Opinion

Does Israel have a toxic personality? Ask Michael Oren

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I just read the latest excerpts being reported from Israeli ambassador Michael Oren’s new book and they make it sound like Israel has a toxic personality.

Almost every story I’ve seen so far from the book is an unpleasant one. Leon Wieseltier is an anti-Semite. Obama is a mean guy with a chip on his shoulder who had no love for the country he wanted to lead. Tunisia had a Jasmine revolution? Bullshit, this is the Middle East, not Manhattan.

The betrayals never end. American Jewish journalists just want to fit in with Christian society, so they piss on Israel to show how evolved they are. Obama blindsided Israel by daring to give his Cairo speech and daring to talk with Iran: “our closest ally had entreated with our deadliest enemy on an existential issue without so much as informing us.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was so angered when he found out Oren “could barely hold the receiver to my ear.”

Netanyahu has the reputation for being a man of appetite, but in fact he’s joyless, Oren says. Eating is a chore. They never get to be friends. The only time Netanyahu relaxed was “watching the TV series ‘Breaking Bad.’” A TV series, I hardly need to remind you, about the very darkest aspects of human nature; a lot of people I know can’t watch it.

And when he actually does something nice, Netanyahu immediately regrets it. He apologizes to Turkey’s Erdogan at Obama’s urging during the president’s historic visit in 2013, but there’s no satisfaction in it.

When the call is done there are high-fives and hugs, but Netanyahu tells Oren later the same evening, “We may have made a mistake.” (David Horovitz relates from the book)…

“Wearily, Netanyahu repeated, ‘I think we made a mistake.'”

Our former secretary of state does all she can to avoid these characters:

Hillary Clinton inexplicably rebuffed a series of initial requests from Oren for a private meeting, even though his and her predecessors had frequently held such sessions. She once “socked” him on the arm when they happened to pass, and laughingly claimed that he wasn’t returning her messages. But still she wouldn’t meet with him. (Horovitz again).

Mr. Oren, you were a diplomat: don’t you know how to take a signal?

The emotional reality that seems to underlie all these unpleasant anecdotes is that Israel is a toxic personality. It has become so entitled and aggrieved that people do their best to avoid its leaders’ company. We all know people with a toxic personality. They’re people we avoid because they are so negative or sarcastic, they have a perpetual cloud over their heads, they seem to derive no enjoyment from anything.

There’s no grace. Consider that apology. Israel had killed nine Turks on an aid ship three years before. You’d think it would lift something from a leader’s spirit to apologize for killing nine people? Nope, just bitterness. (And you want Israel just to acknowledge the Nakba?)

The book reminds me of the famous bitch-session between Obama and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy caught by an open mic four years ago: 

“I can’t stand him [Netanyahu]. He’s a liar,” Sarkozy said…

Obama replied, “You’re tired of him; what about me? I have to deal with him every day.”

It also underscores what Obama lately told an Israeli interviewer: there’s  no point in peace talks because Netanyahu can’t see “the best” in others, and Israel is controlled by its fears:

I am more worried about… an Israeli politics that’s motivated only by fear. And that then leads to a loss of those core values that, when I was young and I was admiring Israel from afar, were what were the essence of this nation.

I just googled the term toxic personality, and an Australian therapist and life coach has this to say about toxic people:

“Often the person is deeply wounded and for whatever reason, they are not yet able to take responsibility for their wounding, their feelings, their needs and their subsequent problems in life.”

They may overidentify and act out the parts of who they are, such as the victim, bully, perfectionist or martyr, [Jodie Gale] said.

Of course there are lots of ways to describe Israel’s malady. President Reuven Rivlin has said that Israel is a “sick society.” Others have said that Israel has a “national psychosis.” Everyone acknowledges the deep wound of the Holocaust, and I have quoted Seamus Heaney’s line that it takes seven generations for a society to overcome a great trauma. Rivlin has become such a star because he’s the exception to the rule: he actually seems to seek a real relationship with Palestinians based on the idea that they’re the victims.

Toxic people generally take no responsibility for their behavior. After the last war in Gaza, Oren complains, the US-Israeli alliance is largely “in tatters.” Yes, and why? Because Obama had said that the killings of civilians was “appalling.” Such a comment might have prompted some soul-searching, not resentment. Israel had just killed more than 500 children.

Looking through Netanyahu’s twitter feed, I never see him grinning with pleasure. The smiles are all forceful ones. Here’s his official portrait:

Netanyahu official portrait May 2015
Netanyahu official portrait May 2015

Look at Netanyahu glowering at the French telecom exec who came all the way to Jerusalem to apologize. CHSlE1LUcAA9Lyk

Look at the strain in this meeting with Art Garfunkel last week.

Netanyahu and Art Garfunkel June 2105
Netanyahu and Art Garfunkel June 2105

You can see Rudy Giuliani’s teeth here, not Netanyahu’s.

Giuliani and Netanyahu
Giuliani and Netanyahu

Same with Federica Mogherini.

Netanyahu and EU official Federica Mogherini
Netanyahu and EU official Federica Mogherini

Here he was lecturing the president in 2011. You can understand why Obama didn’t invite him to dinner with Michelle and the girls.

Netanyahu lectures Obama in 2011
Netanyahu lectures Obama in 2011

Look at Oren’s official portrait as ambassador. I get why Hillary Clinton didn’t want to hang out.

Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren
Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren

P.S. One other thing about Oren’s book. It’s getting a lot of press for these disclosures. It’s likely to be a bestseller. I confess I’m a bit cynical about Oren’s calculations and the press’s willingness to flak the book.  As Abe Foxman said last week at the 92nd Street Y, when asked his response to Ari Shavit’s Israel book, My Promised Land: “First of all, it’s a bestseller. That can be manufactured, but it’s still a bestseller.”

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That’s a lot of psychobabble, Phil. Instant arm-chair analysis from watching the pictures in the Twitter feed? Maybe we should google “smiling Netanyahu” for a counter-argument. But, no, seriously, Bibi is a guy who enjoys shows like the Borgias, the ultra-realistic and ultra-grim TV show that is all about backstabbing, betrayal and lies. He describes Palestinian men as “wild beasts of a man”. But he also lives in the most violent and anarchic region of… Read more »

” Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, has confirmed suspicions that Israel has taken the side of Syrian rebels in their bloody civil war and wants President Assad to fall even if that turns Syria over to al-Qaeda-connected jihadists”,https://consortiumnews.com/2013/09/18/israel-sides-with-syrian-jihadists/ Oran of course thinks that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, I have no doubt he would like to see all Arab nations at war with one another, so that Israel does not… Read more »

|| Krauss: … America will and can withdraw itself from the Middle East and Israel has no plan B. They are scared because they should be. … ||

Sure, Israel is an oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist state that seems unwilling to do anything other than commit (war) crimes – BUT – it has god, nukes, Captain Israel and King Bibi on its side. What’s there to be afraid of? What could possibly go wrong?!

Nazism was to a large extent the result of the trauma Germany suffered by being defeated in World War One. Nazi rule could still have been avoided if there had been no Great Depression. But the defeat in World War One was a real trauma and was, I would argue, a more important cause than the Great Depression.

RE: “Netanyahu has the reputation for being a man of appetite, but in fact he’s joyless, Oren says.” – Weiss MY COMMENT: Like father, like son? * * SEE: “A Boy Called Bibi ~ Netanyahu on the Couch”, by Uri Avnery, CounterPunch.org, May 1-3, 2015 [EXCERPTS] . . . If it is true that the character of a person is shaped by his early childhood, we must examine the background of Netanyahu in order to… Read more »