Cowardice Is Netanyahu's Least Threatening Characteristic

The prime minister's childish provocations are less threatening than the deplorable characteristics displayed by leaders past - love of self and dislike of the Israeli public, to name two.

Iris Leal
Iris Leal
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Nov. 2, 2014.Credit: AP
Iris Leal
Iris Leal

I’m not familiar with the twisted semantic path traveled by chicken excrement en route to its becoming an American synonym for cowardice, but of all Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s repulsive characteristics, cowardice is his most attractive one.

I’d even be willing to take it one step further and say that because of his cowardice, his unique body language at the United Nations podium or before the U.S. Congress, which conveys childish conceit and timidity at the same time; because of the palpable anxiety in his eyes even as his mouth calls on Israeli citizens to demonstrate courage in his media declarations during Operation Protective Edge; because of his hair, firmly pasted in place; his perfectly knotted tie, and his wild expression of a deer caught in the headlights when he finds himself in dire straits; because of all this, there are times when I can actually feel fond of him.

Jeffrey Goldberg’s article in the Atlantic makes one wonder whether the American administration during this incendiary time would prefer the squat John-Wayne-like cowboy who incredibly enough, managed during his short term as premier to do more damage to the peace process than any other prime minister, over the growling but touching Cowardly Lion who tries to hide his fear from the Wizard of Oz (if I may borrow some icons from their glorious culture).

Perhaps the odor that rises from Goldberg’s anonymous source reflects a yearning for the Ehud Barak/Ehud Olmert era, when there was constant fear that the intrepid defense minister might, accidentally or on purpose, toss the match he used to light his cigar on the ground and engulf the whole region in the flames of hell.

According to the quoted senior U.S. official, the administration has called Netanyahu’s bluff and discovered that instead of a royal flush he was holding an ordinary pair, and that essentially there was never a real risk that he would launch a preemptive strike to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Does it make sense that on the basis of this discovery, a barrage of insults that caused waves of joy in the leftist bloc was unleashed?

Apparently all the president’s men think that trigger-happy former generals haven’t done enough damage in the region; perhaps they are still unconsciously enamored by the archetypes that defined American masculinity as portrayed in mid-20th century films, literature and Marlboro ads. What’s certain is that from even half the verbal toxicity unloaded on Netanyahu, it is easy to conclude that hesitating when there’s a military option available is perceived as an unforgivable leadership weakness.

I have to admit that of all the incredibly varied deplorable characteristics displayed by our leadership past and present – pathological self-love; schizoid tendencies and withdrawal from human contact; deep misanthropy directed primarily at the country’s citizens, and an erotic affection for violent conflict – Netanyahu’s cowardice, even if accompanied by childish provocations and ungratefulness, is to me the least threatening of all.

I long ago gave up on the illusion that during his nightmarishly endless term as premier Netanyahu might choose the path of negotiations to find a diplomatic solution. I’ve long been weaned from the hope that he would see the moral flaws in his neoliberal world view, or at least stop feeding us the rotten fruit of his economic policies.

So what’s left is Netanyahu’s cowardice, and I plan to hold it close and tight, like a baby holds his blankie.

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