From listening to the prime minister or visiting his Facebook page, one reaches the unavoidable conclusion that Israel’s biggest industry, in terms of both production and exports, is the persecution of Benjamin Netanyahu. Frequently in the course of around a quarter-century, Netanyahu escaped by the skin of his teeth from this who would wish him ill. They pop up everywhere, and they have just one goal: removing him from power, at any cost. In fact, it is the only consistent position of the man who never speaks from the heart.
Netanyahu and his close associates have spent 25 years polluting Israel’s public conversation. It’s hard to imagine how we lived without a daily portion of phrases like “slander,” “orchestrated campaign,” “fishing expedition” and, of course “media lynch.” Netanyahu has perfected his art over the years, starting in the days when Donald Trump was only an eccentric clown prince. Today, riding high on his fourth term, Netanyahu sounds like a worn-out recording of the man who in January 1993 admitted having cheated on his new bride, Sara. Then contesting only the Likud party leadership, he said the confession was the result of his extortion by “criminals trying to undo the candidacy of a candidate who receives public support.” When pressured for additional details about the circumstances, Netanyahu said, “It’s a personal matter, and it will remain personal.” If the cadence of these sentences sounds familiar, there’s a reason.
Evidence of the existence of the “hot tape” that was allegedly the instrument of Netanyahu’s extortion has never been found, but the method proved to be effective. Every time his chips are down, Netanyahu cries persecution, and his popularity soars. He sits there, the most-elected prime minister in Israeli history, surrounded by gifts and honors, supported by a clutch of flunkies, and whines that his detractors are plotting his overthrow.
Still, Netanyahu’s claims merit examination. Baseless as they may be, no one serious has dared to challenge them methodically. In advanced societies, that’s the role of the opposition, but the Israeli opposition leaves that job to a small group of social activists preaching to the choir, or to Ehud Barak, who mainly enjoys pressing Netanyahu’s buttons. Apart from them, no one else cares.
There is one thing missing in Netanyahu’s equation of perpetual persecution: motive. They persecute him because he ... what, exactly? What has he done in his 25 years of being etched into the public consciousness that justifies this terrible persecution? What policy are these enemies trying to frustrate? What was it that he did, founded, championed? The issue of misuse of state funds for his residences, official or private, did not exist in 1993, likewise the stories of his wife abusing employees, and the son who learned the rules of incitement from his father. Nevertheless, back then Netanyahu insisted on running to the television studios and entering the public consciousness not as a winner but as a victim of persecution. He presumably knows why.
Netanyahu is a reactionary, in the sense that he is incapable of acting, only of reacting. He sweats blood until he reaches a decision — from which he is likely to retreat and deny its having been made. He accuses his detractors of harassing his family merely because they cannot present an alternative to his policies. But Netanyahu has no policy. There is nothing, and there will always be nothing.
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