There's no time like Yom Kippur to atone for sins and recognize one's wrongs, and if there's one area where we have erred, sinned, slandered and misjudged, it's our approach to that long-standing slogan about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that "Bibi is good for Jews." The catchphrase's authors - the right wing and Chabad - have disowned it, reclaimed it and disowned it once again umpteen times. But after a decade of disillusion and sobering realizations, even Netanyahu's toughest opponents can't help but admit that Jews have it good with Bibi. Good is not even the word for it anymore: Jews have fun.
He's good for the right, which gets a nudge and a wink signaling that the settlement drive will continue. He's good for the left, which gets a nudge and a wink signaling that the earlier nudge and wink were noncommittal. He's good for the Jews of both Zion and the Diaspora, who get such an eloquent spokesman, outlining in a clear and resounding voice his deepest fears - of global anti-Semitism, of being caught making a sucker-like concession, of Western hypocrisy, of Holocaust denial and of any shifts at all, since shifts only change things for the worst. He's good for Israel, which, embroiled in a rearguard war against this golem of a world finally has someone to teach the goyim a lesson. And he's good for Western civilization, which gets such Churchillian warnings of Tehran's Fuhrer out of the mouth of such a proud and upright Jew.
To fully appreciate how good Jews have it with Bibi, we need only recall how much disappointment, astonishment and sheer annoyance we've had with his predecessors and successors over the last decade. Grandiose hopes vanquished, promises of local and regional peace not kept, mountain-moving, bulldozer-like plans suddenly quashed, and blood flowing like water in futile war and terrorist attacks. But now, with Netanyahu at the helm, our battered souls may rest at ease. Why? It's simple: There are no hopes now, no promises, no plans.
Even the talks, travels and meetings, which were never more than fawning rituals void of content, have been emasculated even further: Since the preconditions for talks without preconditions are not yet ripe, we only travel without holding meetings, or hold meetings without talks. Even "dramatic speeches" promised every now and then sound more like rehashed bar mitzvah sermons (with presentations) than empowering visions or plans. What can one do after Netanyahu's UN speech other than clap one's hands and tut-tut about the rest of the world's hypocrisy? Our knees are failing, our motivation to do anything whatsoever is nearing zero. Pessimism is catchier than swine flu, and certainly catchier than hope. Even the luminous, energetic Barack Obama has been dimmed by the inverse Midas touch of our woeful knight.
Netanyahu, flag-bearer of "lower your expectations," prophet of the Gospel of Nothing to Report, and once considered just another killjoy, has returned to power on the tidal wave of despair, celebrating the victory of experience over hope. But why complain? If there's no hope there's no plan, if there's no plan there are no shifts, if nothing shifts there is no terrorism, if there's no terrorism there are no moves, if there are no moves, there are no coalition crises. To borrow a phrase from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and put it briefly, this is heaven.
And that's even before we got to the big fat bonus that comes with lowering our expectations; when these are at permanent ground level, even the worst political fiasco can be presented as a gratifying surprise. If there's a Grand Canyon-sized abyss between us and the White House, Netanyahu's office throws a party to celebrate that "at least we've made our position clear." If Obama, for all intents and purposes, calls on us to withdraw to the 1967 lines, Netanyahu's office pops a bottle of champagne to mark the fact that "at least we didn't get a baseball bat over the head," to quote a senior official after Obama's Cairo speech. So is it really that surprising that with the extinction of any hope to renew the diplomatic process, the festivities at Netanyahu's office have reached a high point?
"It's fun to be thirsty with Kinley," an ad here used to say. It's even more fun to be hopeless with Bibi. Expectations are so low that if we don't get bombed at 8:35, we're all but euphoric - provided we don't spoil it by wondering what will happen at 9:00, and whether Bibi is good for the Israelis, too.
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