"YOU CAN lie to all of the people some of the time, and to some of the people all of the time, but you cannot lie to all of the people all of the time."
This slightly altered quotation from Abraham Lincoln has yet to be absorbed by Binyamin Netanyahu. He thinks it doesn't apply to him. Actually, that is the core of his entire political career.
This week, he was given a very instructive lesson. After being treated to dozens of cordial encounters between Netanyahu and Nicholas Sarkozy, Israeli TV viewers got a glimpse of reality. It came in the form of an exchange of views between the presidents of the US and of France.
Sarkozy: "I cannot stand him (Netanyahu). He is a liar!"
Obama: "YOU are fed up with him? I have to deal with him every day!"
That came after it was leaked that Angela Merkel, the German prime minister, told her cabinet that "every word that leaves Netanyahu's mouth is a lie."
Which makes it more or less unanimous.
BEFORE PROCEEDING, I must say something about the media angle of this affair.
The dialogue was broadcast live to a group of senior French media people, because somebody forgot to turn the microphone off. A piece of luck of the kind that journalists dream about.
Yet not one of the journalists in the hall published a word about it. They kept it to themselves and only told it to their colleagues, who told it to their friends, one of whom told it to a blogger, who published it.
Why? Because the senior journalists who were present are friends and confidants of the people in power. That's how they get their scoops. The price is suppressing any news that might hurt or embarrass their sponsors. This means in practice that they become lackeys of the people in power -- betraying their elementary democratic duty as servants of the public.
I know this from experience. As an editor of a news magazine, I saw it as my duty (and pleasure) to break these conspiracies of silence. Actually, many of our best scoops were given to us by colleagues from other publications who could not use them themselves for the same reason.
Luckily, with the internet now everywhere, it has become almost impossible to suppress news. Blessed be the online Gods.
A FEW weeks after Yitzhak Rabin was elected Prime Minister (for the second time) in 1992, I met Yasser Arafat in Tunis.
He was, of course, curious about the personality of the newly elected Israeli leader. Knowing that I was meeting him from time to time, he asked what I thought of him.
"He is an honest man," I replied, and then added: "as much as a politician can be."