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The Speech That Could Bring Down Netanyahu

Netanyahu has failed on so many fronts that attacking him should be low-hanging fruit for his opponents. This is how to smash the 'Bibi illusion' – from his appeasing Nazi apologists to the Iran crisis to his endemic corruption

Albert Wolf
Albert Wolf
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, on June 30, 2019
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, on June 30, 2019Credit: AFP
Albert Wolf
Albert Wolf

Benjamin Netanyahu’s electoral success has had less to do with his genius as a tactician, and more to do with his opponents’ fear of exploiting his weaknesses. Bibi has failed on so many fronts that this should be picking low-hanging fruit for his opponents. Yet, inexplicably they stop themselves. For his part, Netanyahu has never had any qualms about exploiting his opponents’ vulnerabilities to undermine and divide them.

To beat "King Bibi," Benny Gantz and his allies need to attack his greatest strength - national security - and exploit his greatest flaw - corruption. Gantz needs to go on the attack - and give this speech.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 34Credit: Haaretz

My friends,

As you know I have not spent my life as a politician, but as a soldier. I've been honored to serve Israel in war and peace. Now that I have entered this arena, I will evict Benjamin Netanyahu from Balfour Street and weaken the Likud.

However, before we talk of politics, let us thank all of the women and men who have bravely served in our armed forces, and their families who have sacrificed so much to keep Israel, now and forever, one and inseparable. This includes Benjamin Netanyahu and his family. Whatever our disagreements, they, too, deserve our gratitude.

But here is where I part company with the prime minister.

The idea of national service, in the army or the Knesset, is about dedication to a higher purpose – preserving our people’s existence. Not career advancement as a primary motivation.

Unless, of course, you are Bibi.

Bibi believes that his biography – poetic license and all – entitles him to rule. The cigars. The expensive suits. The lavish jewelry. The fine wine.

These are all baubles to which he feels entitled. Remember, Rabin was forced out for holding a foreign bank account; Ben-Gurion and Begin never faced accusations of corruption. But Bibi not only holds himself above the electorate, but his predecessors, norms and precedent too.

Friends, in this world, we are entitled to nothing.

Those who established the kibbutzim understood this all too well. Those who fought and died in the War for Independence, in the Six Day War, and in the Yom Kippur War all understood this. We live in a self-help world. The only things we are entitled to are what we earn from the sweat of our brow and the industry of our genius – nothing less, nothing more.

Of course, the poor, the indignant, the elderly, those who cannot afford their medical treatments and who cannot work, deserve protection from the austerity budgets Bibi put into place back when he was Finance Minister - and from the accelerated social welfare austerity he dreams of - if he gets another term in office.

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis march during a protest against the rising cost of living in Israel, in central Tel Aviv, Israel. Aug. 6, 2011Credit: AP

American politicians like to ask, "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" So let me ask you these questions:

If your family faced a crisis that cost you 4,000 shekels [$1200], could you afford it? Could you afford your rent? What medications could you keep, and which would you, your husband or wife, your children, or your parents have to do without? Do you think Bibi would lend you the money? I don’t.

Are your children’s schools and universities better than they were four years ago?

Are you safer now than you were four years ago? Iran is now closer to a nuclear bomb and its grip over Syria has tightened like a vise. The construction of its corridor to the Mediterranean is right on schedule. Hezbollah is on the march in Lebanon.

Lebanon's Hezbollah supporters chant slogans during last day of Ashura, in Beirut, Lebanon September 20, 2018Credit: \ Aziz Taher/ REUTERS

The pundits are right: Bibi isn’t like any other politician in Israel. But he is like politicians we see all over the world. But not in places like Australia or Canada. More like Turkey. And Poland. And Hungary. And Austria.

He doesn’t even pretend to put the national interest first. He has three interests: immunity, immunity, and, oh yes, immunity.

Bibi has long claimed that his remaining in office and the security of the Jewish people are indivisible. Election after election he has said the center and left cannot be trusted with the security of Israel.

This is nonsense. It could not be further from the truth.

The Netanyahu government’s incompetent diplomacy has successfully brought Iran closer to our borders and its nuclear threshold.

He is the first since Neville Chamberlain to appease leaders who feel that the occurrence of the Holocaust was a matter of national sovereignty, treats deliberate attempts to falsify Nazi collaborators’ involvement in the mass murder of our people as little more than annoying details, and that it is not Israel’s place among the nations to correct, let alone defy, them.

Except, it is.

An Iranian flag fluttering outside the building housing the reactor of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in the Iranian port town of Bushehr, 1200 kms south of TehranCredit: AFP

Today, we are watching a slow-motion rerun of the Hamtana, the tense period of waiting preceding the Six Day War, as Egypt's Nasser expelled UN peacekeepers and choked off Israel's access to the world. Instead of encirclement by a paper tiger like Nasser, the great existential threats to Israel today are a slowly rising tide of anti-Semitism across the world and a nuclearizing Iran.

Unlike Levi Eshkol, Bibi is not surrounded by men of iron like Moshe Dayan, Yigal Allon, Yitzhak Rabin, and Menachem Begin; he does not have a plan to crush Israel’s bigoted enemies inside and outside of the region in Six Days. He is little more than a media savvy version of Neville Chamberlain and Édouard Daladier rolled into one.

Bibi is a multi-tasker – but strictly on tasks that promote his own self-interest.

On the one hand, rather than combatting Israel’s enemies, Netanyahu feels his time is better spent meeting with potential coalition partners to beg for an immunity deal, much like the one Boris Yeltsin received in exchange for his resignation.

On the other hand, he’s busy huddling with his legal team devising a strategy for his defense should an immunity deal fail to come to fruition and he is forced to face trial for three different indictments.

There is no question that Netanyahu is an adept politician. You do not stay in office for as long as he has without having a trick or two, or three, or four, or five, up his sleeve. It would be an egregious – no, it would be a downright stupid - mistake to underestimate him.

Protesters vent their anger at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's alleged corruption near the official residence in Jerusalem last year.Credit: Emil Salman

However, remember that Bibi’s primary loyalty is not to any particular ideology or vision of Israel; it is to getting into office and staying there.

Knowing this, what if the only coalition that would give him an ironclad immunity deal would demand re-dividing Jerusalem, or a pullout from the Golan Heights? Impossible? What would stop him from taking it?

For Bibi, he is entitled to rule, while the rest of us are entitled to nothing. Balfour Street is not a temporary residence for him; ultimately, it is his mausoleum. But as his political future begins to close in front of him like a fist, he will resort to anything to hold onto his office. This is why we must do more than talk about getting rid of him. We need to get rid of him.

Our world is more dangerous and Israel is more insecure than it was four years ago.

Our economy is weaker, and our society is a more unjust place, than it was four years ago.

Our schools are failing the current and next generation of young people who will serve our country and create the next technological boom.

Benjamin Netanyahu has had his chance to lead. He has failed. It is time to get rid of him.

Dr. Albert Wolf is the Dean of the College of International Studies at the American University of Kurdistan, Duhok and has researched and written extensively on Israel. Twitter: @albertwolf82

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