Ephraim Osgood

The Danger of Bibi’s Messiah Complex

Sadly, Israel spent yet another Shabbat being bombarded with hundreds of terrorist rockets, the irony of Bibi’s DiMaggio-like run of power hits me like a ton of bricks. He has told us time and time again that he is the only one who can protect Israel  and yet the facts keep telling us the opposite .I guess in a world where Flat Earthers, Anti-Vaxxers, and Climate Deniers are on the ascent, people disregarding the reality in front of them should come as little surprise. How has Bibi specifically managed to turn four open criminal cases into another electoral victory? I believe that he has cultivated his Messianic Cult of Personality and sold it to the Jewish people hook, line and sinker. The danger with this is that, like all Messianic personalities, what Bibi actually stands for is the exact opposite of what he purports to.

If there is any question about whether or not he views himself and is viewed as a Messianic figure, it should be noted that in 2017 Bibi entered a Likud general party meeting to an adoring crowd regaling him in song with the words “Bibi Melech Yisrael, Chai Vekayam” -A parody of the classic  Davidic Messianic song. Furthermore he presents himself as the ONLY one who can protect and save Israel. The comparisons between Bibi and Trump are too easy to make. I think a better comparison would be to the original Failed Messiah (we will leave Jesus out of this for now,) Shimon Ben Kosiba.

About 60 years after the destruction of the of the Second Commonwealth, Shimon Ben Kosiba rose to power with a Messianic message. In response to the alleged building of a Roman Temple on the site of the already destroyed Jewish Temple, Ben Kosiba played to the masses and their still open wounds regarding the loss of their independence. In reality of course, that independence had been a farce for hundreds of years as they had maintained only semi-autonomy under Roman approved Governorships. His stated mission was to establish the third (and supposed final) Commonwealth, with himself as the King.

Playing into both religious and nationalistic feelings, Shimon managed to garner the support of the greatest Rabbi of the era, Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Akiva even created a specious biblical “hint” to Shimons Messianic leadership and gave him the nickname (taken from Jacobs blessing to his sons at the end of Genesis) Bar Kochba -Son of the Star. I remember about ten years ago in Beverly Hills when I gave a short speech discussing the idea that Benny Lau puts forth in his brilliant “The Sages” series, that Rabbi Akiva met opposition from the older generation of Rabbi for supporting this man who they considered an unlearned boor. I was verbally and nearly physically assaulted by a fuming Israeli veteran educator upon finishing my speech. He was horrified by the suggestion that other Rabbis opposed as dangerous the merging of a Messianic Political figure with religious belief. It’s no wonder as the Religious Zionist Youth Movement is named Bnei Akiva as an homage Zionist Inspiration. Why they chose to take inspiration from a man who failed so miserably (despite limited and short lived regional success) has always puzzled me. In the end Bar Kochba became so paranoid about enemies from within,  that he had his own uncle executed.

Even more tragically his ill fated leadership led to not only the massacre at Beitar (which we memorialize early on the ninth of Av and daily in the third paragraph of the Grace After Meals), but also to the destruction of the remaining Torah centers so brilliantly negotiated for by Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zackai at the time of the Temples destruction. This drove the remainder of the Jewish community into exile, and if not for the Herculean efforts of Rebbe Yehuda the Prince our entire religious tradition would have been lost. Was this worth the minting of a few coins and a short lived feeling of national pride? Certainly not. This calamity could have been avoided were it not for the fact that rather than trying to redeem the people in reality Bar Kochba was only interested in his self aggrandizement.

Returning to Bibi, I think that we need to look at some of the FACTS and it will become clear that his actual goals are at odds with his stated ones. The first two points I would like to focus on are actually two of his four pending criminal cases. In “Case 1000” Bibi is accused of receiving illegal gifts of very expensive cigars, champagne and jewelry for himself and his wife Sara. That this was not done in the service of the “greater Israel” does not need to be elaborated on. “Case 2000” is far more interesting. In that case Bibi was recorded offering the publisher of the newspaper Yediot Achronot (which he considered to be unfairly critical of him)  that he would shut down the free (and very pro Bibi) Sheldon Adelson published Yisrael Hayom in exchange for more favorable coverage in the Yediot. So in essence he was willing to backstab and sell out a staunch right wing supporter (and their pro Bibi readership) to avoid personal criticism. I don’t believe that that many of people are actually aware of these important facts that are a matter of public record (although probably not prominently featured in Yisrael Hayom.)

Furthermore, many were distressed when leading up to the election Bibi upped his game in how far he was willing to go to get elected. He personally negotiated an alliance between two right wing religious Zionist Parties and the Far Right Wing Kahanist Otzmat Yisrael party. Neither of these parties would have met the electoral  threshold on their own, but by merging them (and their eventual five seats) Bibi gained 5 more seats for his future ruling alliance. The fact that Otzmat Yisrael has been banned from running (under different names) more than once in the past is due to their racist and hateful rhetoric towards the Arabs (even by the previous standards of the Religous Zionists,) was willfully ignored by Bibi in his personal quest for power.  This angered many who were horrified by the thought of a Kahanist party joining the Knesset. As it turns out this was hardly the extend of Bibi’s insidious dealings in this matter. Apparently Bibi made a deal with Bezalel Smotrich the #2 on the Right Wing Alliance list, that Bibi would announce prior to the election and enact post election, legislation calling for the annexation of West Bank Settlements. Bibi got a ton of credit from the religious right for this move (which would signal an end to any willingness for a two state solution on his part.) Some people assumed it was because with Trump in Power their was nobody to check Bibi from doing what he has always desired. Why he make this  move (removing the facade that HE at least was open to a true and lasting peace) at this point, was only truly answered when we found out that this announcement was  Smotrich’s price for introducing legislation that would make it illegal to charge an acting Prime Minister with a crime. So in reality annexing West Bank populations at the behest of a racist, homophobic, terrorist (none of these are hyperbolic in any sense) partner was done to keep Bibi from answering for his personal crimes. Will this annexation make Israelis safer?  I don’t see a scenario where it does.

Lastly, it turns out that Bibi’s “most natural coalition partners are the combined 16 seat Haredi parties. The fact of the matter is that these parties don’t even believe in the Zionist state . Their only reason for even participating in the government is to get massive educational subsidies for schools that refuse to teach even the most basic secular studies and continue whoelsale Haredi army exemptions. That the rest of the country is fiercely opposed to both of these things is immaterial to Bibi, as they will do what he wants on every other issue, once he gives in to their blackmail. Now here, one could argue that these are the sacrifices one makes in building a coalition. However the fact that Bibi won’t even consider a unity government with them (and a 71 seat super majority) is very telling. In that scenario he could drop the Haredi parties as well as the thorn in his side Avigdor Lieberman (who won’t give into Haredid demands anyway. ) The problem is that once he brought in the farthest of the far right Kahanists, he precluded any possibility of a a unity government. Would that unity government be a danger to Bibi’s stated security goals. Considering that 3 of the top 4 seats in Blue and White are held by former heads of the IDF, that seems unlikely. But again we see that Bibi puts himself before the greater good of the country.

When former Prime Minster Levi Eshkol was once asked how we are going to begin to the fulfill the Messianic prophesy of Israel being a “Light Unto the Nations,” he responded that. “Before we can be a “Light Unto the Nations,” we have to be a Light Unto Ourselves.” It will be difficult to do that as long as we have a criminal whose Messianic vision for himself leads him to self aggrandizement in charge.

About the Author
Rabbi Ephraim Osgood has been a teacher of Torah and Jewish History in Los Angeles and Chicago for the past 10 years. In his free time he enjoys reading graphic novels (that's comic books in layman's terms), Jewish History, and anything that piques his interest. He has six children one all of whom are well behaved, adorable budding prodigies.