Bibi and Biden: Two leaders, similar but different

To get an idea of what moves people to come to demonstrations regularly for many weeks, I talked to several participants of different ages.

A recent protest outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A recent protest outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
B&B is a relatively new worldwide organization that provides various levels of cheap, but comfortable holiday accommodation for those who prefer their privacy.
There is, however, the other very influential B&B who do crave publicity – Bibi and Biden – an old established friendship that has now come to prominence and will have an effect on the future of Israeli politics.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President-elect Joe Biden are the two leaders of their respective countries, Israel and the US. Both are over 70, both are seasoned politicians, both are at the helm of nations that are politically very much divided, both are accused of corruption, both face court battles – Biden over alleged voter fraud and Netanyahu over several illegal activities and both face severe criticism. But there is one important difference. One is beginning his career as leader of his nation and one is nearing the end of a long and colorful period in politics as the longest serving prime minister of Israel.
The political division in both countries developed into some previously unheard-of dimensions. The anticipated effects of the US presidential election are only too evident. Segments of the population in the supposedly paradigm of democracy the US, have sunk into the abyss of medieval intolerance.
The US is experiencing riots in several major cities that expanded into looting sprees by criminal gangs, totally divorced from the original political protest.
The originally peaceful “Black Lives Matter” anti-racist movement has been infiltrated and taken over by revolutionary forces who have turned it into an industry, funded by socialist philanthropists like the Jewish George Soros, who allegedly was a Nazi informer in his native Hungary.
In the US, political disagreement is no longer being expressed by peaceful means, the printed and spoken word, but rather by violent action that more often than not, ends in bloodshed. In Democrat-controlled areas, the law enforcement agencies are constrained by order of the state governors and majors who support the popular call to “defund the police.” That pours oil onto the already volatile atmosphere that easily ignites into destructive action.
The justified obstinacy of US President Donald Trump to accept his questionable defeat will make it extremely difficult for Biden to placate the by now hysterical masses, that have, so to speak, tasted blood.
In Israel, Netanyahu does not yet have to face riots, but the population is instead expressing its frustration by demonstrating outside his residence in Jerusalem against the government’s policy of handling the COVID-19 pandemic. Long meetings and debates have not produced a definitive policy.
The repeated cycle of lockdowns alternating with easing of movement followed by lockdown are the result of political interference by a succession of government officials with the assessment of highly qualified medical experts.
“Too many cooks spoil the broth” is an old English proverb. That’s why we are experiencing several resignations from the Health Ministry.
Every Saturday night, the center of Jerusalem is thrown into utter chaos. Several main arteries are closed to traffic; police cars are everywhere and any car driver who is not totally familiar with the geography of the city center is likely to get hopelessly lost, because as usual the police can not be bothered to give helpful information or erect signposts. Although it is Saturday night, there are economic losses quite apart from the cost of policing. The demonstrators are mainly young, but the older generation is well represented and the reasons for attending seem to vary.
So, to get an idea of what moves people to come by the thousands regularly for many weeks, I talked to several participants of different ages as they walked to or returned from the demonstration. First, a grandmother:
Shavua Tov – why are you going to this demonstration?
“Because I love my country. I am very worried about what’s going on. I have eight grandchildren, I’m worried about them.”
You are worried about your country but what’s wrong with it?
“There is a lot of hatred between people.”
But what will you achieve by standing outside the Prime Minister’s Residence and demonstrating?
“I want to feel the energy of the people that is right now here, and to bring my energy. The energy of peace, love and change. I am coming to demonstrate where a lot of people come together to say ‘enough.’ Enough is enough.”
Enough of what?
“Enough of this time when people fight against each other. It’s so sad how the politicians, especially the prime minister go against each other. I want people to come together and to listen to each other, not to shout.”
But is that going to be achieved by going to a demonstration, where all this is actually happening, where people do oppose each other?
“At the demonstration, I feel that the people bring sadness and hope.”
NEXT I stopped a young man who is carrying Israel’s national flag draped with a black ribbon.
Why are you demonstrating?
“We are going to protest against our prime minister and his criminal behavior. We think he should not be the prime minister because he did so many bad things to the country and he is now going to prosecuted in the court and someone like that shouldn’t be prime minister.”
Why the black ribbon?
“That’s to mark the black time in Israel, when someone who is indicted in court rules the country and is talking against half of the people.”
What are the bad things that he is doing to the country?
“First of all, he is lying all the time.”
Can you be more specific?
“He didn’t tell the country that he approved of for the Germans to sell submarines to Egypt. He didn’t tell the country that he approved for the Americans to sell the F-35 fighter planes to the Emirates. These are just two critical examples, but he is lying to the people every second day about what he is doing.”
Wasn’t the sale of the F-35s a matter for the Americans?
“No, we had a lot of say because the law in the US specifies that the Congress needs to ensure Israel’s military superiority and they wouldn’t approve this sale if Israel objects. While Netanyahu claims that this is an American issue, and the cabinet supports him, the Americans claim that Netanyahu gave them his approval.”
The demonstrations have now been going on for many weeks and nothing has changed and nothing has been achieved. What’s the point of continuing to demonstrate when you have no chance to change anything?
"You see that in all the polls the approval rating of this prime minister went down dramatically since the demonstrations started and also his people start to realize that he is leading us to nowhere. So we hope that the Blue and White party will leave the coalition, or that someone in the Likud will realize that he is a burden for the party and appoint someone else to be their head, but we need to continue to demonstrate and show our disrespect."
Supposing Netanyahu would take the hint and leave his position, who do you think could do better?
“I think everyone could do better. [Yamina chairman Naftali] Bennett can do better, [Yesh Atid chairman Yair] Lapid can do better, [Alternate Prime Minister Benny] Gantz can do better, [Ambassador to the UN Gilad] Erdan can do better, [Finance Minister] Israel Katz. For me, everyone can be a better prime minister than Netanyahu and everyone who will be elected, we will accept. He has already been so long the head of the government that he has now lost his contact with reality. He is insane. A prime minister who has done so many wrong things like Netanyahu must leave.”
Has Netanyahu done anything at all good for the country?
“He did some good things of course; but if you take the balance of what he did good, it is all in previous years and recently he is doing only bad things.
The only good thing is the peace with the Emirates and Bahrain and even that came against what he was preaching and building up, the annexation of the West Bank. Suddenly he forgot about it because of the peace with the Emirates because Trump forced him to abandon it. He did good things but today he is doing many bad things.”
Your friend is carrying a placard. What does it say in English?
“‘Urgent! We want to give up our prime minister who destroyed our small country.’”
MY NEXT guests on this park bench are a family of husband wife and teenage children who are already on their way back from the demo.
Why did you go to this demonstration?
“We needed to do our civic duty and show our discomfort about what’s going on here.”
What is going on in the country?
“The government is not doing its job in fighting the coronavirus situation and fighting the economic situation. We citizens feel we are not getting what we deserve.”
Isn’t that a worldwide problem?
“My concern is my family and I don’t care about other the population anywhere else.”
What could we do any better here?
“First of all not use this pandemic to get yourself out of your political and legal situation and do what is right for the country and its citizens and not what is good for you prime minister.”
Please be more specific.
“Do the right thing for the country. Whether it’s compensate businesses for their losses due to the pandemic. Not have these lockdowns which the experts call ridiculous, won’t cure the decease and won’t stop it from spreading.” The daughter: “The worst part is for the younger kids. For almost a year now they don’t have school, they don’t learn anything and they don’t see their friends. That is the main thing for Netanyahu to focus on. It doesn’t seem that politicians care about us young people.”
I understand all that, but it is a very difficult task to balance the economy and the health of the nation.
“I don’t think it’s difficult at all. There is an agreement with the government that if you are sick, you’ll be taken care of. They neglected the health system to fund it as much as it should have been funded, so it’s overcrowded with sick people. They told the people to stay home in lockdown so that they don’t get sick.”
You mentioned compensation. But where will the money come from? You realize that if you compensate today, you pass the financial burden to your grandchildren who will have to pay for it.
“These lockdowns cost more than what it would cost to fix the health situation and increase its capacity. Instead, they ruin the economy and as you said, the grandchildren will have to pay for it.” If you want Netanyahu to step down, who do you think should be leading the government?
“Anyone would be better than Netanyahu. Take John Doe from the street and he could do a better job.”
I believe that these views are a cross-section of the thousands of ordinary citizens who attend the demonstrations each week.
The writer is the host of ‘Walter’s World’ on Israel National Radio (Arutz 7) and ‘The Walter Bingham File’ on Israel Newstalk Radio, both of which are broadcast in English. At 96, he is Israel’s oldest working journalist.