Monday, June 1, 2009

Fallen king of the ratings

Dudu in brighter days

With relations with the Obama administration rapidly deteriorating to crisis proportions, one would have thought that the possible loss of Israel's most stalwart ally would be dominating the headlines 24/7. One would be wrong. In fact the top story of the last few days has been the involvement of entertainer Dudu Topaz in physical assaults against TV executives

"Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court ordered an eight-day extension of the remand of one of Israel's top television stars on Monday, branding Dudu Topaz the ringleader in a series of violent attacks on TV executives. Topaz was arrested Sunday over the attacks on TV producer Shira Margalit two weeks ago, the CEO of the Channel 2 Keshet franchise Avi Nir in November 2008 and actors' agent Boaz Ben-Zion some six months ago."

The babyfaced Dudu Topaz was (it seems only yesterday) Israel's top TV personality, the 'King of the Ratings', MCing peaktime shows which involved a combination of stand-up humour and elaborate projects designed to pull at the heartsrings. Before that he was a successful comedian, packing halls and wowing fans all over the country. But gradually the ratings faded, the wrinkles deepened, the blue eyed boy of the 80s lost his slot on Channel 2 and his career nosedived. By all accounts, Dudu's (gargantuan) ego punctured, he flipped and ordered the beatings of the above from a next door neighbour with criminal inclinations.

No we won't

On second thoughts, there might be hidden parallels between the Dudu Topaz story and the Binyamin Netanyahu story. Both were national heartthrobs in their younger days. Both have the gift of the gab. And both are now sweating.

Bibi's formerly renowned rhetorical powers seemed to have been replaced recently by increasingly jerky arm movements. The political king of the ratings has today something of the air of an ageing TV show host making a comeback. Now he's been knocked off balance by the cool onslaught of the Obama administration into the very narrow manoeuvering space between his hawkish coalition and the heat emanating from Washington.

Dudu seems to be in frail mental condition and could be facing years in jail or other institution. He made a lot of people laugh and it's a shame. However, he's not the prime minister.
On the other hand, Bibi's mental state is reputedly lachitz (given to pressure). And so, yet again, the question is who will press harder: Barack Obama and Team America or Bibi's hawkish chums from Likud, Yisrael Beitenu and Ha-Bayit Ha-Yehudi. Not to mention the settlers who are already heating up the West Bank and Jerusalem.
If history repeats itself , the combination of a committed Israeli right and a small and passive left will again succeed in upsetting Washington's plans.

But I'm rooting for Obama all the same.

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