Why is Netanyahu releasing a biography three weeks after elections? - opinion

Hopefully, someone went over all 736 pages of Bibi’s autobiography (in English) to correct embarrassing factual inaccuracies, such as those appearing in his interview with Shapiro.

 BENJAMIN AND Sara Netanyahu arrive at a polling station in Tel Aviv to vote in the Likud primary earlier this month.  (photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
BENJAMIN AND Sara Netanyahu arrive at a polling station in Tel Aviv to vote in the Likud primary earlier this month.
(photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

On November 22, three weeks after Election Day, Benjamin Netanyahu’s autobiography Bibi: My Story will be published in English by Simon & Schuster and in Hebrew by the Sela Meir Publishing House. The book was written originally in English – so I preordered the English version. Since I have read several highly critical biographies about Netanyahu, it will be refreshing to read his version of the tale, which will certainly highlight certain parts of the story that his critics didn’t bother to deal with. However, what will be more interesting to see is what he chose not to deal with.

Another interesting question is why Netanyahu decided to have the book published three weeks after the elections and not three weeks before them. This might indicate that Netanyahu is not sure about the election results, so it is not clear whether this book will serve as a post-mortem of his political career or the opening to a dawn of a new day. There might also be legal concerns about the book appearing just before the elections and being considered illegal election propaganda.

The Ben Shapiro interview

On Sunday, August 14, the right-wing Jewish American political commentator, columnist and media host, Ben Shapiro, interviewed Netanyahu on his Sunday Special program, against the background of the new book. I must say that after hearing several interviews Shapiro gave to right-wing media outlets in Israel during a recent visit to the country, I concluded that he is not my cup of tea, not necessarily because of the ideology he professes, but because he speaks at great speed – almost like a record played too fast – on issues he does not always know much or anything about.

 Ben Shapiro (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) Ben Shapiro (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

I don’t know how he interviews persons he dislikes or disagrees with but vis-à-vis Netanyahu he was an ideal interviewer, who did not ask any difficult questions, did not intervene to correct factual errors (of which there were many) and clearly worships Netanyahu, whom he fully identifies with Israel. In addition, he kept referring to him as “Prime Minister” rather than “leader of the opposition,” and Netanyahu didn’t bother to correct him. He also cooperated with several flat jokes that Netanyahu told, such as using Barack Obama’s election campaign slogan “Yes we can” in connection with Israel’s history.

It was also clear throughout the long interview that Shapiro is not really familiar with the details and nuances of Jewish history, Zionist history, Israeli history and Israeli politics, and thus let Netanyahu get away with a lot of deliberate or coincidental factual errors.

I became aware of the interview because of an op-ed article published in Haaretz, in which Itai Rom (from Channel 13 TV), dealt with Netanyahu’s claim during the interview that part of the NIS 50 billion that the Government of Change had allotted to the Arab community in Israel (20% of the total Israeli population) over five years, designed to solve a large variety of urgent social and economic problems, had been handed over to Arab NGOs associated with Hamas.

These allegations have been made by Likud and other opposition MKs ever since the 2021/22 budget was passed at the beginning of November 2021, but have never been substantiated – just used to smear and delegitimize the government.

I do not know why Rom had picked this particular issue to write about since the whole interview is full of factual inaccuracies. For example, speaking of the banishment of the Jews from Israel after the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D., Netanyahu pointed out that, in fact, Jews continued to live in Eretz Yisrael also after the destruction of the Temple, adding that it was only between the 7th to 9th Centuries, during the Arab conquest and occupation of the Levant, that the major exile occurred.

Netanyahu is correct that the destruction of the Temple and the end of Jewish sovereignty in Israel in that period did not put an end to Jewish settlement there. However, his mention of the period after the Arabs conquered the region, as having been the point when the Jewish exile occurred, is simply historically questionable. Even before the destruction of the Second Temple, many Jews emigrated from Eretz Yisrael.

THROUGHOUT THESE years, many Jews were killed in battle or other circumstances by foreign rulers of one sort or another (some speak of hundreds of thousands, others even speak of millions) and there were Jews who were banished from particular cities or regions, while throughout there was voluntary emigration eastwards and westwards. There are no accurate figures about any of this, but mentioning the Arab conquest sounds very much like an unworthy political manipulation, which is certainly not backed by any available historical facts.

Another issue that Netanyahu spoke about and in which he was flimsy with facts concerns his father’s Zionist activities during the 1940s. Two years after the death in 1940 of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Benzion Netanyahu was appointed as head of the Revisionist Movement’s mission to the US, and invested a good deal of time and efforts in trying to convince American politicians to support the establishment of the Jewish state in Israel.

According to Bibi, his father was the first protagonist of the Zionist bi-partisan approach to make contacts with political figures in the US and the first to establish contacts with Republican congressmen, including senator Robert A. Taft, who became one of the greatest supporters of Israel after its establishment, despite him being an isolationist.

Bibi also related that it was his father who convinced the Republicans, in 1944, to add a plank to their platform in support of the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Netanyahu undoubtedly contributed to these activities but he wasn’t alone. Reform Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, who was a central figure in the Zionist Organization of America (of which he was president for a period), was close to Taft and other Republican Congressmen, and he too played a role in getting the pro-Jewish-state plank into the Republican platform in 1944 (though he condemned an anti-Roosevelt statement that accompanied it) and later on used his influence to get a similar plank into the Democratic platform.

The fact that official Zionist efforts in US administration and Congressional circles in the ‘30s and ’40s concentrated primarily on Democratic figures had mostly to do with the fact that from 1933 to 1953 Democratic presidents were in office, and Republican congressmen were only relevant in divided-government situations, in which either one or both houses of Congress were not controlled by the Democrats.

Another Republican figure Netanyahu claimed that his father had met during the late 1940s was General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who at that time served as chief of staff of the Army (CSA). Eisenhower was elected US President in 1952 on behalf of the Republican Party. However, at the time that Benzion Netanyahu allegedly met him, he refused on principle to associate with either of the two parties. Eisenhower decided to run in 1952 on the Republican ticket to block the isolationist foreign policy advocated by Senator Taft. By that time the Netanyahu family was back in Jerusalem.

Hopefully, someone went over all 736 pages of Bibi’s autobiography (in English) to correct embarrassing factual inaccuracies, such as those appearing in his interview with Shapiro.

The writer, born in Haifa in 1943, worked in the Knesset for many years as a researcher and has published extensively both journalistic and academic articles on current affairs and Israeli politics. Her most recent book is: Israel’s Knesset Members – A Comparative Study of an Undefined Job.