Half an hour. That’s how long the handoff meeting between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his predecessor, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, lasted. Everything Netanyahu had to tell Bennett about the job after more than 12 years straight in the Prime Minister’s Office – the longest tenure in the country’s history – he crammed into 30 minutes. A beginning waiter at a café gets more training than that.
Moreover, there was no festive handover ceremony on Monday, even though that’s the usual custom when ministries change hands. This was a display of ungentlemanly stinginess on the part of a man who doesn’t know how to lose – someone who exalts the state in words, but is always driven by his own personal welfare in practice.
The hasty handover and the refusal to hold any ceremony to mark the transition reflect the fact that Netanyahu isn’t willing to accept his defeat. The venomous speech he delivered during the new government’s swearing-in ceremony attested to the same problem. “It’s impossible to have confidence in someone who defrauded his voters in a way we haven’t seen since the state was founded,” he said. “We’ll quickly topple this fraudulent government and save the people of Israel.” After the longest prime ministerial tenure in the country’s history, Netanyahu hasn’t managed to muster the ability to transfer power with even a modicum of dignity.
On Monday, too, during a meeting with the heads of the Shas, United Torah Judaism and Religious Zionism parties, Netanyahu reiterated his standard inflammatory remarks (“this dangerous left-wing government, a fraudulent government”), sowed fear and worry among his voters (“We’ll save the state and the people of Israel”) and continued to act like someone who views the country’s welfare as strictly secondary to his own (“I can feel in my fingertips where their weak points are”).
Even if it’s disappointing to repeatedly discover such pettiness in the person who used to be the country’s leader, there’s nothing surprising about it. Had Netanyahu had the ability to put the country’s needs above his own, his long years in power would have looked different. Israeli society wouldn’t have found itself divided and torn into tribes and sub-tribes, and hatred wouldn’t have found a foothold on every street of every city.
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Even his indictment, with its charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, would never have happened had Netanyahu not believed with all his heart that both the media and wealthy businessmen were supposed to serve him rather than the country.
What’s necessary now is to lay aside the poisonous culture Netanyahu tried to inject into the country’s veins and start the work of rehabilitation, healing, reform and rebuilding. The ruins left by Netanyahu and his gang will take a long time to repair.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.