Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, is arguably the country’s most powerful person and has an enviable international reputation. Yet he sees himself as a victim – of the media, the police and the judiciary. He has responded to the criminal charges against him by calling for an investigation of the investigators.
During their recent visit to Lisbon, while standing in front of the city’s monument to the Inquisition some five centuries ago, his wife, Sara Netanyahu, told a reporter that she and her family are the victims of a modern-day inquisition.
In an almost pathetic effort to stay in power, Netanyahu has given important cabinet portfolios to some extreme right-wing party leaders not because of their competence, but as a reward for supporting him. And the man he appointed as minister of justice is committed to run his boss’s errands by trying to limit the powers of police officers and judges.
As a result, no government can be formed. On March 2, there will be a general election in Israel, the third within a year. According to opinion polls so far, the result this time may not be markedly different from its two predecessors. Israelis may, therefore, go to the polls again a few months later.
Though Netanyahu’s refusal to retire and make room for another leader for his Likud party is a major cause of the upcoming election, it’s by no means the only one.
The leaders of the opposing Blue and White party could have made it possible to form a unity government by allowing Netanyahu to stay on as prime minister for another few months, with or without immunity from prosecution, and afterwards support a plea bargain that would save him from going to jail.
Such a deal, even if questionable in some ways, would be good for Israel not only because it would make it possible to form a stable government, but also because imprisoning another prime minister (after Ehud Olmert) would be bad for Israel’s morale and its image on the international stage.
Another possibility would have been for Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, to join Netanyahu’s right-wing government by tolerating the ultra-Orthodox members of the coalition, as he had done in the past.
Many of Lieberman’s supporters are immigrants from the former Soviet Union whose Jewish status is often questioned by the Orthodox establishment. As scandalous as this is, having only a caretaker government, which is the result of these inconclusive elections, may be more damaging to the country than Lieberman’s concession.
In other words, Israel need not have been in the political mess in which it currently finds itself had its leaders been willing to make some concessions for the greater good of the country. Netanyahu could have resigned; Blue and White could have allowed him to stay in power for a while; Yisrael Beiteinu could have joined his coalition.
But though politicians tell us that they’re there to serve the country and its citizens, too many seem mainly concerned about themselves. They’re prone to disguise their ambitions in lofty, patriotic and principled proclamations. What they deem to be the ideal is often the enemy of the good.
They may endanger Israel and, God forbid, become instruments in the possible destruction of the Jewish state. Most of the world’s Jews now live in Israel and those who are in the Diaspora depend in countless ways on Israel’s existence and prosperity. When Israel is in danger, all Jews are at risk.
The biblical prophets tell us repeatedly that the destruction of ancient Israel was largely caused by its own leaders. History may be repeating itself. Therefore, it behooves us all to find ways to bypass our contemporary politicians and unmask their real intentions, in order to thwart them. Though this can only be done by Israelis themselves, they’ll need much help and support from their sisters and brothers in the Diaspora.