Thursday, June 10, 2021

The King's Speech

For many years, I was a greatly enthusiastic fan of Bibi Netanyahu, known to his adoring fans as "King Bibi". His book, A Place Among The Nations, made a profound impact on me. As prime minister, he clearly accomplished great things for Israel, especially the international highlighting of Iran as a serious threat and the steps taken to combat it.

My opinion of Bibi changed dramatically in April 2018, as a result of a certain incident on Independence Day. It wasn't an enormous incident, on the scale of things. But it was immensely revealing.

Independence Day in Israel is marked by a ceremony with the lighting of torches at Mount Herzl. In order to make this an event for the entire nation, it is traditionally kept free of politics. The Speaker of the Knesset presides over the event, and even the president does not speak, and of course not the prime minister.

But in 2018, the Minister of Culture overseeing the event was Miri Regev, a Bibi groupie. And she was determined that King Bibi would speak. The Speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, was furious at the politicization of the event, and threatened to boycott it. 

Eventually, a compromise was reached. Netanyahu would be allowed to light a torch, and would deliver a short speech of no more than five minutes in length (compared to the Speaker's eight minutes). And the speech would be limited in scope to discussing the Declaration of Independence rather than any political campaigning. A formal signed commitment from the Office of the Prime Minister was made to this effect.

The day came. The Speaker of the Knesset spoke for eight minutes. And then King Bibi arrived, with an honor guard arranged by Regev. And instead of speaking about the Declaration of Independence, he spoke about the state of the country under his leadership. And instead of speaking for five minutes, he spoke for fourteen minutes.

It was utterly revolting. It's not just that Bibi acted with a complete lack of integrity. It's that he did it so blatantly - that even a signed commitment meant absolutely nothing at all. And it wasn't for any reason other than self-aggrandizement. The country's traditions, the importance of national unity on Independence Day, the commitment to the Speaker, all meant nothing; the only thing that mattered to Bibi was Bibi.

Since then, it became increasingly clear that this was his standard modus operandi, with potentially serious implications for national security. When defense minister Moshe Yaalon asked President Rivlin to ask Chancellor Merkel why Germany had sold submarines to Egypt, Rivlin was astonished to be told by Merkel that Bibi had approved it - and realized that he done so without consulting anyone on such a grave matter. Bibi originally denied having secretly approved the sale; he subsequently admitted to it, but claimed that he had obtained approval from the Attorney General - which the Attorney General immediately flatly denied

Another example was brought to light yesterday. Former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy stated that Bibi had "harmed the spy agency’s ability to operate under cover due to his desire to publicly take credit for operations for his own political gain." He added that he hopes that "the expected new prime minister and government would return to keeping the Mossad in the shadows to help maximize its effectiveness and not use it for self-aggrandizement."

As a wise man once proposed, it's good to have term limits for a prime minister. Bibi achieved many great things, but eventually he proved the maxim that power corrupts. It is a tragic end to his illustrious career. Let's hope that future prime ministers will learn from his mistakes and remember to place the national interest ahead of their personal interests.

34 comments:

  1. There is no question Bibi was an important Prime Minister for the country. Under his leadership, Israel's economy vaulted from the 1960's to the present day. He truly cares about Israel being a strong and dominant country that no one can disrespect or ignore.
    The problem is that he came, over time, to believe, as a French king once say, "L'etat c'est nous." The Prime Minister's residence was his family home. His wife and son had the resources of state at their disposal because they belonged to them. He systematically purged any potential leadership rivals from the Likud which means when he goes, the party collapses. That's the danger of keeping him in power for so long.

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    1. No one should have power for so long. On the other hand, to be fair, the best system in the world is a good king. They used to say about the French or English King "long live the king!" Maybe Bibi as king wouldn't be so bad. It's anti-Democratic, I know.

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    2. Agreed, but also important to point out that he totally demonized the Left of Israel to the point where much of Israel sees the Left as a worse enemy that Hamas, rather than seeing the as part of Am Yisrael who happen to disagree about what is best for our collective future. "The Smol! The Smol! The Smol!"

      He did a lot of damage to Am Yisrael.

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    3. I agree but the Left will destroy Israel when they let in the Arabs. He is right to warn us about them.

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    4. The politicians who are trying to annexe the Arab majority West Bank are the Right.

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    5. Netanyahu was also negotiating with Mansour Abbas to join his coalition. It's not necessarily a zero-sum game, where what's good for the Israeli Arabs is bad for Israel's long-term interests.

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    6. @Shmuel
      I was agreeing with Garnel not with you.
      Just to clarify

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  2. Read דברים שרואים מכאן מאת אריה אלדד

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    1. https://www.e-vrit.co.il/Product/4963/%D7%93%D7%91%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%9D_%D7%A9%D7%A8%D7%95%D7%90%D7%99%D7%9D_%D7%9E%D7%9B%D7%90%D7%9F

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  3. His taking sides in US politics was a big mistake. Doing it at all was bad enough but he took the opposite side from that of the overwhelming majority of American Jews.

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    1. @Charlie Hall - Notice that Trump and Bibi got along while Bibi did not have a good report with Obama. Notice that once Trump is gone Hamas began to fire rockets. This is all by design to get Bibi out. They are trying to oust him. It is not right at all.

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    2. You only perceive him to have taken "sides in US politics" because the Democrat party under Obama chose to take sides against Israel, and this ruffled Israeli feathers, whereas the Republican party has done no such thing (therefore relations with Trump were excellent).
      It is not only Bibi who was outraged by the Obama admin in Israel. He just happened to be the leader at that time. Yes perhaps if Obama had succeeded in getting Democrat stooges into power like Livni or Herzog they would have agreed to keep quiet about the disagreements and made you feel more comfortable

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  4. I agree with the notion that power corrupts. But Bibi speaking at Independence Day is not a good enough reason to oust him. Yes, I dislike the politicization of the event, but Bibi has done so much good for the country and the good outweighs the bad. We can't worry about the Sandra Leikanger scoundrel or Bibi's long-winded speech on Independence Day.

    As soon as they get Netanyahu out it’s like Trump. They will be a lot of lawsuits for his wife. She needs to have different cloths every time and she makes trades and after a while she runs out of trades. She says "my husband" and that’s when the trouble starts. It would start out innocently and then get out of hand. It’s the same reason Trump wanted to stay. When Bibi is out the Liberals will push civil charges and his wife will be in deep deep deep trouble.

    I wouldn’t what Bennett to be prime minister because I don’t know if he’s truly conservative (I hope so). He can’t help himself but to have a grin. He looks like Putin. He could be a middle eastern clone of Putin.

    The real question is why can’t Bibi put a coalition together? Why can’t he go find a beggar and make him minister of coin? Because the election is going to be rigged. There is going to be a lot of fraud... I hope Bennett will continue the legacy of Bibi.

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  5. But perhaps more related to the post:
    In his internal transformation to seeing himself as King, Bibi did two more bad things:

    1. He began to think that he could do whatever he wants and that anyone who stood in his way should be crushed. Whether it was the rules, the law, the police, the courts or even in the end the election system (asking for direct elections after his mandate expired).
    2. In his desperation to remain in power, he brought in the evil, racist parties of Smotrich, Ben Gvir and Noam who should never have been allowed to get near the Knesset. They should have been thrown down the stairs and out the door by all decent human beings (and especially by the religious parties, by the way). Bibi not only let them in, but allowed the Likud to become the speakerphone for BenGvir. See how in recent days the Likud MKs are forced to adopt positions that are for more to the right that the Likud historically would ever have adopted.

    Yes, a terrible fall from a bright beginning. Still. Time for him to go.

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    1. In this climate you write that "They should have been thrown down the stairs"? Physically? About a fellow Jew?

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    2. Here's what should happen. At the end of each of the swearing in speeches that will be given in the Knesset tonight, everyone of them should add the following:

      "The Zionut Datit party is full of racists and homophobes. They are a disgrace to the country. The fact that they were invited into the Knesset by Bibi is shameful. We will have nothing to do with them. We will boycott any committee they take part in and get them thrown out. We will leave the plenum if any of them try to make a speech here. We will protect their freedom of speech as befits a democracy but will do all we can to ensure that their racism is not acceptable. Israeli society despises them."

      Jew yes. Fellow, not so much.

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    3. Are Raam and The Joint List also evil, racist parties?

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    4. @Don
      let's say yes for the sake of argument.
      Does that make it OK for Ben Gvir and Smotrich to be racist? Or is it still a massive chillul Hashem?
      Answer: it's still a chillul Hashem.

      Two wrongs don't make a right.

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    5. How about not for the sake of argument? I'm interested in knowing your position as that helps inform on your general world view.

      Needless to say there are very many Israelis which fundamentally disagree with your stance on the Dati Leumi party (as you're clearly the judge, jury and executioner).

      And lastly, I see you're in good company with The Hat (kindred spirits perhaps?) in using the trite "2 wrongs don't make a right" phrase. Yes we all learned that in grade school but surely when it comes to geopolitical events it's a tad more complex than that? Was bombing Dresden or Hiroshima a wrong? What about house demolitions of terrorists? Mossad assisantions of Iran nuclear scientists? Surely your "two wrongs don't make a right" also apply in these circumstances?

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    6. Well, the truth is that I really don't know that much about them. I know what the Israeli political parties say about them and pretty much across the Board the consensus is that the Arab political parties support terrorists and do their own voters very little good.
      I don't follow them or their activities. I don't (to be honest) care so much about their behavior. It's not, I think, my responsibility. My responsibility is the behavior of the Jewish parties, particularly from my camp (the Religious Zioinist one). And I'm disgusted by the Dati Leumi party (they should also change their name to the Dati Kitzoni party).

      Most Israeli's agree with my stance. The only people who tolerate Ben-Gvir are Ben-Gvir supporters and Bibi when he needs to get out of going to jail.

      Politics is much more complicated. But two wrongs still don't make a right. Hiroshima was definitely wrong (killing so many people, are you crazy??) House demolitions might be difficult morally but still possibly a necessary thing to do. Assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists - morally I have no problem with that.

      In the case I gave - of Ben Gvir, I can say without much hesitation. He's a racist. Even if other people are racists, that doesn't make it OK for him to be a racist. Nor does it make it OK that so many people in knitted kippot voted for him. It's a disgrace on the 'Machane'.



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    7. "Hiroshima was definitely wrong (killing so many people, are you crazy??)."

      There are powerful arguments that Hiroshima was not wrong at all, and saved many more lives than it cost. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debate_over_the_atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki

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  6. And until 3 years ago you never realized the kind of person he is??? It's been abundantly clear for many years that he is a man who has exactly one core operating principle -- to do whatever it takes to remain in power, no matter what!

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  7. For me it was his speech to Congress in 2015. While the substance of his speech may have been correct, he didn't change anyone's mind regarding the Iran nuclear deal and contributed to the decreasing support for Israel among Democrats.

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  8. Getting overly excited about a rasha is not in line with Torah values. In fact it goes against open verses in Torah.

    Rambam, the big rationilst, would hate Netanyahu. Apokorsim who don't believe that every word of Torah was spoken from Hashem to Moshe are never loved.

    Same goes for those who don't believe in reward and punishment.

    Same for those who openly flaunt the Torah.

    As a rule of thumb, big enthusiasim about rishaim, or their contributions, for whatever reason, is the mark of the disloyal.

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  9. i know someone who worked with him many years ago, long before he became PM. Already then he displayed some nasty personal characteristics. Narcissism for one.

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  10. Liberals compare him to Trump but he reminds me more of Nixon: an impressive man who did some impressive things but whose ego got in the way.

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    1. Liberal here. As much as one might have a distaste for his policies and/or leadership style, one should never compare Netanyahu to Trump. Netanyahu is brilliant, well-informed about issues, and competent.

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  11. You seem bothered by a signed commitment for a 5 minute speech...yet you don't seem bothered by a signed commitment on live TV never to make Lapid PM, never form a government with Meretz or the Arabs, etc. Seems like selective hearing...and you said it bothered you after 9 years in office...Bennett's blatant lies are before spending even one day in office.

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  12. "Let's hope that future prime ministers will learn from his mistakes and remember to place the national interest ahead of their personal interests.". not a very good start for our new to be PM

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  13. Great post. So on target. I would add another incident (there are many). Recently he announced before the whole nation he would offer Bennet to be PM, but on the condition Bibi and his family stay in Balfour. This demand/request was very revealing. Who makes a demand like this? As you mentioned, it goes totally against state tradions. It's as if at this point, he does not understand how his actions are perceived by the people.
    It's a tragic end to a great man (assuming he does not make it back to power). And it certainly shows why we need term limits here.

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    1. I heard that Bibi offered Bennett to be PM, and was willing to leave Balfour, provided that Sara stayed on at Balfour with Bennett.

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  14. I don't think the title or use of the nickname in English are fair. The people calling Netanyahu "king" are clearly referring to definition 3 (and maybe also 2) here https://he.wiktionary.org/wiki/מלך but not as a monarch.
    [That is not to say the הקנאה התאוה והכבוד etc. does not apply.]

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