What if Parents Raised Kids the Way Bibi and Sara Run Israel?

The message they're modeling? Starve the Palestinians. Let the Gazans drown in sewage. Let the town of Hazor Glilit starve, as well. Let Kibbutz Nirim defend itself. Let settlers stone U.S. diplomats. This is our home. No consequences for us.

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and wife, Sara, at Ben-Gurion Airport before boarding flight to New York, September 28, 2014.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and wife, Sara, at Ben-Gurion Airport before boarding flight to New York, September 28, 2014.Credit: Avi Ohayon, GPO
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

What if parents raised their kids the way Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu run their country?

What would it be like to live nearby, hear the screaming arguments, wonder about what actually goes on in there, speculate about how long this can all go on without their whole house going up in smoke?

It's hard to know for sure, but the hints and the hollering suggest a few guesses:

In terms of child rearing, there is the old adage about kids learning what they see at home. So what behaviors have Dad and Mom been modeling – what lessons have their words and actions been teaching us over the last six years, and, for that matter, the last six days? [Examples at bottom]

A. Play Favorites. Make sure everyone in the family knows where they stand – who's a favorite child, who's unwanted, which ones are treated as a real part of this family and which ones, for all that the parents could care, can go hang.

How does it work in practice? First, some of the kids in the family get anything and everything they want, no matter what they do, no matter how naughty or bullying or manipulative or destructive or insulting they are in and around the house.

A lot of them have already moved out, camping out on land belonging to cousins, then getting Dad to fix it so that they can stay, no matter what. Or getting Dad to pay for the kids to move into new houses across the street.(1) Even, in some places, if some of the kids throw rocks at the cousins who used to live there. Even if the kids rip up trees which are their cousins' livelihood, and uproot rows and rows of saplings their cousins just planted. Even if the kids throw rocks at cars which belong to Grandpa in America, who foots the bills for a lot of the family's expenses.(2)

The message from Dad and Mom: We'll spoil you rotten. Then we'll spoil you some more.(3)

What about the other kids in the family home? Some of them simply don't matter to Dad and Mom. If they're in trouble, if they're in danger, the parents make nice noises, and promise them things, but in practice, Dad and Mom have other, more important kids on their minds.(4)

Some of the kids who don't matter, some of the second-class citizens, are grown and gone, raising families of their own. But it's been tough to be a working person where they are – nowhere near the favorite kids – and Dad's brother, Uncle Bennett, who's supposed to be the cool one, and is in a direct position to help them, won't even answer their phone calls.(5)

And then there are the cousins who live in the family home, who've lived there forever, but come out third-class citizens. Dad and Mom treat them like they treat the neighbors. (6)

B. When in doubt, blame the neighbors. There will be no negative consequences. For you.

C. When in doubt, starve the neighbors. (7)

D. In any event, never apologize.

E. Never talk when you can blame.

F. Never bring a family together when you can scapegoat and deride and belittle and divide and foster division and hatred.

G. Always believe that there will be no consequences. If there are - and there always are - see B. above.

The message to the favored kids: You can do whatever you want to whomever you wish, and if something bad results, it is never your fault.

So how does this all work in practice? It has a lot to do with who these neighbors are.

It just so happens that the next-door neighbors are also our cousins. They are the family whom Dad and Mom do their best to deny, but they look like us, and they've lived here forever, and, to complete the Gordian knot, Dad and Mom are their landlords.

Yes, the neighbors are our cousins, And yes, this is their land as much as it is ours. But that - the parents are telling us in word and deed - is all the more reason that we, as responsible adults, must assert ourselves, never back down, never compromise, disdain all of the neighbors as bad seeds who cannot be reasoned with, and whose true wish is to do harm to our family and drive us from our home.

One other thing. Dad holds a bank account for the neighbors. It's the neighbors' money. But when the neighbors do something to anger Dad, he refuses to give them their own money. And the favored kids smile.

Are the neighbors hungry? Many are. Many are thirsty as well. Do we have enough water? Miraculously, we now do. Do the neighbors? Not at all. Some of the neighbors also have grave sewage problems. And that's only the beginning of a very long list.

What message is Dad modeling the members of his household? Let them starve. Let them drown in sewage. Let our unwanted children defend themselves. Let our favored children throw rocks at our friends. This is our home. No consequences for us.

Q. Whoa. So what can a person do? After all, aren't we all stuck with the parents whom life has stuck us with?

A. Yes. At least until March 17.


1. Last week, the prime minister approved the allocation of NIS 70 million (nearly $18 million) to relocate a West Bank army base, so that settlers moved from an illegal outpost could move into some of the 300 homes to be built at the former base. The sum is to compensate the settlers for having agreed to move without mounting physical resistance.

2. Last Thursday, Palestinians from the West Bank village of Turmusayya complained to American consular officials that settlers had uprooted 5,000 olive saplings. One of the landowners in the village is an American citizen, Israel Radio reported. On Friday, when an American Consulate convoy arrived at the area to examine the complaints, settlers threw stones at the vehicles. Friday at that settlers destroyed Palestinian-owned olive groves the day before.

3. With Samaria (northern West Bank) Regional Council Head Gershon Mesika sidelined by bribery and corruption suspicions, his acting replacement Yossi Dagan demanded that Likud Interior Minister Gilad Erdan immediately deport the American Consulate staff members whose convoy the settlers had attacked. "This event could have descended easily into bloodshed and only as a result of the settlers' responsible behavior was [a scenario like that] prevented," the settlement movement's Arutz 7 website quoted Dagan as saying.

The State Department said the U.S. was "deeply concerned" about the incident. There has been no comment from the prime minister.

4. This week, the army abruptly withdrew its troops guarding the kibbutzim and moshavim bordering the Gaza Strip, despite residents' fears of rocket, mortar and tunnel attacks akin to those during the devastating summer war in Gaza.

The IDF troops guarding illegal outposts in the West Bank remained in place.

5. This week, the Pri Hagalil produce canning factory, the sole large employer of the northern Israel town of Hazor Glilit, was shut down, as factory workers intensively sought the intervention and aid of Economics Minister Naftali Bennett. Bennett had helped secure hundreds of millions of shekels in recent funding for West Bank settlement projects. When the Pri Hagalil workers phoned him on Sunday, he did not return their call.

6. See the prime minister's Jewish Nation-State Law.

7. See the prime minister's freeze of the transfer of Palestinian tax revenues last Thursday, a move strongly opposed by Washington and by President Reuven Rivlin, who said the step harmed Israel's own interests.

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