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May 4, 2018

BECAUSE THERE IS NOTHING


Uri Avnery

Source:  Gush Shalom

THE FLOOD of corruption affairs that is now engulfing the Netanyahu family and its
assistants and servitors does not seem to diminish his popularity among those who
call themselves "the People".

On the contrary, according to the opinion polls, the voters of the other nationalist
parties are rushing to the rescue of "Bibi".

They believe that he is a great statesman, the savior of Israel, and are therefore
ready to forgive and forget everything else. Huge bribes, generous gifts, everything.

Strange. Because my attitude is exactly the opposite. I am not ready to forgive "Bibi"
anything for being a great statesman, because I think that he is a very minor
statesman. Indeed, no statesman at all.

THE FINAL judgment about Bibi's capabilities was passed by his father early in his
career.

Benzion Netayahu, a history professor who was an expert on the Spanish inquisition,
did not have a very high opinion of his second son. He much preferred the oldest son,
Jonathan, who was killed in the Entebbe operation. This, by the way, may be the
source of Bibi's deep complexes.

Politically, Benzion was the most extreme rightist there ever was. He despised Vladimir
Jabotinsky, the brilliant leader of the right-wing Zionists, as well as his pupil,
Menachem Begin. For him, both were liberal weaklings.

Benzion, who felt that his talents were not appreciated in Israel and went to teach in
the United States, where he brought up his sons, said about Binyamin: "He could
make a good foreign secretary, but not a prime minister." Never was a more precise
judgment made about Bibi.

Binyamin Netanyahu is indeed excellent foreign minister material. He speaks perfect
(American) English, though without the literary depth of his predecessor, Abba Eban.
About Eban, David Ben-Gurion famously remarked: "He can make beautiful speeches,
but you must tell him what to say."

Bibi is a perfect representative. He knows how to behave with the great of this earth.
He cuts a good figure at international conferences. He makes well-crafted speeches
on important occasions, though he tends to use primitive gimmicks a Churchill would
not touch.

A foreign minister functions, nowadays, as the traveling salesman of his country.
Indeed. Bibi was once a traveling salesman for a furniture company. Since traveling
has become so easy, foreign ministers fulfill most of the functions that in past
centuries were reserved for ambassadors.

As his father so shrewdly observed, there is a huge difference between the duties of a
foreign minister and those of a prime minister. The foreign minister implements policy.
The prime minister determines policy.

The ideal prime minister is a man (or a woman) of vision. He knows what his country
needs – not only today, but for generations to come. His vision embraces the entire
needs of his country, of which foreign relations is only one aspect, and not
necessarily the most important one. He sees the social, economic, cultural and military
aspects of his vision.

Benzion Netanyahu knew that his son did not posses these capabilities. A good
appearance is just not enough, especially for a leader of a country with such
complicated problems, interior and exterior, as Israel.

WHEN ONE thinks about Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one remembers his saying "We
have nothing to fear but fear itself." Thinking of Winston Churchill, one remembers:
"Never was so much owed by so many to so few."

Thinking about Bibi, what profound saying does one remember? Nothing but his
comment about the many corruption cases in which he is involved: "There will be
nothing because there is nothing."

BINYAMIN NETANYAHU'S main occupation, between criminal interrogations, is
traveling abroad and meeting with the world's leaders. One week in Paris meeting
President Macron, the next in Moscow meeting President Putin. In between, an African
country or two.

What is achieved in these multiple meetings? Well, nothing to speak of.

That is very shrewd. It touches a deep nerve in Jewish consciousness.

For many generations, Jews were a helpless minority in many countries, West and
East. They were entirely dependent on the graces of the local lord, count, Sultan. To
remain in his good graces, a member of the Jewish community, generally the richest,
took it upon himself to gratify the ruler, flatter him and bribe him. Such a person
became the king of the ghetto, admired by his community.

As a phenomenon, Bibi is a successor of this tradition.

NOBODY LOVED Abba Eban. Even those who admired his extraordinary talents did
not admire the man. He was considered un-Israeli, not a he-man as a typical Israeli
man should be.

Bibi's public standing is quite different. As a former commando fighter he is as he-
mannish as Israelis desire. He looks as an Israeli should look. No problem there.

But ask one of his admirers what Bibi has actually achieved in his 12 years as prime
minister, and he will be at a loss to answer. David Ben-Gurion founded the state,
Menachem Begin made peace with Egypt, Yitzhak Rabin made the Oslo agreement.
But Bibi?

Yet at least half of Israel admires Bibi without bounds. They are ready to forgive him
countless affairs of corruption – from receiving the most expensive Cuban cigars as
gifts from multi-billionaires to outright bribes which may amount to many million dollars.
So what?

The social composition of his camp is even odder. They are the masses of Oriental
Jews, who feel despised, downtrodden and discriminated against in every respect. By
whom? By the Ashkenazi upper classes, the "whites", the Left. Yet nobody could be
more Ashkenazi upper-class than Bibi.

Nobody has yet found the key to this mystery.

SO WHAT is Netanyahu's "vision" for the future? How is Israel to survive in the next
decades as a colonial power, surrounded by Arab and Muslim states which may one
day unite against it? How is Israel to remain master of the West Bank and the Gaza
Strip, populated by the Palestinian people, not to mention East Jerusalem and the
shrines holy to a billion and a half Muslims throughout the world?

It seems that Bibi's answer is "Don't look, just go on!" In his way of thinking, his
solution is: no solution. Just continue what Israel is doing anyway: deny the
Palestinians any national and even human rights, implant Israeli settlements in the
West Bank at a steady but cautious pace, and otherwise maintain the status quo.

He is a cautions person, far from being an adventurer. Most of his admirers would like
him to annex the West Bank outright, or at least large chunks of it. Bibi restrains them.
What's the hurry?

But doing nothing is no real answer. In the end, Israel will have to decide: make peace
with the Palestinian people (and the entire Arab and Muslim world), or annex all the
occupied territories without conferring citizenship on the Arab population. Ergo: an
official apartheid state, which may turn in the course of generations into an Arab-
majority bi-national state, the nightmare of almost all Jewish Israelis.

There is, of course, another vision, which nobody mentions: waiting for an opportunity
to implement another Naqba, expel the entire Palestinian people from Palestine.
However, such an opportunity seems unlikely to present itself a second time.

Bibi seems unconcerned. He is a man of the status quo. But having no vision of his
own means that consciously or unconsciously he holds in his heart the vision of his
father: get the Arabs out. Take possession of the whole land between the
Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan (at least), as the Biblical Israelites once did.

WHAT WILL Bibi do in face of the corruption indictments closing in on him?

Hang on. Whatever happens. Indictment, trial, conviction, just hang on. If everything
falls to pieces, democracy, the courts, law enforcement agencies – just hang on.

Not the course one would expect from a great statesman. But then, he is no
statesman at all, great or small.

I repeat the suggestion I made last week: in due time have him confess, grant him an
immediate pardon. Let him keep the loot, and – bye bye, Bibi.