Jonathan Meta

The King Amuses Himself

New York City Opera's poster for the opera Rigoletto - painted by Rafal Olbinsk

In 1851, and after many obstacles from censors of the time, the opera Rigoletto premiered in Venice. This masterpiece of art made by Giuseppe Verdi -which has one of the most known tunes of all time, La donna è mobilewas based on a play written by Victor Hugo –Le roi s’amuse or The King Amuses Himself- that was banned after only one performance.

This tragedy takes place in Mantua, a city around Lombardi, Italy, in the 16th Century where a Jester (Rigoletto) enables a perverted and corrupted Duke. As it happens in this stories, the Duke ends up betraying the Jester and, thus, Rigoletto swears to take vengeance, only to bring tragedy upon himself. Rigoletto rejects any kind of responsibility in his own tragedy, and doesn’t realize that his addiction to perversion and his own enabling produced the outcome that he feared and suffered. The powerful paradox of this play is that Rigoletto encouraged the Duke to do as he pleased, but remembered the difference between good and bad only when tragedy came his way.

Like in the Opera, our reality shows a ruler whose moral compass is defected -to say the least- and the Jesters around him whose lack of sense of responsibility can be followed only by tragedy.

Last Friday (10.02.2023) a terrorist rammed the Ramot bus stop in Jerusalem, and left three people killed. This is comes after another attack that killed seven people in a Jerusalem neighborhood, Neve Yaakov, only two weeks ago.

Even before the funerals took place, Itamar Ben Gvir, the Minister of National Security, showed up in the place were the events happened and started his own mastercalss on problem-solving: he called for the implementation of death sentence to terrorists and called on the police to get prepared for Operation Protective Shield 2 -being the first Protective Shield the one that took place in 2002 as a result of the second Intifada. Also, let’s not forget about that idea of putting more guns in the hands of Israeli citizens.

Itamar Ben Gvir knows well enough that death sentence will not prevent crimes of terrorism, in which the attacker is ready to die. Also, he knows well enough that he does not have the authority to declare on a new operation, specially from the street or from Twitter. Finally, Ben Gvir knows that the people that are suffering the attacks are exactly those that cannot bear a weapon by current Israeli laws.

Netanyahu -as the leader of the coalition and the Prime Minister- could’ve answered to Ben Gvir publicly or privately, but instead decided to send an off the record to the media. As it was reported, regarding the Operation Defensive Shield 2 that Ben Gvir announced, a senior government figure said that these decisions are not made at bus stops following a terror attack. Just like that.

Maybe no one took Ben Gvir’s words seriously, because after all he performs as the Jester of the King. Nevertheless, the question remains: why does the King put his Kingdom in the hands of the Jester?

The answer is actually out there, and is so obvious that we don’t see it: Monday. Monday is the D-day of this coalition, when the Judicial Reform will be treated in the Knesset in its first reading and nothing -nothing- will ruin the event. Coronation day is near and Netanyahu won’t miss it. Even after many warnings made by foreign officials, it seems that Netanyahu will allow his Ministers to break the status quo and threaten Israel’s security as long as they come to the Knesset on Monday and vote for the Judicial Reform.

Let me remind you that Otzma Yehudit -Ben Gvir’s party- has six seats on the Knesset and, without them, there is no reform and there is no government.

Netanyahu, in his desperation to become Prime Minister again and in his attempts to control the Judicial branch, brought Israel to a new era, in which the Prime Minister became the Jester and his partner became the King. And so, like Rigoletto, if he doesn’t see the warning signs and continues to enable perversion and lack of responsibility, he will end up paying with the thing that he fears the most.

About the Author
Jonathan moved to Israel in 2018 (and so became Yoni). He is passionate about Justice, Democracy, and Human Rights, which has been a driving force behind his career path. Jonathan is an international criminal lawyer and Managing Partner at MHM Law Offices. He holds a J.D. from Buenos Aires University (2017) and an M.A in Diplomacy Studies from Tel Aviv University (2021).
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