Opinion |

The Bluffer From Balfour Street

yossi klein
Yossi Klein
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses Likud party supporters during an electoral meeting in the Israeli city of Petah Tikva near Tel Aviv on December 18, 2019.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses Likud party supporters during an electoral meeting in the Israeli city of Petah Tikva near Tel Aviv on December 18, 2019.Credit: AFP
yossi klein
Yossi Klein

A liar cannot head a country, just as a robber cannot head a bank. Heading a country involves communication with the public, and communication with a liar is pointless. A person who has been charged with bribery also cannot head a country, but whereas Benjamin Netanyahu’s bribery has yet to be proved, his lying is a proven fact. A liar cannot serve in a position that requires human connection. Telling the truth is such a fundamental characteristic that there’s no need to explain why someone who lacks it cannot serve as prime minister. Lying renders all greatness null and void. Netanyahu’s supporters say he’s an excellent prime minister? Well, you wouldn’t put your children in a preschool whose teacher was a liar, even if she sang beautifully and was a gifted painter.

Lying isn’t illegal. A liar isn’t a criminal. A liar can be compared to a person who is known for passing wind in public – it may be nauseating, but it doesn’t disqualify him from senior positions. Netanyahu’s supporters don’t refute his lies; they won’t cost him a single Knesset seat. They would vote for him even if his business card said “brilliant economist,” “tough on security” and “certified liar.”

How can a liar report to the nation on its state? Netanyahu gives no such report, nor does he give interviews or answer questions. He’s no Franklin Delano Roosevelt. From 1933-44, that U.S. president reported to the nation in weekly radio addresses, his “fireside chats.” He explained his policies and made listeners feel like full partners in his decisions and actions.

It’s hard to imagine Netanyahu doing fireside chats. When running for election, he’ll report that “we’re in good shape” and when he wants “unity,” he’ll report that it’s an “emergency.” At the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday morning, he presented a chart showing that the rise in home prices was halted, and that evening it turned out that prices actually rose. If he were a decent prime minister, one could say – oh well, it happens, it’s a coincidence. But with Netanyahu?

We accept lies from politicians as something to be taken for granted. To save face, we call him a “manipulator.” You don’t want a liar around, but a manipulator is OK because liars lie to you and manipulators only lie to your rivals.

A manipulator turns a lie into “spin.” With spin there is no responsibility, ownership or worries. When a lie is exposed, the manipulator turns it into something abstract, an airy bubble. He obfuscates and obscures and deflects. Above all, he says nothing – he does not acknowledge or apologize. He turns the lie into an “alternative truth,” that perfect refuge of the liar. Wait, didn’t he say he wouldn’t seek immunity from prosecution? Where was that – on television? On Facebook? Didn’t we hear it with our own ears? We must have been dreaming.

Because everyone lies, questions are being asked today that were not asked in the past. Is the justice system corrupt? If former Israel Bar Association head Efraim Nave lied about personal matters, perhaps he also lied in the judicial appointments committee? And can one trust a judge who was recommended by that panel? What about the Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson’s unit and the rest of the defense establishment? Here there is no question. For the sake of security it is permissible, even mandatory, to lie. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion said the Dimona nuclear reactor was for “agricultural purposes” and everyone laughed and applauded him.

Now the lying is done with a straight face and in official announcements. To a state that wants to be both enlightened and an occupier, lying is a vital tool. An occupying state shoots a 10-year-old in the back. An enlightened state doesn’t do such things. The IDF spokesperson who wants to be enlightened, has no choice but to lie. The soldiers who kill the boy also lie. (“It wasn’t proved that his death was tied to the shooting”). With the understanding that a lie can cover up any crime, people start a family, go to work, get on the road and end up in the government. In the government, the liar can lie to his heart’s content behind a thick screen of silencing, cowardice and blind and deaf gatekeepers.

And it all serves Netanyahu’s personal needs. Who knows which case would serve the extension of Israeli law to the Jordan Valley? His stupid fans don’t ask. His stupid fans are a liar’s paradise. He flatters them a little, scares them a little, and before you know it they’re chanting in unison about an “attempted coup.” They don’t see that beneath all his words, their emperor is naked.

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