In a holiday greeting video with production value to rival a Coca-Cola Christmas commercial, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu extolled the success of the Jewish state in 5778. The longtime leader’s crackling charm is on full display in the short, comic video that stands in contrast to the politician’s most recently notable efforts at diplomacy, a speech that smacked of authoritarianism.
The richly-shot video, produced in Hebrew without translation, shows an Israeli family celebrating Rosh Hashanah at home over a festive meal. Their young son answers a knock at the door, asking if it is Elijah the Prophet: “Eliyahu?”
The guest — Bibi, bearing a steaming dish, responds — “Netanyahu.”
And we’re off. “Prime Minister?” the boy’s father stutters. “And you…came with a pot?”
“I ran out of trays,” Bibi twinkles.
Welcoming him to the table, a family member groans, “Hard year, right?”
“Hard year?” responds Bibi. “An excellent year! This year we celebrated 70 years of independence! A year of national blossoming!” He goes on to recount the nation’s recent triumphs — strengthened relationships with global powers, the move of the American embassy to Jerusalem, Israeli footholds in the economy in China, a better-than-ever economy, increased infrastructure — successes, he suggests, thanks to regular Israeli families like this one. “And it will be a year with even more excellence!” he concludes, much later, as the family slumps in boredom.
This bit of comedy is terrifically clever — it gives the Prime Minister an opportunity to laugh at himself for long-windedness, while actually suggesting that he has accomplished so many things that hearing them recited is dull. “And education!” he starts back up again, as the family moves eat before dinner gets cold. “I haven’t spoken about education!”
This, too, is wonderfully clever, as it suggests that Bibi could extemporize about the glories of his educational system endlessly without actually making him list a triumph of the somewhat shambolic Israeli education system.
But Bibi, who not for nothing is the longest-serving Israeli prime minister after David Ben Gurion, saves his most magnificent bit of comedy for last. “The Persian rice that you brought is wonderful,” the female host says, an allusion to Bibi as a domestic diva and friend to the Sephardic community so audacious as to be humorous in its own way. “You must give me the recipe.”
And Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of the state of Israel, whips out a binder marked with the yellow and black nuclear symbol, and flips through it in search of the recipe. The gag is a reference to his highly televised April 2018 PowerPoint presentation that warned against the Iran nuclear deal, in which he at one point scanned a bookshelf filled with binders he claimed contained 55,000 documents showing evidence of Iran’s weapons-based nuclear program.
The prime minister’s charm is just as disarming as he hoped that presentation would be, as he flips through the binder with a perfect straight face: “Not this,” he mutters. “Definitely not this.”
Happy new year, Israel. Your leader sure knows how to put on a show.
Jenny Singer is the deputy lifestyle editor for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny