Even someone who pinned no hopes whatsoever on Benjamin Netanyahu's ability to reinvent himself during his second term as prime minister perhaps hoped - especially after we experienced far worse terms than his - for a certain upgrade concerning his positive aspects. These aspects include relative quiet on the security front, resulting mainly from almost-declared diplomatic procrastination, and so-called pragmatism, resulting from endless rhetorical zigzagging between center and right.
And we could also console ourselves with his character traits that are considered weaknesses around here: hesitancy, flip-flopping, avoiding decisions, and a chronic desire to be liked - traits that delayed or changed impulsive, unbalanced decisions that brought down several of his predecessors.
Therefore, if not for positive reasons, Netanyahu was reelected prime minister because he was the least of all evils: He was remembered as being less harmful than his predecessors. The hope that he had also matured, learned some lessons and changed was a kind of extra bonus. Thanks to this hope, there has also been a relatively forgiving attitude toward the fact that over the past year the prime minister has invested most of his energy in the feverish strengthening of his personal status and the expansion of his coalition. This has reached the point of absurdity, without any other concrete activity.
"It only proves that the man knows how to learn lessons," they said to us. If he learned from the great master of survival, Ariel Sharon, how to feel comfortable in his position, he will probably learn from other greats - Churchill, De Gaulle, Ben-Gurion - how to conduct an overall policy. Just wait, they told us. For now he is only preparing himself, kicking at the ground like a rooster getting ready for some major crowing, which heralds a new and genuine political day.
And now, with strange timing - at the very moment when he has presumably completed all the steps to get settled in his position - the same cloud of insipidness that hovered over his previous term and quickly turned it into a farce has surrounded him again: the "affairs," the maids, the whims and intervention of the "missus," the obsession with image, the white lies and the failures in the functioning of the Prime Minister's Office.
Not only have the affairs repeated themselves, so have Netanyahu's words and reactions; it's as if he used cut and paste when he told the media to direct their fire at him and not his wife and children. With these words he repeated in 2010 exactly what he said in 1999 - a statement that could become Netanyahu's permanent motto and legacy. Churchill spoke of blood, sweat and tears; Ben-Gurion of statehood; Netanyahu, in both his terms in office, has spoken of the maid, the mudslinging and Sara.
It's true that he and we deserve more. It's true that there's not much good faith in these revelations and "mudslinging," or at least in the way they are being emphasized. It's true that a war is raging between the tabloids, and it's true that the media has a tendency to turn politics into a soap opera. And yet, what we have here is a kind of optical illusion: It seems as if all these "affairs" are nothing more than petty and malicious roadside explosives; nuisances tearing at the hem of the great leader while he is totally immersed in making peace, managing foreign relations and updating his vision.
But the truth is otherwise: The cloud of nonsense is no coincidence, nor is it merely malicious. Netanyahu is being surrounded by it once again because he brought it on himself, almost invited it - mainly because he is not involved in anything else of significance.
Even when he finally functions, we once again have a person who is only going through the motions of a modern and dynamic prime minister.
In practice he is behaving like the anachronistic Zionist he really is: ethnocentric, traumatized, a slave to symbolism and gestures, big on tree plantings, emoting about anti-Semitism, settlement momentum, the goal of absorbing another 1 million Jews, expelling infiltrators, and gathering in another member into his worthless coalition, which is anachronistic like him.
There are stories about a legendary dish called "kutch-mutch" - a kind of bland cheese concoction that Paula Ben-Gurion would prepare for her husband in his old age, despite his protests. Without any connection to that, Netanyahu should remember: Not everyone who is married to Xanthippe automatically turns into Socrates, and not everyone who eats his wife's foul cooking necessarily becomes an outstanding leader. Before that he has to do a few more things.
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