You know what? Since Benjamin Netanyahu was elected for his first term as prime minister on July 18, 1996, he hasn’t really changed. He’s full of himself, an excellent speaker, power-hungry and likes the good life. Oh, yes, and he’s also somewhat miserly.
The journalists of the period frequently fell into the same trap: When it came time to pay the bill, Bibi would remember that he was late for another meeting and would rush out, throwing out the sentence: “You’ll take care of the bill.” More miserly than thrifty.
When he started giving private lectures abroad after his first electoral defeat, he was recognized by a random Israeli, dining with his wife on New Year’s Eve in the luxury restaurant La Tour d’Argent in Paris, at the best table. The Israeli swears that he saw him put a hand into his pocket and pay in cash. Meanwhile, the restaurant lost its stars and went bankrupt. Whereas Bibi fell then returned to power, and has to some turned the premiership into a profession.
He fell and returned, fell and returned. After Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Ehud Olmert, nobody believed that he would return. He had the talent of pretending that he is made of indestructible material. The riddle is not his endless lust for leadership without presenting a single plan that solves our problems – the question is where were we, the voters? What did we understand from him? Not peace, not hope for an end to wars, not a solution to our situation in the world, which is pushing us into splendid isolation. No step to implement a life of peace and welfare in our own home.
The fact is that Gaza is in ruins and here we are building high-rises for the rich. Many of them are investors, or wealthy Jews who are building a safe haven for themselves in case Islam takes over Europe. Bibi scatters goodies to the voters in order to convince them that he is made of a new type of leadership. The question is, what about us? What difference do we expect between the first Bibi and the one elected for the second and third time?
In a debate between incumbent United States President Jimmy Carter and his rival Ronald Reagan in 1980 they had two minutes to answer each question. Carter quoted his 13-year-old daughter Amy, who spoke about the atomic threat, while Reagan asked the voter: “Was our economic situation better in the past four years?” Reagan, as we recall, handed Carter a resounding defeat.
Here we don’t ask about the economic situation. Bibi actually does focus on atomic threats. Like Amy, he doesn’t want to talk about the economic situation or about peace. Bibi talks about anti-Semitism, about the Islamic State. He is convinced that one Operation Protective Edge is enough to close a deal. He doesn’t reveal how he transfers money to the settlements and the ultra-Orthodox although he has no money for the sick, elderly and poor. Instead of taking care of the really important things, his message to the nation is a theater of scare-mongering.
Bibi reminds us of the joke about the mohel (ritual circumciser) who hung a hat in his shop window. When asked why a hat, he replied: What can I display in my profession? Bibi prefers to talk about the Holocaust because he doesn’t want to talk about the situation in Israel.
The last thing Bibi expected was the numbers in the poverty report of the non-profit organization Latet, according to which 2.5 million Israelis are living in poverty. President Reuven Rivlin has already commented publicly that there is something unhealthy about Israeli society. Moshe Kahlon, the smiling riddle of Israeli politics, also warned about inequality.
Peres said that this report is a harsh indictment against ourselves. Bibi was angry that Peres opened his mouth and responded that Israel is a country where people live well. Of course, he can take the chance – after all, Gideon Sa’ar (a potential rival) is busy with his baby carriage.
But most of all the time has come for the voters themselves to take responsibility for what is happening. We were deceived once and we were mistaken, we were also deceived a second and third time. The shame is ours rather than Bibi’s. We are all to blame.
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