Suddenly Netanyahu Makes Sense to Me
I have been disgusted and puzzled by Benjamin Netanyahu for quite some time. Then a Facebook friend shared with a Hebrew language forum something that brought it all together for me. All the disparate pieces into a unified whole. It never made sense to me to think that Bibi made a normalization deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in order to distract attention either from his dismal handling of the Coronavirus crisis or from his upcoming criminal trials, as some have suggested.
First of all, we all know that Israel and the UAE and other Arab states have been conversing and dealing behind the scenes for years. I know from an Iranian student who shared an office with me at Guelph University in the early 70s that Iran (not an Arab state, but part of the Gulf) bought produce from Israel before the Shah was brought down. Therefore, to think that this was a quick deal hatched to provide cover for Bibi’s failures just does not make sense.
But what also did not make sense was why Bibi insisted on flying to the USA with his wife and kids for the signing of the normalization deal when the UAE, and Bahrain who also made a deal immediately afterward, only sent foreign ministers. Was it not unbecoming, disproportionate, that our Prime Minister went? And with his family? Where is Israel’s pride?
Not only that: Israelis were angry at Netanyahu for “abandoning ship” just as we were preparing for a lockdown. What was he doing flying to the USA at this desperate time? Could the signing ceremony not wait until after the lockdown? Also, a private jet was originally scheduled to take him and his family, but the uproar led the firm to rescind their offer and the Netanyahus ended up flying with the rest of the Israeli contingent.
What disgusted me, and many of my fellow citizens, is how Bibi seems to be hanging onto his post for dear life, fighting the dirtiest political fight ever, manipulating and backstabbing everyone who threatens to get in the way of his continuing reign. But now I get it.
Here is what Raz Cohen Mazliah posted in a group (he gave me permission to show it here):
This is the photocopy of a page from a book Bibi wrote almost 30 years ago. My translation of the part circled:
The State of Israel, which will be populated with about 8 or 10 million Jews in another few decades, will enjoy success, momentum and independence that are difficult to conceive of in contemporary Israel. In fact, because the Jewish state will grow so strong, the majority of the Arab world will have no choice but to make a real peace with her. This perspective stands in absolute opposition to the perspective widely accepted today, that believes that Israel will achieve peace only if she will placate the Arabs by means of far-reaching concessions that will weaken and diminish her. On the contrary, a sustainable peace will be achieved only if the Jewish People can convince the Arabs that they have to exist with her and alongside of her, that she is here and she is here to stay.
The English translation of the book title is “A Place among Nations” and it was first published in Hebrew in 1993. That same year, Shimon Peres also published a book. It stated the more commonly accepted view, that Israel will only achieve peace with the Arab world after giving up land to the Palestinian Arabs and helping establish a Palestinian state on Judea & Samaria.
Susan Hattis Rolef of the Jerusalem Post published an op-ed in which she scorns Netanyahu for claiming to have invented the idea of peace-for-peace between the Arab states and a strong Israel. She quotes something Ben-Gurion wrote in 1958:
There is no possibility, according to my deep understanding, to bring about peace unless the Arabs will develop a comprehension that they cannot destroy us…. The chance for peace with the Arabs depends on the increase of Israel’s power and security from a political, military and economic point of view.
Nice try, Rolef! First of all, no idea is ever truly original. But how many people actually believed that peace would happen without concessions to the so-called Palestinians? How many people were still on the Two-State-Solution bandwagon until Bibi just went and did what nobody thought possible? His achievement of normalization with the UAE and Bahrain was a surprise when it happened, but almost immediately afterward it seemed not really all that surprising after all. But the fact is that nobody else seemed to have been working toward that end but Bibi.
And now I understand why Netanyahu has been holding the reins, refusing to pick a successor and to risk losing his crown. It has nothing to do with his impending court cases. It has everything to do with the normalization deal he was cooking behind the scenes for the entire time of his premiership. Given that he and Trump have been friends for decades, I also suspect that Trump was in on what Bibi was hoping to achieve even before he became President.
I do not think Netanyahu had any faith in anyone else to be able to carry off the making of this first deal with an Arab state. That is why it was so important for him to hang on for dear life. This was his intended legacy to the State of Israel. And he believed and still believes, I imagine, that only he could make it happen. He might be correct about that. Who knows! We will never know. But this is Bibi’s crowning achievement.
And this is why his family was at the ceremony. He wanted them to witness his moment of glory first-hand, to hug him as he got off the stage. I can understand that.
I always felt that Netanyahu was a wonderful Foreign Minister and spokesperson for Israel. I never saw him as prime minister material. But he believed he could only accomplish this deal if he was both Foriegn Minister and Prime Minister. He needed to have all the cards in his hand. Is this true? We will never know. He held the FM position for 5 of the past 8 years and I am sure he did not share this aspect of the foreign ministerial position with Israel Katz, who was FM for one year, nor with Gabi Ashkenazi who has only been FM since May 2020.
Bibi had a one-track mind . . . breaking Israel out of her isolation, making her a nation among her peers. A corner has been turned and it is likely there is no turning back. If this was the only good thing he did for Israel, then dayenu*.
And I really do mean “dayenu“. It is now time for him to step down.
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*dayenu means “it would have been enough”. This is a song we sing at the Pesach Seder listing all that God has done for the Jewish People and after each item on the list, we say “dayenu“, that would have been enough, but He did yet more.
Not quite time. There are still more deals to be done, and they will come relatively quickly. Keep something else in mind. Ben-Gurion’s quote was exactly right. Israel needs to be strong militarily, politically, and economically. Netanyahu managed to put two of those three in place, and he did so almost single-handedly (first as finance minister, and then as prime minister). In terms of the political aspect, Israel was quite strong politically until 2019. Netanyahu didn’t create that, and he didn’t actually destroy it either. Keep in mind that all those parties that were such strong opponents of his in 2009 and 2013 are pretty much gone today.
One other point. Avigdor Lieberman served as foreign minister for 5 of the past 8 years. Netanyahu served in that position for only 2.
Re Liberman – he was FM during 2 of the past 8 years. The 3 years you added to his term were earlier than 8 years ago.
What Ben-Gurion wrote in 1958 was a distant hope. What Netanyahu wrote in 1993 was a plan. I’ve seen many articles thought out the years about Israel sending aid to African countries and, more recently, having face to face conversations with the moderate Arab states. It was a patient approach that recently bore fruit.