Robbie Michaelson
Neither Right Nor Left - Just Passionate

Character — It ought to matter

Israel is about to hold a very important election and the question of “character” ought to matter. Specifically it should be about the character of the man who is asking for our support to remain and become our longest-serving Prime Minister and about the character we should want our country to have.

The indictment of a sitting Prime Minister is not something to be sloughed off as a media conspiracy or a political ploy to remove Mr Netanyahu from power. Files 1,000, 2,000 and 4,000 are more than about cigars, champagne and the perks of office. Attorney General Mandelblit went half way when he indicted Prime Minister Netanyahu before the election – but he should also have released the information contained in the charges for the public to judge – before the election. That said, Yitzack Rabin, resigned from his position as Prime Minister because of the indictment of his wife over the amount of $10,000 having been held in an illegal bank account. He obviously wanted to spare the country from the trauma of going through, even partially, his legal woes. That showed character and that kind of action has probably not even entered into the thinking process of our current Prime Minister.

Can anybody explain the justification for the spending of  an estimated $275 million on a Government plane to take the Prime Minister of Israel around the world in luxury? Security considerations aside how can our non-superpower State contemplate such an expenditure when the entire State medical budget allotted for certain life-saving drugs for Israeli citizens has been exhausted? Or, alternatively, could the money be better used by Israel to buy another 3 F-35 Fighter jets for our military? A leader with character would surely choose the latter path.

And then there is the question of the kotel. More than even Masada the kotel represents, for both secular and non-secular Jews alike, a symbol of faith and redemption. So why did the Prime Minister give in to the demands of the orthodox Rabbinical establishment and thereby snub most of the Jews living outside of Israel? If we are truly one people we cannot be two. Benjamin Netanyahu exhibited a willingness to grant concessions for political purposes to the chosen few at the expense of what would be best for the Jewish People as a whole. His failure to live up to previous agreements regarding the kotel is another example of his true character.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeated stated that the election is between “Bibi or Tibi”; despite offering no proof that his main opponents, the “Blue & White” have any intention to ultimately try to form a coalition government with any Israeli Arab party support. On the other hand our Prime Minister had no problem arranging a union of ultra-nationalist parties that includes “Otzma Yehudit” whose followers remain committed to the ideals of the late rabbi Meir Kahane. It is apparently more important in the Prime Minister’s eyes that he stay in power even if it takes getting the support of Jewish extremists. This desire to “win at any cost” again demonstrates character.

Among the numerous election billboards that are all over the country are some that feature Prime Minister Netanyahu with Aryeh Deri of Shas; the same Deri who has already served time in prison and may be going back. This same Deri who, in his Cabinet position as “Minister of the Interior” has pushed for DNA Testing to determine the “true Jewishness” of some new immigrants. This same Deri who has done nothing to facilitate the aliyah from Ethiopia of the remaining Falasha Jews. And then there is David Bitan, the former Likud coalition chairman, who also stands to be indicted. Nice people our Prime Minister has been surrounding himself with.

Then we have the question of Israel’s “Nationality Law”, of which Prime Minister Netanyahu is a big proponent of. The law’s intentions may have been good but the fact is that it has promoted tensions and divisions within Israel’s minority communities. These tensions can be ameliorated with an amendment. Such a change would be inclusive in nature and definitely help Israel’s image on the international stage. Recently Netanyahu threw more fuel on the fire when he reacted to Rotem Sela’s simple statement that Israel is a “country of all its citizens” by stating that Israel “is a country that belongs to the Jewish people alone”. One must ask: “Is this the character of the Jewish State that the citizens of Israel really want – one where Jews are superior to non-Jews?”

Benjamin Netanyahu has served in the Knesset as our Prime Minister four times. During that time, beside the full-time position of Prime Minister, he has held 21 different Cabinet portfolios, 9 of which he held for more than a year. When the last Knesset ended, he was also our Minister of Defense and had just relinquished the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to his good friend Israel Katz two week prior. One might also ask what kind of a leader believes that it is in the best interests of the State to consolidate so much power in one person’s hands in such a fashion?It does speak to the character of our Prime Minister that to him this has not been a problem.

Many look to Prime Minister Netanyahu as having, worts and all, the character of a strong leader. Really? Tell that to the people living in the south who have seen their fields burned, their way of life altered, and have endured having to run to shelters for over a year. A recent book by Ronen Bergman, called “Rise and Kill First” stated that when push came to shove with respect to giving the authorization for a military strike on Iran’s nuclear sites Netanyahu backed down. These actions or inactions also speak to character. As the atomic clock that is the Iranian threat continues to tick down, we have an obligation to ask: “Do we continue to entrust our security as a nation to Benjamin Netanyahu or would Israel be better off to entrust our security to the 3 former Generals and the former Sergeant who are waiting in the wings?”

About the Author
First came to Israel as a volunteer after the Six Day War. Made Aliyah in 1972, served in the IDF, stayed in Israel for 4 years. Returned again to live permanently in Israel in 2017. Am widely traveled & strong supporter of Zionism. Have an M.A. in International Relations from McGill University.