Bibi, You Are at the End of the Line

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's arrogance in face of pending international isolation is reminiscent of the moment right before the Yom Kippur War. A new crop of leaders must take over the reins.

Yoel Marcus
Yoel Marcus
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Yoel Marcus
Yoel Marcus

The following story is instructive of the quality of Bibi's leadership. About a month ago, Stuart Eizenstat, who served as a senior advisor to U.S. President Jimmy Carter and as well as U.S. President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to the European Union, and has lately co-chaired with Dennis Ross the Jewish People Policy Institute, visited Israel. During his visit, he presented a report on Israel's status in the world, which included a specific warning about creeping economic sanctions.

As a former U.S. deputy secretary of the treasury, Eizenstat spoke bluntly about the severity of the threat inherent in such sanctions and about Israel’s status, especially its economy. But the Israeli pointy-heads who met with him ignored his warnings. Bibi can’t say he didn’t know what was coming down the pike from Brussels. Since he’s afraid of facing reality, he tries to pretty it up. Instead of looking straight at the threat, his advisors tell him it’s no big deal. His inner circle leaks that anti-Semitism is alive and well but forgets that Germany is the country that built us a navy of advanced submarines. In any case, Bibi is pulling his usual macho card with statements such as “"We will not accept any external edicts on our borders." In other words, Bibi knew what was coming our way from the EU, but he did not appreciate the size nor the significance of the blow, and he failed to obviate it.

In this sense, his conduct doesn’t differ from that of the leaders of the Yom Kippur War, soon to mark its 40th anniversary. The attitude at the time was the result not of arrogance but rather of misreading both the political map and Egypt’s military capabilities. And today, we’re so sure – erroneously – that the United States will protect us from Europe.

Netanyahu is good with words. He’s capable of telling the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee that construction continues and will continue in the West Bank settlements, while at the same time saying, “Better to be smart than to be right.” Even the medieval scholars of the Talmud would have a hard time parsing that. Bibi now proclaims independence, declaring Israel will not cave in to edicts, but it is hard to miss how Israel’s political leadership is miserable, how it refuses to acknowledge reality and lacks the force of character to change it. Bibi speaks dismissively of the Europeans, saying they’ve always been against us and adds contemptuously that they won’t dare go far. He seems to be counting on America not making it easy for the Europeans to carry out the sanctions. But it’s doubtful that Obama is shedding any tears over the EU decision. It’s pretty pathetic to listen to Bibi saying he won’t cave in to edicts. He's a real big shot.

Bibi is trying to solidify his status within Likud using this condescending style. Virtually all of his political party is, after all, in favor of Greater Israel, no matter the cost. The current joke in Likud is that, should he try to repeat Ariel Sharon’s move and establish a Kadima-clone of his own, the only one he would find by his side is Doctor (Yuval) Steinitz . Bibi is leading us toward catastrophe and international isolation, and the time has come for the public to publicly expressing its displeasure with his rule. In the past, there was a sort of inherent continuity in government: We knew that after Ben-Gurion it would be Sharet’s turn, then Eshkol’s and Golda’s. We knew that after Begin there’d be Yitzchak Shamir. Then came the generals’ turn: Rabin, Barak and Sharon. At this point, we’re no longer playing the same game. It started when Sharon broke off from Likud to form Kadima; the happenstance entrance of Ehud Olmert into the prime ministership, who then screwed up; and Tzipi Livni, who is the only one to blame for her failing to get elected as prime minister and is now no more than an ornament in Bibi’s government.

But continuity is not what we need: We need a leap into a new generation of leaders, starting with Lapid and Bennett, for example, and members of their generation and kind. Above all, we need the insistent cry of. Bibi you have reached the end of the line.

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