Benjamin Netanyahu, a Leader on the Way Down

Don't let him deceive the nation again.

Yoel Marcus
Yoel Marcus
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PM Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Jan. 5, 2014.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Jan. 5, 2014.Credit: Dudu Bachar
Yoel Marcus
Yoel Marcus

Champion of gimmickry that he is, Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu is the kind of man who would cut off his nose to spite his face. As a self-styled expert on the war on terror, he should know that from his perspective the greatest test of the Palestinian Authority is whether they initiate terrorism or oppose it. We know, for example, that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas opposes terrorism, through both speech and actions. Not only that: There is full cooperation between Israel and the PA security forces.

The agreement is that Israel transfers to the Palestinian Authority the tax revenues it collects on its behalf. But every so often, Bibi employs what he sees as the ultimate weapon: He halts the transfer, embarrassing and annoying Abbas. This is not only daylight robbery, but it also creates a near-war situation. After all, it’s their money.

If he puts the PA into financial hardship, terrorism could resume. And if that happens (largely due to our shenanigans), then Israel will pull some really annoying stunts. For example, it will ask the U.S. Congress to reduce American aid to the PA, and in the process not only tick off the Palestinians but also embarrass the Obama administration. If terrorism in fact does resumes as a result of our shenanigans, the situation could get even worse. Any way you look at it, it’s a trick that doesn’t exactly thrill the Americans.

Kudos to President Reuven Rivlin for coming out publicly against Bibi’s shenanigans. It is a harbinger for good that Rivlin no longer fears the prime minister and stands up against Netanyahu’s attempts to hurt the chances of peace. The days when he wept at the prime minister’s abuses are over. Rivlin is turning out to be a leader of great stature, in the mold of Ze’ev Jabotinsky. He is a president who says what’s on his mind, and whose first concern is the good of the country. Rivlin can be trusted not to knuckle under to Bibi’s threats when the time comes for the president to entrust the formation of the next government to the truly deserving candidate.

I have had many opportunities to participate in interviews with leaders both in France and the United States, where I served as a correspondent for Haaretz. I never felt that I was being deceived or strung along there as our country’s leaders do here. For example, nobody knows why the election was suddenly moved up or why Aryeh Deri, weeping as though he were starring in an ultra-Orthodox soap opera, made a sudden about-face. Yair Lapid, in his king’s speech, said that it is corrupt to order pistachio ice cream at the public’s expense, to move patio furniture from the prime minister’s apartment in Jerusalem to the Netanyahu’s private home in Caesarea, to seek funding for the water to fill the swimming pool and to demand the purchase of a private jet for his use. But where was Mister Nice Guy, Yair Lapid of the “corruption speech,” when the former finance minister stole the country from us, as he claimed? Do you remember those days of fawning behavior? When Lapid and Bibi embraced in the Knesset as they smiled happily? Now nothing is funny anymore, not even what is going on in the party of Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister who only did damage to Israel’s foreign relations.

Not everybody knows that the word “cabinet” — used in Hebrew specifically for the government’s inner cabinet — comes from the bathrooms of the British parliament, where the delegates would whisper secrets to one another. Here in Israel, the cabinet is where Bibi decides alone where the country is headed, but all of us suffer from the smell. Bibi wants to stay in power for another term or two. That is why he wants to change the electoral system. He did not improve our international status one iota. How many times must he be elected to keep on not keeping his promises?

Bibi has done all he could. Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, greater leaders than he, retired when they had done all they could. Bibi is sinking, don’t let him deceive the nation again.

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