Netanyahu the Ideologist – Exclusive Interview with Eyal Gabbai, Part 2

March 5, 2012 5:14 pm 0 comments

Eyal Gabbai.

Up until six months ago, Eyal Gabbai was the Director-General of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu’s office. Working with the Prime Minister for up to 18 hours a day, he was a key member of Netanyahu’s inner circle.

Today, Prime Minister Netanyahu met with President Obama in the White House for historic discussions on Iran, as the regime’s nuclear clock is ticking. Tonight, he will address an adoring crowd of over 13,0o0 at the annual AIPAC policy conference taking place at the Washington D.C. Convention Center.

Days ago The Algemeiner sat down with Mr. Gabbai for a wide ranging exclusive interview on the Iran talks, the relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, insider details on how Netanyahu’s decision making process on a possible military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities will be conducted and who the key players are.

Gabbai also discussed Netanyahu the man, his ideology as well as his personal attributes and values. Part 2 of the interview follows below.

DE: So when did your relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu start?

EG: I’ve known Netanyahu for 15 years. When he was first Prime Minister I was adviser to the minister of justice, and that’s how I met him. Then I became the head of the economic division of the prime minister’s office for Netanyahu.

We worked together up to when he lost the election in ’99. Then I went to the private sector.  I was V.P. in a communications company, and then in 2002 Sharon appointed me to the government.  In 2003 Netanyahu became minister of finance.  Then we worked closely together until he resigned.  He actually resigned on the very same day I had my son’s brit (circumcision), and he was supposed to be there.  An hour before the brit I get a call, “I will not be able to come; I’m holding a press conference right now,” and everyone who came was speaking about Netanyahu’s resignation because of the ‘disengagement’ at the time.

DE:  How many people would you say are in the prime minister’s inner circle, so to speak?

EG: It’s a very small group. We have about five to six people.

DE: So do you think that you would spend more time with the prime minister than his family?

EG: Yes. In the close circle of the prime minister, you spend more time because you work about 18 hours a day.

DE:  He works 18 hours a day?

EG: No, the prime minister works 20 hours a day, I would say, because he works even when he goes home.

DE:  So he sleeps for only four hours?

EG: Yes.  Usually, I say four hours because maybe he sleeps six hours, but in between he gets phone calls, urgent phone calls from the military secretary, from the head of security services, from the army…. So he’ll sleep only about four hours, and I think on weekends he does better, but it’s a very, very difficult – I would say – impossible mission to be the Prime Minister of Israel.

I keep asking him, “Why?” It is always tough decisions, because if there is some good decision to be made, there’ll be someone else who will want to make it – the minister of finance, the ministers themselves, – it will never come to the Prime Minister; we don’t need his approval. He decides between the bad and the worse. But he keeps telling me, “Look, there are so many runner-ups for this position.”  Yes, but it’s very tough.

DE:  What would you say are the Prime Minister’s best qualities?

EG: First of all, I think that Netanyahu is one of the smartest, if not the smartest, person I have ever met.

DE:  You’ve met other heads of state?

EG: I met Sharon, Barak, and I met Olmert.

DE:  So he’s the smartest?

EG: I think he is the smartest. Olmert was also very, very smart. I think Netanyahu understands the facts and the issues really fast. Sometimes all the needed facts are not known.  It’s always a question of possibilities, future questions and so on.  So he understands fast what the issues are, what the facts are that are known, and how to make a decision in such a situation. By the way, Olmert was also very good at that.  The problem with Olmert was that he might have been too fast in making decisions.

DE:  You think Netanyahu has the right balance?

EG: Yes, I think he has that, the right balance, and I also think Netanyahu has something which is very important – ideology.  He has an ideology in terms of the Arab world around us, economic policy and in terms of Jewish education.

DE:  How would you describe it?  Is it the same ideology that he lays out in his book, “A Durable Peace?”

EG: I think he has the same ideology. I think that he was willing to sacrifice part of it in order to fulfill other goals.  For example, I don’t think that Netanyahu believes that two states is the best solution in the world, that we actually aspired to that from the beginning of Zionism. But he was willing to sacrifice at least, in his words, in order not to have the American administration against us on all fronts, and especially on the most important front, which I think is the main agenda for this term – Iran.  He knew that if he’ll have a conflict with the administration over the peace process – even over the basic question of if there will be one state or two states – he wouldn’t have the support on Iran.

I think that he believes that the sacrifice will not fulfill itself, which means that it’s only on paper because peace will not be able to be negotiated in the near future, which is absolutely right, and I think most Israelis, when you see how strong he is in the polls, understand that it doesn’t matter, because Netanyahu or Tzipi Livni, or even Yossi Sarid cant make peace with the Arabs for many reasons. The doubt over the peace treaty with Egypt has confirmed this and I think all Israelis lost their hope of ‘eating hummus in Cairo.’

I don’t think that the Egyptians will be stupid enough to say that they are cancelling this treaty, but on the other hand, what will Israel do if rockets will start to be fired from Sinai to Eilat and Beersheva?  Will we invade Egypt?  Will we declare that the peace treaty no longer holds?  They’ll say, of course, it’s not an official action by them; it’s extremist groups that they can’t control, Al Qaeda and Hamas and whatever.  So, is there peace?  I keep saying, if it walks like a dog, if it’s on four legs and it barks, it’s probably a dog.  So if you don’t have a secure economic relationship, then is there peace?

The Israelis understand this, and they are happy that we haven’t made peace with Syria and given them the Golan, because we don’t know who will come next.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Personalities How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    JNS.org – What would you do if you found out that you had only three more months to live? Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life, and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. He knew that he had prostate cancer, but doctors advised him that it was very slow-growing and nothing to worry about. Then came the day when the doctors told him his cancer metastasized to his liver, and that he had [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater 10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    Last month, my one-man show Hoaxocaust! Written and performed by Barry Levey with the generous assistance of the Institute for Political and International Studies, Tehran ran in the New York International Fringe Festival, where it won an Overall Excellence Award. The play has now been selected to run in the Fringe Encores Series at Baruch College’s Performing Arts Center, for four performances which started on Thursday, September 11. Getting the play to the stage was not easy, however. Here are [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Phenomenon: Tel Aviv-based musician and “sampler” extraordinaire, Kutiman (aka Ophir Kutiel) has hit another one out of the park with “Give It Up,” a fully-functioning song in its own right, assembled from hundreds of ameteur and instructional music videos. The Jerusalem-born musical prodigy is best know for his diverse online musical projects. In the latest video, uploaded to YouTube on Sept. 12th, Kutiel thanked most of the musicians and individuals he chose to include in the meticulously-edited clip, which opens with [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    A recently released behind-the-scenes reel of Ridley Scott’s upcoming film Exodus: Gods and Kings shows just how far the director has gone to portray one of the Bible’s most famous narratives. In the clip, which shows scenes involving up to 4,000 extras, the visionary director discusses what drew him to the biblical tale of Moses. “The Moses story was a massive challenge, which I really love. I wanted to explore the complexity of his character and I was stunned by [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    JNS.org – Since 2006, the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable and satellite TV network has hosted “The Projected Image,” a month-long showcase examining how different cultural and ethnic groups have been portrayed on the big screen. At last, after previously covering African Americans, Asians, the LGBT community, Latinos, Native Americans, Arabs, and people with disabilities, the annual series is delving into Jewish film this month. “The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film,” whose first segment aired Sept. 2, runs [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    The sight of young girls in pinafores and young boys wearing peyos – sidelocks – dangling over their ears is a sure sign that you have entered the enigmatic precincts of the Hasidim – the pious ones. Veteran New York Times journalist Joseph Berger’s new book, THE PIOUS ONES: The World of Hasidim and their Battles with America, takes the reader on a journey into the enclaves where various sects of Jews live a seemingly outmoded way of life in [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    JNS.org – Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. Born Mendel Berlinger in Manhattan in 1908, Berle became America’s first small-screen star. Aptly nicknamed “Mr. Television,” he influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “Milton Berle was deceptively successful and very Jewish,” says Lawrence Epstein, author of The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, published the year [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    JNS.org – Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.