Only a War Can Save Bibi

It’s no small task for a prime minister to get reelected or just do his job when he is facing a virtual firing squad of police and media spewing charges of corruption. Not just one corruption charge, but a troika of accusations centering on bribery, fraud and breach of trust, aka multiple abuse of power. It is unclear if police file 1000, 2000 or 3,000, or all three, will result in an indictment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But even if none of the accusations stick, the cloud of dishonesty surrounding Bibi doesn’t bode well for his electoral chances.

Bibi’s mantra “there will be nothing, because there was nothing” may have won over some of his most ardent supporters, but it won’t convince the general public. The Likud party’s bill that would prohibit a police recommendation to indict the beleaguered PM while he is still in power is both a sign of desperation and transparent, showing Bibi’s true colors. In the eyes of many voters, Netanyahu’s contempt for the Israeli High Court, State Prosecutor and police portrays him as power drunk. Israelis are mostly fed up with high and mighty politicians who think that they are somehow above the law. We already have one former Prime Minister sitting in jail. If the allegations against him are proven Bibi may be next in line.

For those who oppose Netanyahu for reasons much more disturbing than the pending corruption charges, it should come as no surprise that he will stop at nothing to hold on to his coveted job, and the country be damned. By all indications, Bibi is poised for another round of hostilities with the Palestinians, with a little help from his kindred spirit and no less corrupt counterpart Donald Trump. Under the guise of an “historic” announcement, Trump may have just provided the sparkplug that can set off a new wave of terror, which would in turn prompt an Israeli military response. Someday historians will puzzle over the erratic Trump, who winked at the Russians, let the Iranians into Syria, kept the US out of the Middle East and became the first world leader to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

For a beleaguered Bibi, the timing couldn’t be better. Nothing like using the controversial status of the most fought over city on Earth as a ruse to divert attention from himself and inflame the Arab street. Abu Mazzen doesn’t have the clout to stop a Hamas-induced intifada that could spiral into a military conflict, which may just save Bibi’s ass.

A reminder: Bibi thrives in little wars and “military campaigns” that lead nowhere. He has already led us into Gaza three times (2012-14) and come out of each episode with nothing to show for it but our national self-righteousness and his own job security. Hamas, the Palestinians’ own worst enemy, is always obliging, knowing that our PM needs an occasional flare up to stall the dreaded diplomatic process and obscure all hopes for a political solution. Yes, Bibi Netanyahu, his religious-nationalist-extremist coalition and Hamas do have one common interest: To silence all this bothersome talk about compromise between two nations caught in a tragic and endless war.

Without that war and all the goddamned glory that comes with it, Netanyahu loses his “strong leader” persona and doesn’t get to show off his “us and them” rhetoric that so enamors his supporters. Indeed, Bibi without a war is nothing but a criminal suspect under investigation.

Personally, I hope that Bibi’s (alleged) corruption won’t be the cause for his fall from grace. We would all be better off if Israel’s voters come to their senses, shun his dead-end policies and send him into retirement. In place of criminal charges, I would much rather see a real change in the national mindset.

A glimmer of hope: Bibi may harbor wishes for another clash with Hamas, but I believe the IDF has no such agenda. In the wake of Trump’s recognition of a still divided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which every US president before him had the good sense to avoid, the IDF will work relentlessly with the Palestinian Authority to keep this historic announcement from blowing up in our faces.

About the Author
Avi Shamir is a freelance writer, editor, translator and the author of "Saving the Game," a novel about baseball. A Brooklyn College graduate with a BA in English, Avi has contributed to the Jerusalem Post, The Nation, Israel Scene, In English and The World Zionist Press Service.
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