I grew up in the American Zionist Community, and among American Zionists. I am the example they look for, I grew up, made Aliyah, have a job and am a contributing member of Israeli society. In that world Bibi Netanyahu holds an almost mythical status. Bibi is the embodiment of our historical heroes to American Zionists. He is David versus Goliath, in many different ways. He is King Solomon, thoughtfully balancing between the left and right, between Israel and the International Community. He is Moses, speaking truth to the power of the Egyptian King. Specifically for American Zionists though, it goes even further. Bibi represents all we look for in an American leader as well. Proud, strong, decisive. A student solider, his family paying the ultimate price for Israeli’s lives and freedom. He could easily be compared to some of the United State’s most revered Founding Fathers. In the eyes of American Zionists, he can do absolutely no wrong. It helps that he speaks such great English, with that admittedly sexy Philadelphia accent.
The problem is that this view misses a very important fact about the governments led by Bibi Netanyahu. Almost everything he has set out to do, he has failed at. I don’t make this statement lightly, but somehow, this part of Bibi the Superhero’s record is missed.
Let’s think about some of the major issues that face Israel that Bibi has tried to address. (This will be by no means comprehensive, as I have been told my blog posts are too long.) Cost of living? The Taub center says it has gone up since 2008, even after the social protest movements, there has been little improvement in the cost of living in any way. Charadi integration into the IDF and workforce? The laws put into place during the last government were thrown away so Bibi could form his new coalition, no improvement in the situation. Iran? Bibi has spent the better part of 20 years fighting against the Iranian nuclear program. Some might argue that it has taken this long because of Bibi, but in the end, it seems another failure. The battle for who would replace Shimon Peres as President? The one man he most wanted not to have the job? Rubi Rivlen. The man who has the job? Rubi Rivlen. Another failure. Stopping further recognition of Palestine at the UN? Their flag is now hanging outside, they have a seat at all the tables. Failure. Relations with the EU? Well, they are starting to label settlement products, so you know, that’s going well. Hamas. Hamas…. Hamas…. 2 wars and has there been any significant change in the situation except that we now have to worry about ISIS taking control in Gaza? Every time Bibi fights Hamas, he stops short of a win and starts giving them things, greater number of shipments, greater fishing areas, more money. Failure. Building in the settlements? Bibi has the lowest rate of building in the West Bank of any of his predecessors. Not expanding the settlements? (As he has both made promises to expand and not expand, depending on the weather, you know,) Natural growth has brought huge growth in the population of the West Bank Israelis. How someone can fail in opposing goals is beyond me, but Bibi has managed to do it. Trying to get Liberman or the Zionist Union into the government so that it is actually stable? Failure, at least so far.
That is a long list of failures, but they are all dwarfed by the biggest failure, the one we are seeing on the streets today. At Bar Ilan university, Prime Minister of Israel Bibi Netanyahu endorsed the idea of the “two state solution.” He told Palestinians that some of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea should belong to them. He gave a big boost to their national aspirations. He gave them hope. He then proceeded to do everything possible to show that he actually wasn’t interested in the “two state solution” going so far as to claim on the eve of the last election that there would be no Palestinian State during his tenure. He took that hope away. He raised their hopes, and then destroyed their hopes. This is not to say that everything is Bibi’s fault, it’s not. Hateful people among the Palestinian leadership have used this to their advantage and have caused unrest fueled by a lack of hope among the everyday Palestinian. Bibi has done much to set the stage though. If Bibi doesn’t believe in the “two state solution” he shouldn’t say he does, and if he does, he should act like it. This is where the problem is.
Now, of course, Bibi has many things working against him. It’s a hard job, one he has managed to make harder through his tenure. We are more isolated, more under threat and more vulnerable than we were before Bibi took office in 2009. While Bibi might be a lion of the American Zionist Community, what has his status in New York and Los Angeles done to help Israel? While he may have all these wonderful qualities, how has he used them to help Israelis? At the end of the day, what does he have to show for his time in office? Is the average Israeli better off, happier, healthier, safer, than they were in 2008? Or are they worse off, angrier, in more danger than they were in 2008? What Bibi does have to show for his time in office is a never ending list of failures, and very few if any victories (I couldn’t think of any, and I tried.) Is this the Status Quo Bibi has been working so hard to maintain? Should we really be led by someone with such a long, proven record of failure?