The sense of deja vu that accompanies Benjamin Netanyahu's second term in office reached another deceptive climax this week when his lawyer tried to squelch reports of his hedonism with libel lawsuit threats. The lawyer, in a terrifying tone, said that "since the 1950s there has not been so grave a case of slander and malicious mudslinging in the State of Israel."
As we were wondering what the awful precedent was (the Israel Kastner affair? The Shurat Hamitnadvim civic association's libel conviction after accusing Amos Ben-Gurion of receiving improper benefits? ) it was difficult not to recall an earlier and no less terrifying appearance by Netanyahu himself. In January 1993, in the "sizzling tape" affair, he accused "one of the senior Likud members, who is surrounded by a gang of criminals" of an attempt to blackmail him to drop out of the Likud leadership race with a tape purportedly showing him having an affair.
In both cases, Netanyahu tried to create the impression that invisible forces of darkness were trying to snatch the premiership from his hands. That is a somewhat absurd claim considering the fact that in 1993 he hadn't yet been elected to attract dark forces and in the current case he hasn't done anything in his position as prime minister.
Even in normal times Netanyahu seems like a neurotic chihuahua who is guarding his bone, though without knowing what to do with it. And indeed, only when the redeeming "mudslinging" occurred did it seem that Netanyahu had awakened suddenly from that prolonged state of somnolence that he had experienced in airplanes and luxury hotels, and went back to the main essence of his life as prime minister: repulsing the attempts to stop him from being prime minister.
There are those who say that the "mudslinging" and the need to deal with trifles like the laundry, the shoes, his wife and which book he did or did not read keep the prime minister from dealing with more important matters. But there is no greater mistake: The laundry and the book are the very core of what Netanyahu does as prime minister.
After he brought Israel's diplomatic efforts to a total standstill (and to his credit: also any hasty military efforts ), Netanyahu discovered "leveraging," including leveraging the "mudslinging" as a reminder and proof of the fact that he is "the prime minister."
But contrary to Archimedes who said: "Give me a lever and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I can move the world," Netanyahu is satisfied with "Give me a PR or a legal fulcrum, and I shall cause [TV commentators] Shelah and Drucker to blush because of some proofreading error."
Every fraction of a chance is exploited by him to "leverage" himself as someone who is portraying the prime minister. He leveraged the blaze on the Carmel mountain to serve as the backdrop for the savior in the supertanker; he immediately leveraged the success of Iron Dome for a photo-op with the launcher in the background, his hands on his hips, like General Patton during the landing.
And as someone for whom appearance was, and still is, essential, the supposedly diplomatic "leverage" is always done "for PR purposes." Thus the terrorist attack at Itamar was "leveraged" by distributing pictures of the bodies, and the missile that hit the school bus was almost leveraged "for the sake of the PR effect" by a three-way summit between the prime minister, the children who got off the bus before the missile hit, and the singer Justin Bieber.
What is common to all the copywritten ideas from Netanyahu's bureau is the leveraging of the hump of misfortune and victimization, like in a Yiddish play by Abraham Goldfaden. This is out of the childlike and naive, or perhaps ghetto-like, hope that it will be possible to derive for eternity some benefit from the guilty feelings of the goyim.
And there is also another aspect that is shared by both kinds of leverage, the diplomatic and the personal - in every case they end up as a failure (and make him look like a shlemazel ). In judo, people are taught to use their rival's strength as a lever to beating him. Netanyahu uses the power of a rival to topple himself time after time.
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