ברוך לשם
Baruch Leshem
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

How will Netanyahu the historian explain Bibi the politician?

Opinion: The PM will one day sit down and write the memoirs of his long tenure as Israel's leader, but how will he excuse a possible fourth election in less than two years and his near-criminal reluctance to keep promises he made to Blue & White?

Baruch Leshem |
Published: 11.30.20 , 12:55
Winston Churchill is arguably the most famous British leader as a history maker, but he also made a name for himself as a history recorder.
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  • One of his most famous works is the four-volume "A History of the English-Speaking Peoples," released after his second tenure as prime minister in 1956.
    "History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it," he once said.
    רה"מ בנימין נתניהו בבקעת הירדןרה"מ בנימין נתניהו בבקעת הירדן
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
    (Photo: AP)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who sees Churchill as a role model and whom he quotes frequently, had also made a name for himself as a writer and it can be assumed that he will keep writing in the future.
    Netanyahu has more than the necessary historical aptitude and literary skills to write about his long tenure as Israel's premier.
    But will history be kind to him, even if he is the one who does write it?
    How will Netanyahu describe Israel's political situation during 2019-2021? How will he explain the fact he led the country to three elections in less than a year, with the shadow of a fourth hanging over the nation, his inept administration that failed to pass a state budget, any social legislation or put up a fight against crime?
    How will he explain this to the millions of Israelis who flocked to the polls, demanding answers for key issues on society, the economy and the peace process?
    The answer to all of these questions is Bibi the politician.
    קבינט הקורונהקבינט הקורונה
    Israel's so-called coronavirus cabinet, which oversees the country's strategy against the pandemic
    (Photo: GPO)
    Israel's political history is full of bloody battles over ideology. Before 1948 and after, the question was whether the country would head towards a more socialist route or a capitalist one.
    After Menachem Begin and his Likud party's victory in 1977 and 1981, the question turned to societal and ethnic gaps.
    During the 1990s, everyone's attention turned to the Oslo Accords, with both left-wing pro-agreement and right-wing pro-settler camps filling the streets, symbolizing a much deeper rift within Israeli society on its identity and future.
    The elections of 2019 and 2020 had none of this. Blue & White, a predominantly center-left party, had a plan no different to that of their right-wing counterparts.
    There were no mass demonstrations calling for talks with the Palestinians and there was also no real difference between the right-wing and the left-wing's economic plans.
    פעילים בכפר תבורפעילים בכפר תבור
    Campaign posters in Kfar Tavor during the March 2020 elections
    Both Likud and Blue & White agreed on issues like helping the weaker sectors of society, aiding young couples to purchase a home and wanting the middle class to have a respectable standard of living.
    The only disagreement between the two was whether a person suspected of committing a crime or under indictment could be allowed to serve as prime minister.
    Netanyahu the historian will probably explain this away by saying that a person has the right to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
    He will say that he felt a historical mission for which he was willing to drag Israel into at least three election campaigns and stop everything in its tracks until his political opponents agreed to kowtow.
    But how will he justify plunging the state into elections in the midst of a global pandemic and ensuing severe economic crisis?
    Blue & White broke off its partnership with Yesh Atid and Telem and agreed to join his cabinet, despite the ongoing legal proceedings against him.
    בני גנץ ובנימין נתניהובני גנץ ובנימין נתניהו
    Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz
    (Photo: AFP)
    Benny Gantz and his party were the subservient partners that any hard-headed politician would dream of having, giving Netanyahu carte blanche to do as he pleased.
    They had only one demand: that Netanyahu keep his promise and allow Gantz to become prime minister in 2021.
    How will Netanyahu explain his reluctance to meet his obligation?
    A paraphrase of something he once said of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians seems apt: "If they want it, they can crawl. If they won't, then they don't want it."
    But Gantz and his Blue & White partner Gabi Ashkenazi already realized there is nowhere to crawl to.
    How will Netanyahu's future tome explain why Israel was dragged into a fourth election in less than two years, the toothless submarine committee of inquiry or the comparison by a protest leader between the prime minister and political events in the early days of Nazi Germany?
    A quick Facebook live video might offer an immediate answer, but history books adhere to a higher standard.
    And even if he is the one to write it, history will never favor Netanyahu.

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