Center Field: The Sultan of Stalemate coarsens Israel’s soul

How can Netanyahu disparage our democracy at home, after justifiably toasting it abroad?

THE KNESSET – lawmakers have different ways of expressing their frustration over the coalition crisis (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
THE KNESSET – lawmakers have different ways of expressing their frustration over the coalition crisis
Who you gonna trust? Either believe the attorney-general: a Likud loyalist, a meticulous legal and ethical heavyweight, who announced the prime minister’s indictment “with a heavy heart, but without hesitation.” Or stick with the angry, demagogic, flailing prime minister who, in a mortifying performance, defended his indefensible conduct by trying to dishonor the honorable attorney-general, Avichai Mandelblit, while irresponsibly undermining every citizen’s faith in the law.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s excruciating yet predictable post-indictment tantrum made his premiership a shipwreck. The man who demanded Ehud Olmert’s resignation because, when so “steeped up to his neck in investigations,” Olmert lost his “moral or public mandate,” showed how much more of a mandate you lose when indicted. Israel’s ultimate Mr. Insider – prime minister for a record-breaking 13 years – played the cheapest “outsider” card. If the system is as corrupt as Bibi claims, why didn’t he fix it? How can he whine that the Left runs the country, when the Right has dominated most governments since 1977? And does he really think Israelis are stupid and unpatriotic enough to buy his assault on the honorable civil servants he appointed, including Mandelblit?
How can Netanyahu disparage our democracy at home, after justifiably toasting it abroad? Doesn’t he realize how his sweeping attacks delight Israel’s enemies? When will he realize that every time he rants against “the Left” and “the system” and this attempted “coup,” he blackens his reputation more than any reprehensible media hacker or police leaker could ever do?
And when, O when, will Likudniks start acting patriotically and dump their fearless, fearsome, but shameless, shameful, and increasingly loathsome leader?
This pains me. I respect many of Netanyahu’s accomplishments – even though that won’t stop the “you’re a leftist if you ever dare criticize Bibi” loyalists from “you’re a leftist-ing” me, too (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). The only parts of his Thursday night rant I agreed with were, yes, he has sacrificed much for Israel; he did boost the economy; and he made Israel a strong, stable, regional power.
People enjoy comparing Netanyahu to Donald Trump, but Bibi’s more like Bill Clinton. Trump doesn’t know any better, bullying instinctively, wildly. Bibi, like Clinton, is more refined, but both scholar-statesmen frittered away tremendous potential by sinning, lying to cover their sins, and then reducing their supporters to enablers, tolerating intolerable lies.
SO NOW consider: what’s Bibi doing to Israel’s soul?
If Netanyahu had retired in a timely manner, many would have celebrated those achievements. Instead, it’s damage-assessment time, cataloging the harm he causes every day he persists in “premiering.”
It worsens with each accusation he slings, every principle he mocks, each lie he tells, every person he libels, each Zionist value he tramples, and every right-winger he reduces to an amoral, inconsistent, unpatriotic, unprincipled, BBPC (Bibi Patsy – see Bennett, Naftali, among others).
O Bibi the (alleged) Briber, Bibi the Public Trust-buster, Bibi the Fraudster, Bibi the Liar, Bibi the prince of Israel who sells his soul – and imperils ours. How much longer will you put your petty personal needs before the nation’s?
How have you damaged Israel? Let us count the ways.
Beyond lying repeatedly, you’ve joined those politicians who teach citizens that you can say whatever you want, whenever you want, as long as it helps you.
Beyond ruling by divide and conquer, you’ve blurred our national vision, preventing us from seeing any good in those who dare disagree with us. When – eventually – you leave office, you will leave Israel hollowed out: economically and militarily stronger but temporarily – not terminally! – weakened by the bile you manufacture daily to remain in power, especially against Arabs whom you deem to be traitors, and against any critics, whom you label “leftist.”
You’ve crossed redlines, demeaning our democracy. You’ve crossed yellow lines, acting cowardly. You’ve crossed blue-and-white lines, betraying Israel and the Jewish people.
You’re no longer king of Israel, despite your deluded party. You’re the Sultan of Stalemate.
You lost. Twice. Your boss, The Public, fired you. And you’re the one man blocking a national-unity government, which could cut through some policy knots you’ve been too craven to tackle.
Instead, you’re playing the role of national obstacle-maker.
As caretaker prime minister, you’re leaving the country dangling. How many programs risk losing funding, how many good initiatives will you kill – with how many do-gooders fired – because of your ego, and now, your desire to avoid jail?
You’re no longer Mr. Security – your insecurity endangers our security. You risk making Israel’s political deadlock turn deadly, as the Middle East turns volatile – again. Who’s not trying to exploit our logjam? Hamas always needs a Zionist enemy; Hezbollah is watching Lebanon implode; and Iran fears its people’s frustrations will explode.
Finally, who can avoid cringing while reading Mandelblit’s words: Netanyahu “took specific actions that promoted significant business interests of Mr. Elovitch of substantial financial value... Netanyahu thus abused his position and political power to receive a benefit...”
Pettiness degrades; profligate pettiness degrades profusely. The judicious Mandelblit dropped the harshest charges, regarding the submarine affair, proving that your appointee follows the evidence, not partisan spleen. The other three charges are so petty they’re beneath Israel’s dignity. That doesn’t exonerate you – it just embarrasses us. You behaved abominably and deserve censure.
This isn’t about Left and Right, said Mandelblit. Indeed, it’s about right and wrong.
Go, Bibi, go. It’s time to retire. Go, fight your charges, while freeing us to fight our enemies – and for a new, honest, effective, far-seeing, unity-inducing, nation-building government.
The writer is the author of The Zionist Ideas, an update and expansion of Arthur Hertzberg’s classic anthology, The Zionist Idea. A distinguished scholar of North American history at McGill University, he is the author of 10 books on American history, including The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s.