This Is the Man Who Will Lead Us to War?

At this point, the Israeli public wouldn't trust Netanyahu to sell them a new piece of furniture

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Jewish National Fund conference in Tel Aviv on February 14, 2018.
\ Moti Milrod

There are probably not too many people who still consider Benjamin Netanyahu innocent until proven guilty – certainly not in the court of public opinion. The question is no longer whether, but rather how much, he allegedly received, and the tense expectation is for the announcement of his trial date. His trial by the public has already issued its verdict.

Netanyahu has turned himself into the least credible politician, someone whose lies can be anticipated, whose responses to the media – that is, the public – spew mud and muck, to whom public opinion is merely the opinion of a collection of fools, not worthy of serious consideration; a mob that isn’t grateful that a leader of Bibi’s stature is willing to continue leading them. The falsehoods are so profuse, it’s unlikely anyone will even be prepared to buy a new piece of furniture from him.

Meanwhile, the same public calling to crucify him in the town square is ready to unhesitatingly accept the threat to the country’s security threat that Netanyahu is spreading far and wide. He’s bombing the Gaza Strip, he’s attacking in Syria, he threatening Iran with direct war.

How can it be that we’re willing to stone him for his alleged lies in the tangle of corruption affairs and at the same time, believe him when he says that the threat to our survival is so great that it requires going to war? What is the origin of this gap between the bottomless lack of faith in every aspect of his personal conduct and the blind obedience that we are willing to show when it comes to security matters?

Social psychologists and sociologists can certainly parse this gap properly, but the reasons for it are not our business here. What should concern us is the danger in the fact that the country is being led by a dubious leader, whose judgment is dictated by his attorneys and spin doctors — a leader who is waiting for the pronouncement of the attorney general, and for whom an existential threat constitutes being sent to jail.

Israelis have learned to accept without question the existence of a threat to their security and perhaps their survival.

If it’s not the tens of thousands of Hezbollah missiles, then it’s the missiles fired from Gaza and if not those, then there’s always Iran, which has developed ballistic missiles and has a nuclear program lurking around the corner. The problem is not a lack of faith in the existence of the threats, but rather in a prime minister all of whose decisions on cardinal matters like security and the economy are now perceived as tainted with suspected extraneous interests – not extraneous to him, of course, but extraneous to the security issues.

The danger is that the man who has tasked himself with protecting “life itself” will render this consideration secondary to his political survival. Consequently, every attack in Syria, every bombardment in Gaza, not to mention a decision to go to war against Iran in Syria, is immediately suspected, even if unjustifiably, as being connected to the advice of his lawyers — and expected to meet the test of politics before it meets the test of justification on its own merits.

It is intolerable to think that such a prime minister, a lame duck in the eyes of the public and the world, will bear responsibility for fateful decisions that might embroil Israel in war, or in a clash with countries in the region and the world powers.

If there is a true existential threat to Israel, the decision about how to face it must be made by a prime minister who has unwavering support, who is not suspected of mixing interests — someone who will not cause bereaved families to ask themselves whether their loved ones were killed because of a real threat, or because of cases 1000, 2000 or 4000.

Those who approve of Netanyahu’s continued leadership in confronting these security threats will be denied the right to demand a commission of inquiry to examine the decision-making process behind the steps he takes.