A Prime Minister’s Confession

Spend the evening with Benjamin Netanyahu as he ponders his next cabinet meeting and whatever happened to his dreams of greatness.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, May 2015.Credit: Marc Israel Sellem

It’s already after midnight on Saturday night. I’m awake, she’s asleep – it’s been another rough day for her. I go to the window, peek through the closed blinds. I can hear the sea from afar and see Jisr al-Zarqa up close; with the first light, they’ll start coming in their droves.

What does Shabbat have to do with pleasure? We’re both imprisoned inside the house. Sometimes I go for a brief visit to the neighbors. But, somehow, that’s always the signal for the problems to start. The electricity went out, a guard whispers in my ear; you have to call the electrician. The food in the refrigerator has spoiled; someone has to order takeout, warm it up and bring it to the table.

No, it isn’t always depressing. There are also some magical moments as compensation. We won’t forget that delightful evening of sitting in the company of true intellectuals – the first night without Yuval Steinitz.

I wanted to ask my enthusiastic host why he hadn’t also invited his colleague from the paper, who just two weeks ago had described me as an “intelligent patriot,” but I was afraid I might offend him. Whoever came, came.

Haaretz has actually been treating me well recently – where is its publisher Amos Schocken, and where is Yedioth Ahronoth’s Noni Mozes?

Tomorrow is Sunday, so tonight I’m preparing my opening remarks for the cabinet meeting: calculating every word, every facial expression and every hand gesture.

I have a few new and sensational phrases in my head about the agreement with Iran, but I’ll have to postpone them. Over the weekend, they slaughtered here and burned to death there, and I must appear resolute. Otherwise, they’ll be accusing me of being responsible for hate crimes. Still, it’s no problem for me to pile on the condemnations; I have statements prepared from the previous arson attacks.

It’s going to be fun at the meeting. I’ll pound the table forcefully, saying “We won’t accept” and “We won’t tolerate” and “Zero tolerance!” That’s exactly what I’ll say, word for word. And all the ministers will second me and shake my hand.

I’m still considering whether to urge the opposition to join hands with me in the battle for Jewish democracy. I’ll make a final decision in the morning, in the car on the way to Jerusalem. Then, I’ll appeal emotionally to those who actually do the work: Be like Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, I’ll say; take off the gloves. Those are my unequivocal orders – don’t misinterpret me.

They won’t misinterpret me. They get my hints. In a few days, everything will go back to normal and I’ll return to the bomb – the apple of my eye, the rock of my existence. There have been grave incidents in the past, and they were quickly forgotten.

Even in the hottest moments, I maintain a cool head: Never will we send moles to the fields of Judea and Samaria; never will we shoot a Jew in the back like a dog; never will we demolish his home; we haven’t gone completely crazy. A Jew, even if he sinned, is still a Jew.

Now it’s quiet here, so quiet. No sound but the breaking of the waves from the sea. If they didn’t expect me to issue forceful condemnations and orders, I would write a poem now. How beautiful are the Caesarea nights for poetry and melancholy.

Yes, I am lonely; no, I’m not tired. Soon I will complete my 10th year in office – more than Churchill, a bit less than Ben-Gurion – and, so far, that’s my main achievement. I haven’t yet made peace, I haven’t even managed to lower the cost of living. But I still have strength in my loins; I’m still strong against Hamas. And I’ll always find some mask with which to frighten the natives.

Just to be clear, I did have dreams of greatness, and I swore to myself I would achieve it. But at the last moment I got cold feet: Might we not lose our kingdom because of one hasty step? Wouldn’t it be a shame? So I returned to my office, despondent and angry, after another black Sabbath.

Oh no, who’s calling me at such an hour and waking the entire household? Please, just not another psycho from Habayit Hayehudi giving me an ultimatum that expires with the morning news at 7 A.M. What am I, a rag?

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