This photograph of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from behind was taken on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, during the recent Memorial Day ceremonies. Before his father died; before he declared general elections in September; before he encountered Moshe Feiglin’s extremists at the Likud Convention; before the maneuver of expanding the coalition − in which Shaul Mofaz and Kadima were brought in at the expense of the latter’s credibility (and as another survival stunt initiated by Ehud Barak, as described by columnist Yossi Verter last Friday); before it became clear to the public, once again, that Netanyahu deserves Israel and Israel deserves him.
As echoes of the drumbeat of war with Iran dictates the country’s breathing rhythms, and as reports of acts of violence fill the pages of the newspapers − “the blood-dimmed tide is loosed” − some consolation can be taken from this photograph. Even though it epitomizes and depicts Netanyahu, his rule, his place, the power that was vested in him and the power he appropriated, being the smartest, most talented, decisive and determined of Israel’s politicians and leaders − its true interest lies in the braids. The messy fishtail braid of the blonde Military Policewoman on the right, and the shiny, thick, natural and very long braid of the MP on the left.
Now we can look at the photograph and observe that, even if the latest gimmick doesn’t work − for cracks will surely appear in the wall of MKs who left a shoebox-sized opposition − the dream of stability and governability was realized on Netanyahu’s watch. As though democracy can allow itself a mini-opposition, and as though all 94 MKs from the ruling parties always make unanimous good decisions, or agree on something and faithfully represent the commonality, and as though Netanyahu’s full nape and the exaggerated part in his hair were enough to fill every photograph. Facial expressions are no longer necessary; we can make do with hair games: Netanyahu’s graying respectability between the young female soldiers whose braids evoke and represent their youth.
Netanyahu is the ruling genius, the man who hurtled himself through the white-hot iron hoops of the Rabin assassination and became so identified with rule in the minds of Israelis that they now identify him with the state. The country’s citizens now truly wish him to be responsible, to manage, to navigate, to cope with Lieberman and his cynical humor, to get along with the Arab citizens, to keep the settlers happy, to settle without annexing until every quarry Israel places at its disposal disposes all its minerals, to whack the anti-Semites even if they aren’t really like that. We want him to do everything for us, to be there always, to be the big chief while we deal with our personal affairs, with the way we interpret our integrity , how we respond to pressure, stand up for our rights, react to an announcement that the column is terminated, and to other terminations.
It cruises between sun-washed braids. But he knows, as we do, that it’s not really possible to go on like this.
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