Opinion

I've Become an Israeli – to Help Kick Netanyahu Out

For 20 years, I've prioritized my impartiality. Now, witnessing Netanyahu's pathological assault on democracy and its gatekeepers, I’ve decided it’s time to go all in

Poster at a demonstration in Tel Aviv's Habima Square calling for Netanyahu's resignation over corruption allegations. The rally's theme: 'Resign. Israel is more important.' 30 NOvember 2019
Ofer Vaknin

After 20 years as a permanent resident of Israel, my disgust at its political paralysis and yet another pointless election has driven me to seek Israeli citizenship. With it comes the privilege of bringing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu one vote closer to eviction from his official residence on Balfour Street.

Twenty years ago, when I came here to establish the Israel bureau of Defense News, I declined the right to citizenship extended under the Law of Return. My non-citizen status as an American reporter based in Israel offered a semblance of distance and objectivity in my coverage of Israeli security affairs. It also made it easier to access defense officials and their staffs elsewhere in the Middle East.

And the fact that I held only one passport – and saluted only one flag – also helped diffuse residual suspicions of "dual loyalty" from those within the American defense establishment who still harbor resentment over U.S. traitor and spy for Israel Jonathan Pollard.

That’s not to say that I wasn’t deeply invested, emotionally, spiritually and financially, in this fabulously flawed Jewish homeland. The pride and trepidation I felt as my son swore not only allegiance, but willingness to sacrifice his life, on behalf of the IDF and the State of Israel, was as genuine as any citizen of this country. The sense of belonging I feel when singing "to be a free people in our land" is as genuine as any other. And the frustration of seeing 51 percent of my income siphoned off by the Israeli Treasury is no less pronounced for me than for my Israeli passport-carrying peers.

But like the quirky old aunt who never learned to write properly in Hebrew and refuses to relinquish the ways of the Old Country, I took comfort in clinging to the pseudo objectivity of my non-citizen status.

No more.

After witnessing in recent months the shameless, almost pathological way in which Netanyahu struggles to cling to power, I’ve decided it’s time to go all in.

His insistence on oaths of loyalty - not to the State, or even his party, but to him – reeks of delusional privilege and anti-democratic insolence. After months of hearing his craven Likud lackeys cite "the will of the people," in attempts to justify such contemptuous disregard for the good of those same people, I’ve shed my last vestige of impartiality. I've applied for citizenship.

In glaring contrast to the voluminous charges filed by the State against the prime minister, aspirants to Israeli citizenship like me are required to declare that we have never been arrested or had indictments filed against us. And rightly so.

Protesters stand next to a banner showing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during rally calling for his resignation, in Tel Aviv, Israel. Nov. 30, 2019
Oded Balilty,AP

But over these many long months, the more Netanyahu and his sanctimonious enablers assaulted the tenets of democracy, or attempted to delegitimize or co-opt precious checks and balances, the more acute was my obligation to preserve that democracy by becoming a full-fledged Israeli.

So unless Crown Prince Yair Netanyahu, or other media-monitoring trolls in the Prime Minister’s office, instruct the Interior Ministry to slow roll my application, I intend to stand up and be counted in this unwanted election.

Next time around, Netanyahu should be one vote closer to taking the time he needs to defend what’s left of his good name and leave governing to those who will put state above self.

Barbara Opall-Rome, a recently retired journalist for print and broadcast media, is the former Israel bureau chief for Defense News. Twitter: @opallrome