Nuttiness at the top

Take your pick. Should we begin with Sara Natanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas, or Donald Trump?

A prominent good government activist, Eliad Shraga, has been quoted in The Jerusalem Post. "The truth that nobody wants to say must be spoken . . . That woman is probably not mentally fit to stand trial.”

For years we've heard reliable stories about her tantrums and the misery of individuals working in the Prime Minister's residence. According to Shraga, one of the reasons for the long delay in presenting a criminal indictment about fraud has been the prosecutor's sensitivity to Mrs. Netanyahu's mental condition and her status as first lady. Perhaps the even longer and more deliberate inquiries into the Prime Minister has something to do with the Sara’s problems, and the unpleasantness involved in revealing about her "what everyone knows but what nobody is saying."

This ain't a way to run a country, but we can empathize for those having to make the decisions.

We needn’t agree with all that Bibi does as policymaker, but we can admire his capacity to function in one of the world's brightest spotlights with a problematic wife, and a son who is also embarrassing.

He is not the first to be making crucial decisions of the highest sensitivity while the home front is not quiet, peaceful, restive, or supportive. 

We don't know as many details about the Lincoln household, but it may not have been any more placid than Bibi's. Abe dealt with America's most destructive war and the issue of slavery-- arguably no less difficult than Bibi's need to cope with nutty Palestinians.

Mary Todd Lincoln was in the difficult condition of having a family divided in the Civil War, with close relatives fighting for the Confederacy. She was subject to depression, mood swings, a hot temper, and on at least one occasion was institutionalized involuntarily. Modern writers see evidence of a bi-polar disorder. Like Sara, she was accused of significant overspending in her management of the White House. And in ways that resemble Bibi's covering for Sara, Abe worked with Congress to solve the problem.

Currently Bibi's supporters are arguing legal details that they claim should excuse what prosecutors say are something like 350,000 shekels (about $100,000) worth of fraud. However, claims of murkiness in the laws about managing a Prime Minister's residence and that Sara is not a government official have no bearing on allegations of fraud (willful deception) that can apply to an ordinary citizen.

A former ally having government responsibility for managing the Prime Minister's residence has split with the Netanyahus and is doing what he can to put the blame on Sara rather than himself.

Whatever the formal outcome, we can rely on the message of Malcolm Feeley's The Process is the Punishment to know that life will not be easy for Sara, Bibi, and Yair. Even if none of them gets to jail, the process will not be pleasant. Currently there's a daily portion of revelations about the first lady, along with the first gentleman's claim that it's all fake news. Sara's trial may begin in mid-July, and--assuming there is no deal satisfactory to the prosecution--may go on with recesses for some months of additional details.

Recently we've heard how a miserly Sara pressured officials to put personal purchases onto the government budget, including a mini-bar bill in a Moscow hotel of $6,000, laundry and cleaning brought on overseas trips in order to acquire the scent of cleaning that she prefers over what is done in Israel, and sending low-paid household employees to shop for the Netanyahus' supplies, and then neglecting to reimburse them.

If we can wonder about our fate linked to the Netanyahus, our worries are not softened by contemplating the leadership of our problematic neighbors. 

A chronically ill 80-something year old is clinging to power as well as to a host of outmoded demands while refusing to deal with ranking Americans claiming to have a peace plan, while a sleazy collection of 60 and 70 year olds are maneuvering to take over an office soaked in the pathos of financial corruption and political impotence.

We might also wonder about nuttiness at the top of the American government, the long list of accusations about the competence of Donald Trump, including his appointment of three Orthodox Jews to negotiate issues that have stymied virtually all of his predecessors going backward from Barack Obama to Harry S. Truman.

One needn't worry about charges antisemitism to be concerned about the good sense in appointing a collection of Jews, including one who supports settlement in the West Bank, to deal with an issue that cuts across problems of Islam vs Judaism, with Christians worried about their claims to Holy Places. 

The best that can be said about Trump, Kushner, Greenblatt, and Friedman is that this presidency like its predecessors must be seen to make an effort to solve a high profile insoluble problem. The procession of Trump's people through the Middle East may produce a few riots and some deaths, but insofar as such events occur on a regular basis, Trump's flubs will have no significance.

Somewhat more serious may be the news out of North Korea. Two weeks after Trump made a Chamberlain-like speech of bringing peace, it seems that the North Koreans are accelerating their production of nuclear fuel. We might not only compare Trump to Chamberlain, but recall his several cases of corporate bankruptcy, and students hoodwinked into paying tuition at Trump University.

Along with all of the above, we're only a week away from obsession about the story of a former MK,  government minister, and physician Gonen Segev, who was imprisoned years ago for dealing in illegal drugs, and now has been taken from his Nigerian home and charged with spying for Iran. We've heard him described as highly talented and deeply flawed, driven by hatred of Israel for having cancelled his medical license, and claiming that he worked with the country that is #1 on Israel's list of enemies for the sake of Israel.

Why us, surrounded and imposed upon by key figures who seem abnormal.

And why are we so often on headlines throughout the world?

Perhaps it has something to do with thinking of ourselves as the Chosen People, living in the Promised Land, and haunted by one of us who went bad some 2000 years ago.