Politics: Going into Yom Kippur blameless?

Binyamin Netanyahu says others are at fault for all the nation’s ills, but his opponents beg to differ.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
October 7, 2011 12:30
Prime Minister Netanyahu explaining somthing

Prime Minister Netanyahu explaining somthing_311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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Late former US vice president Hubert Humphrey said it best when he declared that “To err is human. To blame someone else is politics.” Humphrey, who ran unsuccessfully for president of the United States against Richard Nixon, was obviously talking about another time and place. But his words ring true in Israel 5772.

Millions of Israelis will be going to synagogues on Yom Kippur and striking their chests as they recount their sins and engage in soul searching. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to attend services, like he does every Yom Kippur.

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What is he going to be thinking about as he ponders the past year and the year ahead?

The Talmud Tractate Shabbat says that Binyamin, the son of Jacob, was one of only four people who never sinned – the others being Moses’s father Amram, King David’s father Jesse, and Kilav the son of David. It says that God rewarded Binyamin for his saintliness by locating the holiest section of the Holy Temple in his territory in the Land of Israel.

Listening to the people closest to Binyamin’s namesake, the prime minister would seem to be so pure that he deserves the entire Holy Temple in his house on the corner of Balfour and Smolenskin streets.

Recounting the problems Israel is facing today, Netanyahu’s associates provide relatively convincing explanations as to why not a single one of them is the prime minister’s fault.

The lack of a peace process with the Palestinians? Well, everyone acknowledges that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is at fault for that, especially following the events at the United Nations two weeks ago.



“Netanyahu wants to bring peace and advance the two peoples living in peace and security side by side, but for that you need a partner for dialogue, and unfortunately there isn’t one right now,” a source close to Netanyahu said. “Over the past two-and-ahalf years, Netanyahu urged the Palestinians to come to the table in speeches at Bar-Ilan University, Congress and the UN and he froze [settlement] construction, but they unfortunately still haven’t come.”

Israel’s increasing isolation following the Arab Spring? “He doesn’t feel any blame for the Arab Spring but he’s not arrogant about it either,” the source said. “He is maintaining contact with the Egyptians to make sure Israel’s peace deal with Egypt is upheld. We are proud that Israel has maintained its democracy and stability.”

Deteriorating relations with Turkey? That’s obviously the fault of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A Kelim Shluvim poll published in Ma’ariv last weekend found that a whopping 86 percent of Israelis oppose apologizing to Turkey for the deaths of nine Turkish militants on the Mavi Marmara.

“We have nothing to feel guilty about,” the source close to Netanyahu said. “We feel bad that people were killed on the Marmara. We didn’t want our relations with Turkey to deteriorate.”

How about all those demonstrations and protest tents on the streets this summer? “We can enter the fast with a relatively clean conscience,” the source said. “There [are things that need] to be fixed. Netanyahu is obligated to ease the gaps between rich and poor and to make sure hardworking people receive proper benefits for their labor. As prime minister, he’s responsible for these things. That’s why he formed the Trajtenberg Committee with its NIS 2.5 billion in recommendations. But the blame for the problems raised by the protesters are shared by all Israel governments going back to the beginning.”

And this week’s failure to pass the Trajtenberg Committee’s recommendations in the cabinet? “That’s not [Netanyahu],” the source said.

“Ministers and political officials prevented him from holding the vote, but he will pass Trajtenberg very soon.”

Other sources describe what happened with Sunday’s non-vote as more of a political mess.

Netanyahu called Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Kiev in the morning and received a commitment that Israel Beiteinu’s ministers would abstain on the Trajtenberg Report if Shas would too, a move that would have allowed it to pass. Lieberman then leaked to radio reporters that Shas would cave before Netanyahu had a chance to talk to party chairman Eli Yishai.

Yishai heard about how he intended to vote on the radio and was angry.

When Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov reported back to Lieberman that Shas wasn’t abstaining, Lieberman instructed his ministers to vote against the report. Vice Premier Silvan Shalom and his ally, Minister-without-Portfolio Yossi Peled, who both bear grudges against Netanyahu, knew of Lieberman’s and Shas’s opposition and used the opportunity to score political points.

In short, Netanyahu doesn’t believe he is to blame for what screaming headlines in the Hebrew papers on Monday called a fiasco and a failure.

Unlike Netanyahu, who does not believe he is to blame for anything, opposition leader Tzipi Livni believes that Netanyahu is to blame for literally everything. She has accused Netanyahu of mishandling Trajtenberg, the tent protests, the Arab Spring, Turkey, and of course the peace process with the Palestinians.

“He is supposed to decide what Israel is doing and where the country is heading,” Kadima MK Nachman Shai said. “If he’s not to blame for anything or responsible for anything, what is he doing there in the Prime Minister’s Office? He should leave the job for someone who is willing to lead and stop leaving the country on auto-pilot.”

So with Netanyahu and Kadima disagreeing on whom to blame, who is right?

God is supposed to decide everything on Yom Kippur. The voters will have to wait for next Election Day to give their verdict.”

Meanwhile, Hubert Humphrey gives a logical answer: “You cannot go around and keep score,” he said. “If you keep score on the good things and the bad things, you’ll find out that you’re a very miserable person. God gave man the ability to forget, which is one of the greatest attributes you have.”

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