WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is mired in several corruption scandals back home, and his political future seems increasingly under threat.
But you wouldn’t know it from his speech Tuesday at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee: He looked energized and right at home.
His address to the crowd of 18,000 played more like a pep rally than a policy address. Netanyahu largely stuck to his standard talking points — celebrating Israeli innovation, confronting Iran, criticizing the Palestinian Authority.
But he was upbeat and relaxed while doing it. He grinned, laughed, joked, involved the crowd, walked around the stage. If Netanyahu did have a script, he went off it.
“Four thousand students — thank you for cutting class to be here!” he said near the beginning of the speech. “If any of you needs a note, you can see me later. There’s a line forming outside.
“I don’t want to stand behind this podium, OK?” he said seconds later. “What the heck? I’m the prime minister!” The crowd cheered and clapped as he began walking around the stage.
Late in the speech, a woman yelled “We love you, Bibi!” He responded, “That’s very kind of you, thank you. … Who planted her?”
Much of the speech was, essentially, a PowerPoint presentation about Israeli tech and economic development that would have felt just as appropriate at a local Israeli economic mission.
“Free market principles unleashed the spark of genius embedded in our people,” he said. “Israel is changing the world in India, in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America.”