(photo credit: REUTERS)
That 5777 was not Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s finest year does not negate the influence and sway that, as prime minister of the world’s only Jewish state, he has over the Jewish world.
Even with one affair piling up after the next like so many cars in rush-hour traffic, even with the police investigating him on suspicion of bribery and breach of faith, what Netanyahu says and does has a huge impact on the lives of Jews everywhere.
By his word, soldiers are sent on missions. By his word, taxes are raised or lowered. By his word, Israel’s relations with countries of the world are improved or damaged. By his word, an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall is created or shelved.
Besides, not all came up thorns for the prime minister this year. He successfully kept Israel out of the cataclysmic violence that is shaking the region. He forged a dramatic upgrade of Israel’s relations with Africa and Asia. And for the first time in eight years, he is dealing with a US president, Donald Trump, who has shown greater understanding of his concerns and sensitivities than his predecessor, Barack Obama, ever did.
But still, something felt different for Netanyahu this year. For the first time since he move back into the Prime Minister’s Office in 2009, there was talk – even hushed talk within his own party – of “life after Bibi.”
The flood of news about cigars and champagne, about conversations with the publisher of Yediot Aharonot
, about associates engaged in shady dealings for submarines, and about former confidants who turned state’s witness washed over the country and left many with a feeling that even Netanyahu is vulnerable, and that he may be swept away not by the collapse of his coalition – none of the parties have an interest in that – but by mounting legal woes.
In other words, while Netanyahu was again certainly among the most influential Jews in 2017 – as he was in 2016 and has been for the last number of years – some were beginning to feel this year that the end of the Netanyahu era is near. Even Winston Churchill, whom Netanyahu lionizes, had to leave the stage at some point.
But two things are certain. First, that Netanyahu will push that time off with all his might, infused with a belief that he is uniquely capable and suited at this time to ensure the security of the Jewish state.
And second, that until that time comes – whether next year, the one after that, or the one after that – Netanyahu, a larger than life fixture on this country’s political stage, will continue to exert a tremendous amount of influence on the lives of Jews everywhere, especially those living in Israel.