Lou Sandler

Netanyahu’s Cult of Personality and the Politics of Disintegration

As did Bush/Cheney, Netanyahu has apparently made a choice to rule more by ‘Cult of Personality’ than leadership, thought and vision. While the Bush/Cheney years will continue its remarkably negative impact on the U.S. for a while yet, the size and sweep of America neutralizes some of that wider impact both nationally and internationally

As a much smaller and newer nation simultaneously mired in a real, deadly regional and day to day geopolitical mix along with the fact that its own politics are (need to be) still evolving, Israel has far less ability to absorb such internal cynicism and divisiveness. And it has not been Obama; it’s not been American ‘liberal’ Jews; it’s not been J Street; it’s not been Livni; it’s not been the Israeli ‘Left’ or ‘Peace Camp’ or whoever else can be otherwise selected.

Instead, these are the dangerous and visionless politics by Netanyahu and Israel’s very own right wing neocons who now seem to have entered into an increasingly Faustian relationship with core members of the American GOP and CUFI; the self-identified American ‘Christian Zionists.’ Should and when Netanyahu become ready to step up and lead, I am very prepared to listen to what he has to say.

But, instead and so very dangerously, Netanyahu’s current strategy to ‘divide and conquer’ has seemed to increasingly focus on dividing and conquering Israeli and Diaspora Jews along with those who have long supported Israel though, perhaps, not Netanyahu personally.

It is the politics of disintegration rather than strength, leadership and vision.

While such strategies won Bibi back his day job, it has also placed Israel’s current stability and future viability at a risk larger than currently posed by the PA, Hamas and, likely even, Iran. It is not all these others who represent the problem but Netanyahu’s ‘Cult of Personality’ and neocon reactivity which has replaced leadership and vision.

The fact that Bibi is not ‘Israel’ but the elected leader of Israel needs to be driven home. That Israel doesn’t work off of a single consciousness any more than does the U.S. also needs to be driven home. This dangerous misperception created by Bibi and Israel’s ‘neocons’ has become Israel’s own and still expanding Pandora’s Box.

A political priority for the Israeli and Diaspora opposition; for those who are impassioned about Israel’s real future is to talk about Israel; not Israel as Netanyahu or Israel filtered by Ron Dermer on behalf of Netanyahu…but to talk about Israel while making this clear political distinction. That is, after all, how democratic systems should operate.

As I’ve been publishing on TOI and entering into a number of comment strings across TOI, I have found both active support for the positions I’ve offered along with – as would be anticipated – some rather direct attacks ranging from my politics (on which at least those authors do have some information) to my personality, personal history and other core beliefs which, of course, are typically not included in my TOI blog posts.

And in many of these attacks and sometimes other worldly accusations, one pattern I’ve observed is the habit to cite particularly outrageous and, sometimes, genocide inferring statements by various Arab theocrats towards Israel and Jews which, of course, includes me, too.

Just today, in fact, I was offered up a vicious and murderous statement given on the official Palestinian Authority TV network by Sheikh Ahmad Abu Halabiya back in 2001 following the 9/11/ attacks which called on any of his followers to kill Jews anywhere at any time possible. For this, all he had to do was read from the Hamas Charter.

So before the next set of nasty comments are sent to me; I want readers to try and understand that I, and those of us who are appalled by Netanyahu and his hard Right neocons, are quite well aware that a great many people want to kill us and kill Israel. We also take such vitriol very seriously.

But also please realize that constant references to, for instance, the insanity of Sheikh Halabiya or many other like-minded individuals has essentially become your own variant of a modified strawman argument.

A huge number of Jews, in particular, who strongly oppose Netanyahu and Israel’s hard Right neocons to include a great many Israeli senior military, intelligence and political officers, are hardly ‘leftists,’ ‘doves’ or clueless ‘lovers of (either) Islam or Iran’ but also deeply impassioned and prepared to die for supporters of Israel.

A prime issue, and point that I’ve made that is consistent with senior Israeli officials with far more intimate knowledge than I, is that the strategies of divisiveness, political hate, ‘Personality’ and manipulation of Israel and the Diaspora being pursued by Bibi and Israel’s neocons is more of an immediate danger to Israel than what Halabiya said 14 years ago.

And if you want tit for tat vile, counterproductive and similarly hate filled diatribes which, in some cases, advocate what would fundamentally be a ‘cleansing’ of the Israeli Territories among other amoral and, potentially even criminal acts, check in on Lieberman; check in on Bennett; check in on Netanyahu; check in on John Hagee and CUFI and/or far too many of Israel’s own dangerous neocons and others within the country.

The still stated regret among selected members of Israel’s harder Right neocons and other Israelis that Netanyahu did not simply ‘flatten’ Gaza during the last Israel/Hamas conflict is but one sad example which was wrong then and remains so on at least two marco levels.

First, and of greatest importance, is that there are people living in Gaza rather than just Hamas fighters; people who have also been brutalized and repressed by Hamas. To ‘flatten’ Gaza would have been both obscenely inhumane and, most arguably, a true war crime.

The second reason why ‘flattening’ Gaza was and remains a very misguided and thoughtless idea is that it would also be really bad politics reflecting that same lack of vision for the future of Israel by its hard Right about which I’ve been writing.

That so many who have bought into the Netanyahu ‘Cult of Personality’ continue to think that those of us…a very large number of Jews (and others)…need to be constantly ‘reminded’ that others want to kill us and kill Israel is not only pointless since we already know this well but also allows Netanyahu’s ‘Cult of Personality’ and crass pandering to replace vision and leadership in Israeli politics.

I continue to hope for and would welcome were Netanyahu to step up, be ready to lead and make hard decisions aligned with Israel’s future. I would not expect to support him word for word but am and would be very ready to listen. So far, however, his politics remain that of disintegration and fragmentation and without otherwise coherent, doable or logical alternatives.

These are the issues; not the ‘epiphany’ that lots of people want to kill Jews and Israel. Israel’s right wing neocons have continued to not only intensify the tit for tat exchanges and hate, they have now moved to targeting Israeli and Diaspora Jews with their strategies of divide and conquer without an apparent point but to remain in power.

The constant references to widely known threats to Israel and Jews both in and outside of Israel have just become another strawman. And its a strawman which continues to deny the need for while blocking an incredibly important and coherent discussion of Israel’s current status and real future.

About the Author
I was born in Baltimore, MD and have since had a wide range of experiences including a year plus in Israel. I've been a progressive organizer, writer/media spokesperson, coordinator and freelance. I am a PhD level Clinical Behavioral Analyst specializing in severe behavioral need in children (and adults) and their families. I write through no ‘agenda or special interest’ other than being a passionate supporter of Israel and Israel's future.