I’m not ashamed to say that I was a faithful fan of Benjamin Netanyahu for many years.
His combination of sharp wit, insightful thinking and oratorical brilliance made him compellingly presidential (or prime ministerial). He rose through the ranks, paid his dues and captivated the political arena.
I had the honor of helping to bring him to my community in Dallas, where he wowed the crowds, even giving my precocious little daughter a diplomatic kiss on the cheek. He could, you should pardon the expression, charm the slacks off any Hadassah Women’s delegate.
But history moves on, times change – most rapidly, here in Israel – and we must move on and change as well. Over the last several years Bibi, too, has changed, in ways that I believe impel us to choose new leadership.
Why I can't vote for Netanyahu again
FIRST, THERE is the ego, the enormous ego that Bibi has developed. The greatest leaders in our history – beginning with Moses – have had the strength and will to act boldly and take us to greater heights, but they have also been models of humility and modesty. They understood that they worked for the people, and not vice versa. And so Moses characterized Israel as “the nation of which I am but a part.” When it was time for him to give way to Joshua, he submitted with honor, even praising and preparing his successor.
But Bibi would have us believe that he is the one and only person capable of leading this great nation. He dismisses fellow Likud members of stature – from Yuli Edelstein to Nir Barkat to Gilad Erdan – taking them down a notch if they dare to challenge his authority.
Bibi has had four opportunities to forge a viable coalition and has failed each time, costing the people of Israel more than NIS 2 billion in the process; yet still he refuses to step aside and let someone else lead the party. No matter that there could have been a large right-wing government long ago, had he magnanimously given way; instead he makes it clear that it is he, not the electorate, who must be satisfied.
Having lost a son in the army, I am acutely concerned about security and the ability of our government to defend our homeland. Netanyahu likes to call himself “Mr. Security,” but the facts suggest otherwise.
This is the man who crumbled before public pressure and unleashed more than a thousand bloodthirsty terrorists upon the Israeli public in the Schalit fiasco. As he was warned would happen, many of these monsters have gone on to kill many more Jews; in fact, the current leader of the terrorist network in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, was freed by Bibi in that horrendous capitulation and frequently boasts of his victory over the “Zionist fools.”
Netanyahu gave away Hebron in the so-called Wye Agreement, and permitted Qatar to deliver tens of millions of dollars in cash to Gaza, allowing Hamas to buy even more weapons to kill our children. And, until Naftali Bennett finally put a stop to the “balloon terror,” thousands of hectares were burned to the ground by Palestinian arsonists.
Not to mention that Netanyahu has, more than once, expressed his support for a two-state solution, a stance for which he hypocritically derided Yair Lapid. I suspect that Bibi is a right-winger in the fashion of Ariel Sharon, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Olmert, all of whom were staunch Likud rightists, until one day they changed their spots and turned sharply to the Left.
Politics – particularly Israeli politics – can often be brutally ugly and beyond the scope of civil, moral behavior. But that doesn’t mean we have to reward it with our vote.
The conduct of Netanyahu and his obedient cronies over the last year has been nothing less than despicable. Ranting and raving and cursing his rivals before international audiences was the least of it. But demanding that the country’s most vulnerable sectors be harmed, just to bring down the ruling coalition, is unforgivable. Bibi insisted that bills providing assistance to handicapped soldiers and abused women be defeated, simply because the “other side” had initiated the legislation. In normal countries, the opposition shows respect and decorum after losing an election, even as it works to regain power. The refusal of Netanyahu to act in tandem with his opponents for the benefit of all is a clear indication that he has lost his way.
On top of all this, it is downright humiliating that someone under the shadow of criminal behavior should be allowed to presumptuously present himself as Israel’s champion. Even Bibi’s own party members have urged him to step aside temporarily until verdicts are reached in his various cases; needless to say, he declines. Isn’t it enough that we have endured the sight of a president, a prime minister and a chief rabbi sitting in jail? Is this how we project Israel to the world as a “light unto the nations”?!
I believe it is high time to seek change, even within the ranks of the Right. Let Bibi preserve with dignity what is left of his impressive legacy, perhaps even to serve one day as president, if he is given a clean slate. But allowing him to perpetuate – and preside over – this dismal state of affairs in which our country is evenly divided, with unity a far-off dream, is untenable and far less than what we, as a premier nation, deserve.
AND SO I cannot and will not vote for the Likud. I also, of course, cannot vote for any party that facilitates Netanyahu becoming prime minister. Such parties are just useful hardware in Bibi’s tool chest, helping him to get elected; he himself has said that they will not receive any meaningful positions that might threaten his total governance. They are window dressing, despite their various talents, and voting for them is simply voting for Bibi.
If there is any party that does indeed have influence with Bibi, it is the haredi parties. They will, as always, hold his administration hostage until he agrees with their two primary demands: that none of their children be compelled to serve in our holy army, and that their schools not be required to provide a well-rounded education to their students, the type of education that could open the door to gainful employment and their entrance into Israeli society at large.
A vote is more than a civic exercise or democratic principle. It is a precious opportunity to make a statement of where you want this country to go and how you can help it to succeed; where you can correct the deficiencies of today and create new hope for tomorrow.
Do not dismiss or belittle it; it is your voice, and it must be heard.
The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana. [email protected]