror and solidified his worldview on terror. In an interview, he defined the mindset of terrorists, “It’s not what we do, but what we are that causes offense to these mad radicals.”

Given that definition, how will Mr. Netanyahu, if elected prime minister, and President Barack Obama find common ground, especially since Mr. Obama and his presidential predecessors seem inclined to believe it is only a matter of what we do?

After our meeting, I was so impressed with Mr. Netanyahu that the following day I asked Prime Minister Menachem Begin and his senior adviser Reuben Hecht to offer Mr Netanyahu a position in government. I said, “Someday this young man will be the prime minister of Israel.” Mr. Begin smiled and asked the identity of this competing prime minister. I did not relate this to Benjamin Netanyahu until he asked me about the meeting some 20 years later.

How the two leaders interact may well be defined by Hillary Clinton, the newly appointed secretary of state, and the influence former President Bill Clinton may have on his wife. It was Bill Clinton, after all, who refused to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu during two pivotal visits to the United States - in 1997 and 1999. The refusal was interpreted as a blatant attempt to influence elections in Israel. Unfortunately for Mr. Netanyahu, it worked; he was defeated by Ehud Barak with the help of Bill Clinton’s political architect, James Carville.

Benjamin Netanyahu and I visited with each other in Israel in 2003 where we were both speakers at an international conference on terror. He asked me if I was going to Tel Aviv to attend a birthday party for Shimon Peres where former President Bill Clinton was to make an appearance. Mr. Netanyahu suggested that Mr. Clinton had best not stay too long in Israel; his nemesis, Monica Lewinsky, was due to arrive in Tel Aviv shortly.

I later learned that Mr. Clinton’s relativism and worldview was further revealed as he entertained the crowd at the gala. The former president picked up the microphone and crooned John Lennon’s song “Imagine” to the enthralled crowd.

Speaking of imagining things, can you imagine the president of the United States, who treated Yasser Arafat as a hero, visiting in the Bible Land (where more suicide bombers have blown up Jews than in any spot on Earth) and singing a song that speaks of no heaven, no hell, and all the people living only for today … no countries, nothing to die for, and no possessions, and from this distorted New Age view comes the deduction that the world will live as one?

Before the election, Mr. Obama made his feelings about the Likud Party known when he said, “I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you’re anti-Israel and that can’t be the measure of our friendship with Israel.”

Both men are extremely intelligent and brilliant communicators. It will be interesting to see how these two articulate men interact with each other. It appears President Obama does not have the chip on his shoulder regarding Benjamin Netanyahu that Bill Clinton had.

Michael D. Evans is the author of “Jimmy Carter: The Liberal Left and World Chaos.” A television special based on the book is in production.

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