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Netanyahu Was Once a Leader of Stature. Now He's Becoming a Delusional Maniac

Decadent, corrupt, desperate and weak: Why Netanyahu has to go

Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie
Eric H. Yoffie
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting, convened at the Dimona municipality building in southern Israel, March 20, 2018ץ
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting, convened at the Dimona municipality building in southern Israel, March 20, 2018Credit: \ Ronen Zvulun/ REUTERS
Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie
Eric H. Yoffie

Bibi, go home.

Preserve the remnants of your honor and your legacy by resigning.

Your tenure has turned into a nightmare and a disaster. Once you were a commanding presence but now you have become a joke. And you are seen by everyone around you as not only decadent and corrupt, but also as desperate and weak.

You are no longer capable of leading the State of Israel. You no longer have any recognizable policy, either domestic or foreign, other than assuring your personal survival.

And you are no longer able to unite the Jewish world - which is what Prime Ministers of Israel have traditionally done.

Yes, I know. Such matters are not determined by Diaspora Jews but by the voters of Israel, Jewish and non-Jewish. That is as it should be.

Nonetheless, as you are forever telling us, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people. And this means that the Jewish people, immersed in Israel’s affairs and concerned about her destiny, are entitled to an opinion on her leadership.

And as I see it, the great majority of the Jews - and American Jews in particular - look upon you at this moment with a mixture of incredulity, confusion, anger and dismay.

You have ceased to be the leader that you once were - and yes, you once were a leader of stature, whether I agreed with you or not. But you are now on the road to becoming a delusional maniac.

Let me be specific.

A general view of the Havat Gilad settlement outpost, West Bank January 10, 2018Credit: \ RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS

Well into your fourth term, you have emerged as someone who cannot decide on anything, large or small. With the single exception of the economy, where you have performed well, you have danced around and equivocated on every matter of consequence to the State of Israel and to the Jewish people. Every single one. Only now is this pattern fully apparent because you frequently pretend to decide only to backtrack down the road.

Point: In 2009, in a speech at Bar-Ilan University, you committed yourself to a two-state solution. In the 9 years since, you have reiterated that commitment when convenient, especially to European and American audiences.

At the same time, you have increased the number of settlers beyond the separation fence from 65,000 to 110,000, arguably making a two-state solution, in practical terms, impossible. You have also frequently boasted to the Yesha Council of your commitment to settlement building. Bibi, where do you stand on settlements and a two-state solution?

Point: Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, and since then the already difficult situation of its two million residents has continued to deteriorate. They live today in the most desperate circumstances imaginable. Blame for their plight rests squarely on the shoulders of Hamas and Abbas. But inevitably, since Israel is the powerful next-door-neighbor, the problem has become hers as well.

Israel Katz, Israel’s transportation minister, has called on Israel to promote the building of a seaport for Gaza. It is a promising idea that has won the support of a half dozen government ministers. But you have responded in your usual manner: You have dithered and dallied, neither accepting Katz’s idea nor proposing one of your own. And Hamas, still rejectionist and reprehensible, has exploited its own criminal negligence by inciting violence on the Gaza-Israel border that Israel’s military must quell.

Israel’s army deserves our thanks and our respect. While the loss of life is tragic, it has responded honorably and as best it can. But the questions remain. How is a humanitarian crisis to be avoided? How are services to be provided? Bibi, where do you stand on finding a way to ease the suffering in Gaza?

A boy holds the Israeli flag as African migrants and Israelis demonstrate in Tel Aviv against the Israeli government's policy to forcibly deport African refugees and asylum seekers. April 9, 2018.Credit: JACK GUEZ/AFP

Point: The problem of Eritrean and Sudanese refugees in southern Tel Aviv has festered for a decade. By any reasonable standard, it is a relatively minor problem, involving fewer than 40,000 people. A resolute leader would have long ago found a way to resolve their legal status and disperse them to other areas throughout Israel that are willing and able to absorb them.

But not you. Paralyzed, oblivious, and self-absorbed, you did nothing until the situation in Tel Aviv turned desperate and explosive. And then you cooked up a barely acceptable plan with the United Nations that involved keeping half of the asylum seekers and deporting the other half.

But a few hours later, you reversed yourself, heeding a variety of spurious and absurd claims by members of your coalition. For example, right-wingers who see no demographic threat to Israel in ruling over the 3 million Palestinians residing in the West Bank, had the chutzpah to argue that 40,000 African refugees were an unacceptable demographic danger to Israel.

The result of these shenanigans: A firestorm of outrage in Israel and the Jewish world, sharp criticism from stalwart supporters of Israel such as Alan Dershowitz and Abe Foxman, much unwanted international attention, and no clear resolution of the refugee issue. Bibi, how exactly do you intend to resolve the status of the asylum seekers?

Palestinians evacuate mortally wounded Palestinian journalist Yaser Murtaja during clashes with Israeli forces at the Israel-Gaza border on April 6, 2018.Credit: \ IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS

And there is more, of course - much more. Relations with world Jewry are still in crisis. The cancelling of the Kotel agreement remains an open wound. Authority over conversions recognized by Israel remains solely in ultra-Orthodox hands. And every action that you take or consider is poisoned by the reek of corruption that engulfs you.

On the corruption issue, it should be said, American Jews do not rush to judgment. The cases against you discussed in the press are complicated. And they know that many other Israeli leaders have been investigated and that the Israeli justice system is very different from their own.

At the same time, Jews who revered Ben-Gurion, Begin, and Rabin are revolted by the hedonistic excesses of a Prime Minister who admits to accepting cigars and champagne worth a quarter of a million dollars from rich friends, even assuming there was no quid pro quo.

My conclusion? Israel needs a Prime Minister who combines humanity and realism, who does not suffer from chronic uncertainty and lack of principle, who inspires confidence in the Jewish people everywhere, and who looks upon his or her office as a yoke to be borne with dignity.

Regretfully, Mr. Prime Minister, we have seen from your years in office that you do not possess these characteristics. I hope and pray that the workings of Israel’s democracy will turn to someone who does. And soon.

Eric H. Yoffie, a rabbi, writer and teacher in Westfield, New Jersey, is a former president of the Union for Reform Judaism. Follow him on Twitter: @EricYoffie

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