In a nation where paradoxes dictate daily life, and politics burrows into the collective psyche like an eager parasite, Benjamin Netanyahu and his inner circle rise as specimens of a peculiarly Israeli brand of tragicomedy. In this arena, the man who has occupied the prime ministerial chair longer than any other in the history of the Jewish state morphs into a Shakespearean figure—a modern-day Iago, perhaps, scheming and manipulating as his nation teeters on the brink.
The episode with Gal Hirsch is telling. Behold, Hirsch, a ventriloquist’s dummy dressed in military garb, a man whose actions hark back to the theory of “command responsibility” articulated by Aharon Barak, former Chief Justice of Israel’s Supreme Court. Barak posited that authority and responsibility must be inseparable. But what do we have here? Hirsch embodies a facade politics, where he and his ilk serve as convenient scapegoats for the miscalculations, or worse, of the leadership.
Critiques of the American involvement in the liberation of the hostages captured by Hamas, while politicians like Hirsch attempt to bask in borrowed glory, harken to the sharp observation by Israeli philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz. He once pointed out that the occupation would corrupt Israel’s soul, turning it into a “Jewish fascist state.” The same could be said of this episode—a prime example of a state corroded by empty rhetoric and extreme nationalism.
But the Netanyahu conundrum extends beyond Hirsch or any other puppet he may find to execute his whims. He is the architect of a political-ideological machine that values loyalty above competence. Through this lens, one might apply the ethics of care posited by Israeli scholar Niza Lavie, who argues that social responsibility is the bedrock of any healthy democracy. In contrast, Netanyahu and his circle display no genuine responsibility, either to Israel’s citizenry or to democratic principles.
The essence of the problem, dear readers, is that we find ourselves at a crossroads where, to quote Israeli philosopher Martin Buber, the “I and Thou” has been replaced by an “I and It.” A scenario where relations are transactional, and leaders like Netanyahu trade national integrity for personal and political gain. And so, he and his circle continue to drift away from the core principles that once shaped Israel’s soul. It is a deviation that demands not just critical scrutiny, but a radical course correction.