Bye Bye Bibi

For my mother and father, any career choice other than medicine was unthinkable. I was destined to leave the Leeds that I knew and I went to a far off planet called Aberdeen.

Leeds, I understood; Aberdeen I most certainly did not. I remember in my first year there I had to learn how to speak with a Scottish accent. I even learned that it was not called Scottish but Scots. Leeds was parochial in its own way, we learned how to live with the edicts of Mr Schiffer. The latter ruled the roost as our two in one poultry salesman and head cook and bottle washer in every synagogue. I learned how to live amongst Jews while nestled amongst non-Jews. I knew all the rules and all the laws. I knew where my place was in the community and on the terraces of Elland Road-the home of my beloved Leeds United.

In Aberdeen, I almost replaced Elland Road with Pittodrie-the home of Aberdeen’s football teams. It was not the same, but nothing was. I not only learned a new vocabulary, a unique accent, but a completely different outlook to life. I realise that wherever you were, you adopted to everything about your surroundings. We are all chameleons. One delightful example, and I’ve seen the copy, was on the day of the sinking of the Titanic. The local rag known as the Press and Journal headlines ran ‘local man lost at sea. ‘More provincial than that you just can’t get.

Strange to tell, but in Aberdeen too we underwent a virulent epidemic. I remember we laughed and belittled the local medical health officer. We made jokes about him and thought he was utterly incompetent. Looking back, he didn’t do a bad job at all. At the same time, politicians were fair bait. If my memory does not deceive me, this was the height of the baiting of Sir Alec Hume. It was a glorious age of the birth of satire and Private Eye. Things were different then-but have they really changed? Then we were sure that our politicians were utterly incompetent and leading us to certain doom. They were, and they weren’t; it was just the end of an era. Britain gave up hope of being the leader of the world and decided to donate the Beatles and the new era of music.

Here, in my native Israel, we are in severe crisis. In many respects, it reminds me of the Profumo affair and the aftermath. There can be no doubt that one of the side effects of Corona is a loss of taste and smell. It would seem to us, as it did then, that we are unable to smell the smell of the decrepit deceiving and dissembling. I  believe that Corona has paralysed our ability to identify the poison ingested in the body politic. If not, we would have vomited it out a long time ago. Still, we seem happier to stay as we are and ruminate and bellyache in general. Here in Israel in our own parochial way we are slip-sliding around the Corona and disastrously wrong political leadership and management. Be that as it may, this feeling of parochial dismay is universal. All over the world, we are facing a series of crises; each one on its own could be disastrous. Together they are giving the impression of the perfect storm. Our world is warming up-the consequences are fantastic. We have little or no control over it-we can’t even decide if we caused it or just innocent bystanders. We have a plague upon us. This plague is epitomised by stealth and cunning. We seem to be learning more and more about how difficult it is to control it than we are about how to control it. We have universal unrest and worldwide mass migration. This was always a hallmark of an upheaval of tectonic proportion.

In parochial Israel, we like to think that our leaders possess verging on messiah-like qualities. We invariably choose to idolise a strong father or mother figure who will take care of us. This leader should protect our state, our nation of people and our rights to the land. We seek a  person of virtue and honour who will sort or know how to sort all our many problems in dignity and rectitude. Some believed that Netanyahu was such a person. Many of us did not. Bibi is a gifted man. His father had the gift of looking backwards and understanding, he was a historian. Bibi can look into the future and predict correctly what could and will happen. He has done this twice, once while managing our economy. Bibi managed to prevent economic collapse where others didn’t.

Similarly, he prophesied the rise of the rampant and cancerous Iranian regime and all the consequences. When you look at what he did, you understand Bibi’s main weakness. In the economic crisis, he appointed Stanley Fisher, his point man. Fisher did an incredible job-but he was only fulfilling what Netanyahu foresaw and wished for. Bibi’s handling of Iran was different-he had no trusted men around him who could implement what he wanted. And Netanyahu could not appoint them. He was surrounded by politicians, people who he just cannot work with; for an erstwhile politician that is a massive deficit in his toolkit.

And herein lies the basic faults which have stopped Bibi from being all that he wanted, and we needed. Bibi is incapable of cooperating with fellow politicians. Bibi is a one-man band; unfortunately, we have to work in the political environment. Worse yet, Bibi is utterly incapable of understanding the difference between deciding and executing. Bibi wants to be both the chairman of the board and the CEO. He surrounds himself with people weaker than himself will not hinder him in making decisions and certainly do not help in executing them.

This inherent weakness was brought to the fore with the coronavirus epidemic. We did not handle this in any organised way. When the Netanyahu grasped how to cope with simple analogies, he managed to execute basic but very clumsy manoeuvres which no longer worked when we had to reinflate the economy. I will not go into details where he and we all failed; they are known, and I have nothing to add. I won’t be drawn into the seductive criticism of his imposing draconian rules and his severely restricting democracy as we know it. Netanyahu is falling into the same trap that all failed leaders are falling into at this time of emergency.

Of course, I am nailing my petard to my mast. I am a card-carrying member of the Likud, and I object to Netanyahu’s leadership and actions. I will not stop protesting. My loyalty is to what I define as the essence and soul of the  Likud; it overcomes any personal commitment. I object to Netanyahu; I object deeply.

Nonetheless, let us not be parochial, replacing the Netanyahu will only cause a mild relief-parochial at best. We are in a tremendous crisis; we, being the whole world. Netanyahu’s mismanagement is not unique. Nevertheless, I see him as part of the problem, and a partial part of the solution is to replace him immediately.

About the Author
Born in Leeds in 1944, Michael Benjamin is a retired Psychiatrist and medical auditor, co-founder of Oranit, aspiring author and inveterate cynic.
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