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Dear Mr. Arens: Netanyahu Is More Pied Piper of Hamelin Than Gulliver

Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to supporters at the Likud party headquarters in Tel Aviv after an impressive showing in the 2015 election
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to supporters at the Likud party headquarters in Tel Aviv after an impressive showing in the 2015 electionCredit: Tomer Appelbaum
Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev

Moshe Arens accuses pundits and analysts of turning a blind eye to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stellar achievements (Netanyahu Among the Lilliputians, Moshe Arens, March 12, 2018). Netanyahu is a “distinguished leader” and “excellent prime minister,” to the extent that opposing views are rendered invalid. The criticism against Netanyahu may stem from “intellectual inferiority,” he surmises. As far as Arens is concerned, Netanyahu is Gulliver and his critics insignificant Lilliputians.

Arens gives Netanyahu full credit for Israel’s improving international standing, first and foremost its much-improved relations with the United States. But unless Arens is privy to inside information that Netanyahu contributed to Russia’s efforts to get Donald Trump elected, it’s more by accident than design. Even Netanyahu’s fiercest critics will concede that Lady Luck often smiles on Netanyahu. This may qualify him as a successful gambler at the casino or one of Napoleon’s generals, but it doesn’t turn him into a worthy leader who is exempted from reproach.

The focal point of Netanyahu’s beautiful friendship with Trump is his effort to correct through blunt force the untold harm he inflicted on Israel’s national security with his failed efforts to block the nuclear deal with Iran, one of the greatest diplomatic fiascos in Israel’s history. Not only did Netanyahu launch a damaging and doomed effort to block the nuclear accord, he declined the opportunity to influence its clauses and stipulations, thus contributing, among other things, to the creation of the threats that now face Israel on its northern borders.

Arens seems unperturbed by the fact that Israel is putting all of its eggs in a basket-case U.S. president who is a pathological liar and an unreliable ally, as recent days have proven yet again. Great Britain’s relations with the United States are no less special than Israel’s, but when Russia carries out a murder attempt on its soil and exposes hundreds of British citizens to potential poisoning, not only can’t the White House muster up the courage to explicitly mention Moscow by name, Trump even has the temerity to fire Secretary of State Tillerson, who did.  In a moment of truth, if he - or Putin - so decides, Trump will turn on Israel without any hesitation.

Netanyahu deserves credit for Israel’s booming economy and for exploiting the rise of ISIS and the creation of the refugee crisis to improve Israel’s international relations, but these achievements cannot atone for his unforgivable transgressions, especially on the domestic front. Arens may not be bothered by the destruction of the peace process or the imminent collapse of Gaza, but even the rosiest eyeglasses can’t obscure the immense harm that Netanyahu has inflicted on Israel’s internal cohesion and solidarity. If Shimon Peres was once described as an “indefatigable conniver,” Netanyahu is a relentless divider: He prefers to alienate rather than unite, to incite instead of reconciling, to exploit the darkest impulses of his gullible admirers rather than teach them democracy or restraint.

When Arens endorses Netanyahu’s baseless posture of innocent victim, it’s hard to decide whether one should laugh or cry. “The legal process should be conducted without outside intervention,” he writes, as if it isn’t Netanyahu who is trying to make corruption into an accepted norm, to intimidate Israel’s legal authorities and to strive for early elections, the most immoral in Israel’s history, so that an exoneration by the Israeli public precedes a conviction in a court of law. Extended applause and roars of approval at the AIPAC conference cannot make up for Netanyahu’s targeted assassination of Israeli democracy.

The proper folk tale about Netanyahu isn’t Gulliver’s Travels but the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Arens wants the Israelis to follow Netanyahu blindly and rails against those who believe the prime minister is leading them into an abyss. Perhaps the former defense minister and U.S. envoy hasn’t recovered yet from his initial infatuation with the young Netanyahu that he appointed 35 years ago as his number two at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, thus setting him on the road that has brought us from there to here. Arens has made many valuable contributions to the country, but rather than issuing reprimands, he might consider an apology.

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