This was written before the Knesset voted to disperse.
"How easy is it then?” gloats Lady Macbeth, as she cleans the filthy witness of Duncan’s blood from her hands. Her husband has safely dispatched the King of Scotland to the Kingdom of Heaven; she’s helped him hide the evidence. Macbeth is next up to rule the country, and she’s to glide gloriously at his side.
I had reason to think of Lady Macbeth as I watched Sara Netanyahu, recently, prance on the victory stage next to what seems like our country’s eternal king, her husband. She was framing hearts with her hands and blowing kisses to the crowds, as though they had lovingly elected her back into the palace. Which, I suppose, is true.
Indictments be damned, she and her beaming lord seemed to be saying.
So, as Netanyahu cobbles together his Knesset of cabinet ministers who will promptly resign to allow Kahanists to take their place (at the cost of many millions to the taxpayers – think hospital beds instead), and as our august role models gear up to dismantle the power of our courts, I take comfort in the memory of Macbeth.
Like Macbeth, Bibi first came to power on the heels of an assassination. After Yitzhak Rabin was gunned down, in the midst of all that fear and grief and overwhelming anxiety felt by half of the nation, Netanyahu was elected in 1996 to lead us into better times by a margin of less than 1% of the total votes. Just thinking of his victory speech then makes me shake all over again.
To half the nation, those scenes of Netanyahu on the balcony in Zion Square in 1995, smiling as hooligans screamed below that Rabin was a traitor and a Nazi, were banging on our brains. Even though, of course, Netanyahu was in no way involved in the murder, somehow his silence for months on the rabble’s behavior seemed complicit.
We waited for our leader – now “our father,” too – to stand up and heal the wounds. We waited for his words of comfort. I wanted to hear my brand new prime minister proclaim that he was thrilled to have the chance to lead Israel back to health, but that he was distraught at the reason for the recent elections. I waited to hear some word about our late leader, who had been shot in the middle of Tel Aviv. I waited to hear some acknowledgment of shock.
It was as though the pain of half of his people just didn’t count.
And as he began, so has our king continued. Netanyahu has many accomplishments; he hobnobs with the world’s most influential leaders (some of them with questionable policies), he makes the Time list of the great and powerful, he has sired an astonishing son. Our economy is stable, hopefully Iran’s being held at bay. But I think the longest-lasting legacy of our (soon to be) longest-lasting prime minister will be how he has managed to divide our nation and turn people like me into traitors.
Macbeth was the same. Once he ascended to power, he confided in his lovely wife: “There’s not a one of them but in his house / I keep a servant fee’d.” The King of Scotland didn’t trust anyone; he kept posted spies in every lord’s home. Macbibi makes me feel as if I, and the entire “left wing,” are constantly under surveillance and under threat.
What is “left-wing,” anyway? Since when does having political positions contrary to those of the government constitute treacherous dissent? “The Leftists will destroy us,” sneers our prime minister, and with that he brands all of David Ben-Gurion’s spiritual descendants dangerous. We have been disenfranchised, dismissed and delegitimized.
And we are half the country.
We are not told how long Macbeth sits on the Scottish throne, but it’s many terms worth of years. But by the end of his rule, chaos reigns supreme. “Alas poor country!” Ross laments. “Almost afraid to know itself! It cannot be called our mother but our grave, where nothing but who knows nothing is once seen to smile; where smiles and groans, and shrieks that rent the air are made, not marked; where violent sorrow seems a modern ecstasy.”
Israel is still a vibrant, happy and mostly thriving democracy; hopefully, we will survive the racist Smotrich and corrupt Deri and protector-of-sexual-abusers Litzman; hopefully the good and decent politicians in all parties will protect our High Court and our press freedom and our right to think.
Maybe our prime minister will realize that it doesn’t look as if he has nothing to hide if the very first law his new government introduces is one to protect him from indictment. Maybe he’ll think of Macbeth’s sobering thought, as he finally faces the fact that he cannot reign forever:
That which should accompany old age,
As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends,
I must not look to have; but, in their stead,
Curses not loud but deep.
Our prime minister has another chance. His adoring electorate has put him back into power – him, and his lady. Maybe this time he’ll get a grip, take a deep breath, and lead us all into peace and prosperity and a feeling of pride that our plucky little country is a real light to the nations.
And if not, Scotland survived Macbeth. We’ll survive Macbibi.The writer lectures at Beit Berl College and the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. firstname.lastname@example.org
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