“60 Minutes” put Benjamin Netanyahu on first last night, allowing the Israeli Prime Minister to say that Donald Trump “feels very warmly about the Jewish state and… the Jewish people,” but when it was over I realized how much we miss the late Bob Simon. Correspondent Lesley Stahl gushed over Israel’s new alliances across the Arab world and its alleged technological miracles. She left the Palestinian issue to the end, and described the occupation as an alleged occupation, with only a few seconds of footage of Palestinian persecution.
To her credit, though, Stahl made it a point not to use the nickname “Bibi,” and she did mention the BDS campaign (boycott, divestment and sanctions) and favorably: “This is the playbook that they used, you know, against Apartheid in South Africa.”
And she slipped in some America-first references, for the home crowd:
Stahl: When you campaigned against [President Obama] and you spoke to the Congress, it was read as a lack of respect and something that had never been done before….[D]o you regret that you did that?… You have a friendship with Mr. Putin, and a friendship with China. You seem to be inching toward an anti-American bloc.
Netanyahu: God, no….
Stahl: Well, talk about that ‘cause I think there’s an impression of that.
God no. Netanyahu didn’t like those questions!
This was the worst part, Stahl’s glowing report on startup nation.
Israel boasts of more start-ups per capita than anywhere in the world, many based in Be’er Sheva, and nations have lined up to buy drones, as India has, and cutting-edge agricultural technology, as China has. There’s excitement about a new innovation that extracts drinking water out of air… So this is Israeli diplomacy through technology?
There were more pictures of startups than of persecuted Palestinians. Has Stahl even visited Qalandiya? Her examination of the occupation was clueless. She called it the quote-unquote occupation and limited it to the West Bank, leaving out East Jerusalem and Gaza.
What about the quality of Palestinians’ lives. You know, it’s 50 years since what people call “the occupation.” It’s 50 years. You still have checkpoints. People have to be cleared. Soldiers everywhere in their lives.
Benjamin Netanyahu: Actually, I’ve lifted checkpoints quite a bit and we’re trying to create bridges and thoroughfares and so on so we can have freer movement. Palestinians know– they look at Aleppo in Syria, and they look at Yemen, and they look at Libya, and they look at other places, and they know that our intention is coexistence.
Lesley Stahl: You told us that Israel is less isolated today than it has been in many years in the past. And yet, at the same time, you’re losing support in– in Western Europe.
Benjamin Netanyahu: Isolated?? All these countries are coming to Israel and it’s a fantastic change.
Lesley Stahl: But not Western Europe. Not you, your natural allies, or your older allies yet.
Benjamin Netanyahu: Well, they’re coming—
Lesley Stahl: They call you colonials.
Benjamin Netanyahu: They’re coming around too.
Lesley Stahl: But they call you occupiers.
Benjamin Netanyahu: Well they call us a lot of things but I think they’re coming around too, I have to tell you.
But criticism has spread, on U.S. campuses too.
Lesley Stahl: There’s a movement called BDS, to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel and its products, because of the Palestinian issue, the unresolved Palestinian issue. And this is the playbook that they used, you know, against Apartheid in South Africa—
Benjamin Netanyahu: Yeah, well, I don’t buy it. It’s not about this or that issue. It’s against the very existence of the State of Israel.
Lesley Stahl: You know what they want? I know what they want. They want you to stop expanding and building settlements.
What kind of a state is it going to be if you just, you know, don’t do anything?
Benjamin Netanyahu: I’m not going to just not do anything. I’m going to do something.
Lesley Stahl: Well, if you don’t negotiate with the Palestinians—
The problem with this type of questioning is the assumption that the crisis is still prospective. Israel & Palestine will become one state, there will be apartheid there some day. When it’s one state now, and it’s apartheid. Seven years ago Bob Simon told Americans that time was running out for a two-state solution. How long a clock are the timekeepers at “60 Minutes” giving Israel? Tick tick tick.