Gideon Miller

Playing Russian Roulette with a dead man

Imagine you found yourself in legal trouble. Bad trouble. Bad enough that it could end up with you being publicly disgraced and even spending some time in Jail.

A genie comes by and offers you a choice: Option A is to do nothing — go through the trial and hope for the best.

Option B is to play magic roulette. If the magic wheel lands on your number (and there’s a very good chance that it will) your trial is canceled, you’re a hero, life goes back to normal, and your troubles are behind you.

But, if the wheel lands on a different number, and there’s a decent chance of that too, the country of Israel is destroyed.

Which option would you choose?  Honestly now?

Actually, I’m pretty sure that most people wouldn’t think twice — they’d suck it up and go with Option A.  

In fact I’m pretty sure that most people can’t conceive of anyone ELSE choosing Option B.  And I think that is exactly why most people have been so confused by what has been going on these last seven months.

What I think has been going on is that Benjamin Netanyahu is not most people. I think that Benjamin Netanyahu chose Option B.

To be clear, by Option B, I do NOT mean Bibi’s effort to end his legal troubles by overturning Israel’s judicial and governance system. I mean something even worse. I mean what he prepared (and is now implementing) as a backup for if his “judicial reform” escape plan didn’t pan out.  

Remember how puzzled we all were by Bibi’s cabinet choices back (about 100 years ago) in January? OK some of them were repugnant but understandable — Ben Gvir, Smotrich and the Haredim had him by the you-know-what’s so he gave them whatever they told him to.

But then there were a whole bunch of others that had no such logic. Self-destructive mysteries that no analyst managed to explain. Why on earth make Levin justice minister? Justice Minister is a Likud position and Bibi could just as easily have given it to someone sane. And what was with giving a homophobic walking embarrassment whose single Knesset seat Bibi didn’t even need a senior Education (of all things) position? What possible political benefit could could come from that?  And Chikli as Diaspora Minister? And what’s-his-name for Foreign Minister? Was Bibi TRYING to turn off his US supporters? And speaking of US supporters, why work so diligently to alienate Biden? Doesn’t Bibi WANT that famous White House invite? And on and on. And of course the list of seemingly irrational own-goals has just snowballed since.

The list of seemingly irrational own-goals sparked a cottage industry of rational explanations: It’s just that his old political instincts are rusty. No, it’s that wife and that son! Or maybe there’s a little dementia? No, he just can’t control all the loony-tunes that he brought into Likud. No, don’t you see? He wants revenge and so he’s shoving it to the elites. Hey it’s all four-dimensional chess — the guy is so brilliant, don’t bother even trying to understand him.

I was convinced by every explanation I read (well, besides for that last one). But now I think they are all wrong and that it’s been something completely different the whole time. I think that, from the beginning, Bibi’s irrational errors have been neither irrational nor errors.  Choosing the worst possible ministers makes sense if your strategy requires having the worst possible government. Self-destructive choices make perfect sense if your strategy is self-destruction.

But what the hell kind of strategy is self-destruction you ask? The strategy of Option B.

I think Bibi’s Option B magic roulette wheel looks something like this: Create a government and a set of policies that are so bad, they will quickly bring the country to the brink of catastrophe. At the very edge, offer Gantz, Lapid, Herzog, Baharav-Miara, et. al. a way to stop Israel from going over.  If they take the offer, his problems are solved. If they don’t take the offer, the country goes down.

Bibi is betting all of our lives that they will take it — that the magic wheel will fall his way.

And I guess it’s probably a good bet — he knows that for all their faults, Gantz, Lapid, etc. are patriots. And would any patriot not agree to save Israel from destruction, no matter the price? Even if the price is, for example, letting Bibi lead a national unity government and canceling his trials?

Like most people, Gantz, Lapid, et. al. cannot conceive of existentially harming Israel.  But unlike them (and unlike most people), Bibi can — that’s the reason he was able to choose Option B in the first place.  And that willingness to risk Israel’s most basic welfare is his ace-in-the-hole advantage over them. He’s like a guy who’s already got a bullet in his head challenging you to play Russian Roulette.

Of course, even if he is right and the magic wheel does fall his way, there is all the damage Option B has done and will do in the meantime. And there is always the chance that he is not right and that for whatever reason the wheel doesn’t doesn’t fall his way. Or that it does but it falls too late. It could happen, and most people would sacrifice themselves rather than devastate and put at existential risk their entire country. But Bibi is not most people.

Now what does all this mean the rest of us should do? I wish I knew.

About the Author
Gideon Miller, originally from Zimbabwe, was educated (or at least tried his best) in the US and has spent most of his career as a corporate strategy consultant, first in the US and now in Israel.
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