Long Live Bibi the Bathtub King

Netanyahu is wedged in our lives and in Israeli history like a stopper, for better and for worse. In the meantime, the water remains stagnant.

Doron Rosenblum
Doron Rosenblum
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Doron Rosenblum
Doron Rosenblum

Those who didn’t want Benjamin Netanyahu to be like Winston Churchill are apparently going to get him as Franklin Delano Roosevelt instead – Roosevelt being the only American president who was elected four times. It's unsurprising, in light of the polls which say that Netanyahu is almost certainly going to win a third term, that his monarchic attitude of old is growing. He and his followers treat their political and ideological opponents as conspirators and traitors, and as far as Netanyahu's concerned, election day isn’t a day of law and justice for voters, but the Ides of March, toward which they are concocting a plot to topple him from his throne ("they want to overthrow me!")

If these were just delusions of grandeur, we could follow them with a sort of amused curiosity, like spectators at a Shakespeare play. But the monarchical spirit has already spilled over the palace walls. Perhaps not so much from Shelly Yacimovich, who here and there dares to utter heresy in the kingdom, but for the sake of protocol other politicians are already worshiping the new/old king. When it comes to this crown, there are more courtiers than contenders.

Netanyahu is not going to be re-elected because of his achievements, which even he himself struggles to identify, or because of his promises or vision for a better future. On the contrary, perhaps for the first time since the days of King Rehoboam of Judah, we are being asked to crown a contender under the whisper of a promise that the whips will become scorpions, and whatever will be, will be – only much worse.

Netanyahu's magic bag of tricks is now empty. He comes without anything as basic as a political platform. Even his most fanatical followers cannot justify their support for him, apart from the fact that he's always there, in spite of the opposition. Netanyahu offers the voters the same gift he has always offered: nothing for nothing. But by virtue of what? If we remove from the equation his prophetic appointment, or being anointed "King Bibi" by Time magazine, he is meant to be elected a third time?

The gulf between the fact that he has nothing to offer, and also has no real competitors for the throne, can be explained by a timely combination of circumstances: the absence of other charismatic leaders, the split of the left-center parties, the drift to the right, the hopelessness of peace prospects, apathy, and more. But it's possible that there's a deeper explanation, that actually the traits and failures Netanyahu is accused of – inaction, evasiveness, foot dragging, tooting of his own horn, paralysis – are actually the secret font of his strength. After generations of Israeli struggles, dreams, battles, upheaval, bloodshed, peace efforts, and mainly the desire for a normal life, people are tired. Netanyahu's premiership is the default option. He is unwilling and unable to change anything in this status quo of victimization; he doesn’t demand anything, nor does he give anything, apart from the ever-unfurling continuity of his rule. And that's a small price to pay, especially when help up alongside the alternative (annihilation and a second Holocaust, according to his warnings).

Netanyahu is wedged in our lives and in Israeli history like a stopper, for better and for worse, and perhaps for many years. This stems mainly from the fear he has sown – what would happen in his absence? Would something come undone, or float up to the surface? In the meantime, the water remains stagnant. There isn't a terrible war, but there also isn't peace; nothing has drained, but nothing has overflowed. Apart from giving up time and energy and counting the trickle of the days going by, and trusting the immobile bathtub king, we aren't obligated to do anything. So what's the problem?

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