A primer for Netanyahu-haters
Quiet seems to have returned to the Temple Mount and its environs. Could it be that, overall, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu handled the crisis successfully? Or perhaps he made tactical mistakes but succeeded on the strategic level? Or maybe it’s still too soon to say.
But if you’re a card-carrying Netanyahu-hater, you won’t even entertain such questions. Public Enemy No. 1 — the prime minister — always fails, is always venal, incompetent, and destructive. Since it might be hard to sustain this stance against countervailing evidence, below are some pointers on how to remain a good Netanyahu-hater through thick and thin.
1. Never give him credit.
Since Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, Hamas has been in a state of abject defeat. It has stopped firing rockets almost completely; the few that are still fired are mostly the work of rogue elements. Normal life has returned to southern Israel. An achievement, no?
On the diplomatic front, Netanyahu’s achievements are unprecedented in Israeli history. Not only does Israel now have diplomatic relations with more countries than ever, but ties are tightening with powerhouses like Japan, China, and India. Israel is returning to Africa and again becoming a major benefactor of much of the continent, something that should yield diplomatic dividends for Israel. Even behind-the-scenes relations with Arab countries are flourishing. As for relations with the US, during the Obama era they were troubled; but now Obama is out, and they’re not troubled. Who caused the trouble — Obama or Netanyahu?
Meanwhile the Bank of Israel reported that in 2016 the Israeli economy grew by 4%, GDP reached a new record, unemployment dropped further, private consumption increased by 6%, and the standard of living rose by 5%. In addition, foreign investment in 2016 surged dramatically. Of course, all isn’t rosy in the Israeli economy — housing prices and other prices are still way too high. But a lot is going right, too. Who’s been prime minister for the last eight years?
If, though, you’re a committed Netanyahu-hater, never give him credit for any of these security, diplomatic, or economic achievements. The best approach is simply not to mention them. Or, if anyone does mention them, be sure to deride them and harp on the negative.
2. Never feel a moment’s gratitude for any of his achievements.
Security, diplomatic, and economic improvements mean better lives for most Israelis — and, regarding parents, for their children’s lives too. But never even consider the disconcerting possibility that, at least in some important ways, Netanyahu as prime minister has made your own life, or your children’s lives, better. How could this be true of Public Enemy No. 1? Since, by definition, it can’t be true of him, never feel a moment’s gratitude for the ongoing, very hard work he does, under multiple, unimaginable pressures, for the good of the country.
3. Always hope that he’ll be toppled.
During the 2015 election campaign, there were multiple “scandals” that made haters hope Netanyahu would lose. Did his wife transfer state-supplied furniture from the official residence to a private residence? Did the couple order way too much ice cream? These days, of course, there are investigations in progress. Did he get way too many cigars as gifts? Did he hold meetings with a newspaper publisher in which they talked about a shady deal that was never, in any way, acted upon? Of course, if you work in media, do your utmost to create an atmosphere of incrimination, and to get damning quotes about Netanyahu from every frustrated, envious, grudge-bearing politician or ex-politician.
4. Never ask yourself if Netanyahu’s fall would actually be good for Israel.
Since he’s a demon who can do no right, it follows that his ouster would be good for the country. Or would it? Is there a potential replacement who can match Netanyahu’s deep, versatile understanding of international politics, economics, security issues, and how they intermesh? His command of English? His ability, for example, to get Putin to accept Israeli military activity in Syria against Putin’s own alliance? Or has Netanyahu been a fortunate figure for Israel, a person of rare sophistication in diverse domains and of terrific drive and energy? No, can’t be. If you’re a hater, you never have to ask yourself these questions because you’ve already ruled that the man is bad news.
5. Never ask yourself what your attitude toward him seems to imply about the Israeli people.
Netanyahu won an election in the 1990s, and since 2009 he’s won three in a row. His right-of-center bloc won all of those last three elections by a comfortable margin. If he is indeed the public enemy and demon you see him as, what would that say about the Israeli population that keeps reelecting him? Are Israelis so blind to their own interests, so boorishly incapable of assessing a leader’s performance, that they keep electing someone who—in your view—can only lead them from one disaster to the next? But, of course, you can dodge this difficult, sensitive question, too, and keep your sights trained on the scourge himself.
In conclusion, I hope these pointers have been helpful. You’ve drawn a bead on Netanyahu, you’ve set him up as an axiomatically malign force. You need to stick to that view at all costs, and this primer can assist you in doing so.