Opinion

Netanyahu Also Admires and Envies His Errant Son

Yair Netanyahu is the prototype of the 21st century – aggressiveness as a way of life, unrestrained impulsiveness, and morals that range from relative to nonexistent, depending on the need of the hour. And that’s exactly what Benjamin Netanyahu once was, but also never was.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his son Yair visit the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem
AFP

The truth must be told: Fathers envy their sons. Their freedom, their youth, the fact that for them everything has just begun, and that everything could also change. In his selective memory the father sees in his son the person he once was, but also the person he could never have been; a kind of modern and updated version of the fresh and fearless person he must have been in the past.

It’s logical, of course, that no parent would envy a son whose image is that of a person who frequents strip clubs at government expense, and routinely tends to curse anyone in his path, be it while he’s walking the dog or, no less routinely, surfing on Facebook.

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However, at a time when sons can spend their entire lives seeking admiration from their fathers, Yair Netanyahu is apparently one of the lucky ones. His greatest admirer is his father, no less. Of course Yair makes trouble for him. But the prime minster looks around and realizes that right in his own home, in the bedroom next to his, lives the spirit of the times. His son Yair is the prototype of the 21st century – aggressiveness as a way of life, unrestrained impulsiveness, and morals that range from relative to nonexistent, depending on the need of the hour. And that’s exactly what Benjamin Netanyahu once was, but also never was.

So Netanyahu Sr. is learning to follow in the footsteps of Netanyahu Jr.: to go around more in a blind rage. He knows that it’s not him, that it’s really not his style, but, as he has learned from his son’s way of life, that’s the going thing these days.

The prime minister is still safeguarding his power diligently, making plans, inciting when necessary and mocking when the opportunity arises. As necessary. But he prefers to do so in a secluded manner, by means of recorded speeches in an underground office, accompanied by a hidden red phone and a huge Israeli flag. In every such video clip, Netanyahu looks besieged, wary, in hiding. Not like the leader he presumes to be.

Netanyahu certainly sees Donald Trump tweeting incessantly, mocking women and cursing the opposition, telling his own internal truth because that’s the way he is, and what are you going to do to him? Netanyahu feels like doing the same. Between Trump and Netanyahu you can find Yair – the most crucial agent of socialization, training his father for the new world, the world Netanyahu Sr. believed until recently that he already knew through and through.

For the same reason, the prime minister has also recruited advisers who are Yair’s age – to write in his name, to present him as he is, only slightly different: with it, daring, animated by a spark of chutzpah.

Thanks to Yair, Benjamin Netanyahu is slowly but surely turning into Trump’s gifted pupil. Thus, the relationship between the two leaders is gradually becoming one more reminiscent of one from elementary school: the bully and the kid who imitates everything he does, hoping he’ll be as good at intimidating others.

After his son showed him the moves, the prime minister started carrying them out to the letter. It started with the press conference for the appointment of the new governor of the Bank of Israel. In front of stunned reporters and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Netanyahu found the perfect moment to suggest that they ask him about the three criminal investigations pending against him: “Call your newsrooms, do something!” he told them, very amused by himself.

He showed off the uninhibited Netanyahu once again, this time in the Knesset, where he mocked members of the opposition – “the national slanderers, the national sourpusses” – and boasted of the “marvelous decade” that he has orchestrated. He concluded his intensive studies in Kiryat Shmona, yes in the periphery, with that impulsive outburst – just as it says in the book.

And if he seems to regret it, he does. It wasn’t easy for him either. In general, he’s probably thinking to himself that it would be a good idea to calm down in the future, to plan his impulsiveness better. He’ll find the right doses and occasions to vary his behavior from time to time.

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What Netanyhau has yet to understand is that it’s impossible to imitate bullies like Yair and Trump, even for a gifted pupil like him. A person who is so calculated and meticulous will never turn into the noble savage he dreams of being. Impulsiveness is like an allergy for Netanyahu, an annoying and constant itch because of one moment of poor judgment. It doesn’t itch Yair, it doesn’t even tickle him. He apparently inherited it from somewhere else.

Whatever the case, until he understands this, Netanyahu is going to want to renew himself, to present an updated version of himself, before the next election. He doesn’t want to let his Likud subjects do the dirty work; he wants to get his own hands dirty. To return to the grassroots, to check out whether he’s still got it. Yair, in any case, will go on showing him how it’s done in such a “cool” country as this.