Benjamin Netanyahu, the wonderful wizard of Israel
During his first term of office, Netanyahu was received by fans chanting: 'He's a wizard, he's a wizard!' In some strange fashion, that was when he showed schlemiel-like political talents and proved a failure at the job.
Anyone who would like to understand reality through the lens of statements issued by the Prime Minister's Bureau, and media outlets which it has already won over, could get the impression that the Israel of today is almost a utopia. Not only does Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounce everything that is worth denouncing (discrimination, Sikarikim, flattery from spokespeople ) and side with everything that it is worth siding with (women, security, Bible quizzes ) but he also "instructs" and "directs" good deeds every week.
Only this week, we received the good news about peace talks that exclude progress, about free education from the age of 3, about a train to Eilat that will travel 300 kilometers per hour, and about the retroactive establishment of the anti cyber terror unit. And if all of these things are just a fantasy, not to worry: Benjamin Netanyahu and his bureau will be the first to condemn those responsible.
During his first term of office as prime minister, Netanyahu would be received by his fans chanting in unison: "He's a wizard, he's a wizard!" In some strange fashion, that was precisely when he demonstrated rather schlemiel-like political talents and proved a failure at the job.
Oddly enough, this chanting has died down, or become disparaging, precisely now when Netanyahu's tricks and juggling abilities have reached such heights that even the great Israeli magician Kaliostro could not dream of them: His biggest rivals are sawed in two every evening on the stage, and everyday a new and terrified rabbit is pulled out of the hat only to disappear back inside it and be pulled out again.
However, whether because of routine or accustomization, people no longer fully admire the real wizardry behind all these effects. They don't appreciate the mere magic involved in the very existence of the performance by Netanyahu and his bureau - it's being the only show in town with no rivals, and with no relation to its quality and execution. That is a phenomenal accomplishment. It can be attributed to acquired political acumen, to the creeping control of the media on the part of "the bureau," or to continued attrition and persistence. But in order to really understand Netanyahu's secret, one needs his famous colleague - the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
As readers of Frank Baum's book will recall, one of the special marvels of the Wizard of Oz was his ability to appear in the form of a different entity based on characters' wishes or fears.
When he met Dorothy he appeared as a giant head, opposite the scarecrow as a nymph, opposite the tin woodman as a terrifying animal and opposite the cowardly lion as a ball of fire. Most of the time, he appeared only as a disembodied voice - strong and resounding.
Netanyahu's magic also is based on the mutual balancing and offsetting of at least four deceptions: For the settlers and the religious right he takes the form of a sycophant and a McCarthyist; for the left, he pretends to be "a man of the law" and the person who has "gone far" by declaring two states for two peoples; to the center, he appears to be a skilled juggler who has so far succeeded in maintaining the status quo without a major breakdown; while to foreign leaders he takes on the shape of a political Gulliver who is trapped by the very coalition that he himself set up.
How long will this show last? In "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," the true identity of the wizard is revealed eventually, by chance. He turns out to be a tiny old man from Omaha, Nebraska, a circus performer who uses tricks and a megaphone to appear to be big and strong.
At the same time, when Netanyahu's bureau speaks with assurance at this stage about at least one more term of office, perhaps it has something to base this on. After all, the fact that our wizard is merely a con artist from some "Omaha" is already common knowledge, but most Israelis don't really care. Perhaps because we are all already in the Land of Oz.