Many of my fellow Baby Boomers – and the Millennial children who grew up listening to their parents’ great music – are probably familiar with the Paul Simon hit “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” a song in which “Rhymin’ Simon” enumerates, in his unique, jocular fashion, the many and varied ways in which someone trapped in a bad relationship can fly the coop. I happened to hear “50 Ways” on an oldies station recently, and it occurred to me that like Simon’s protagonist in the song, the citizens of Israel have, for too long, been in an abusive relationship with an exploitative and manipulative prime minister. Hence the inspiration for this essay.
At the outset of this week, because of the number of splintered center-left parties, there indeed were some fifteen ways – maybe more? — in which a voter could could cast her ballot for an anti-Netanyahu party. This situation will hopefully be rectified by the weekend. But in any case, I’ve decided to list the many reasons why Netanyahu, like some forgotten cottage cheese in the back of the fridge, is way past his expiry date, and needs to be tossed (each point below could itself be the subject of an entire article, but in the interest of brevity, I’ve kept my discussions succinct, with a link to a relevant, generally English-language, news source for anyone who’d like to get additional detail):
- Netanyahu is not a leader with vision, but rather someone who ‘puts out fires.’ We lurch from crisis to crisis, many of which are political and of his own making. For example, because of his obsession with having favorable press, the replacement of the Israel Broadcasting Authority by Kan, a new ‘Israeli BBC,’ was a months-long traumatic affair, despite the fact that the this change was the Likud’s idea in the first place (1). And ever since Netanyahu was indicted in November, 2019, of course, we’ve been living a continuous crisis, centered on Bibi’s Ongoing Efforts to Avoid Standing Trial.
- Netanyahu is manipulative and an inveterate liar. After the last elections, he raised the alarm that because of the Corona crisis, an emergency unity government was immediately and urgently required. However, once Benny Ganz picked up the gauntlet and agreed to join such a government – effectively committing political suicide in the process — Netanyahu suddenly had all the time in the world, and he then spent the next few weeks negotiating every single clause in the unity agreement, in an attempt to escape justice. Bibi has such a reputation for ‘prevaricating’ that Ganz was probably the only person in the country who actually believed that Netanyahu would stick to the rotation deal (2).
- Netanyahu seems to have little interest in domestic policy, letting most everything outside defense fall by the wayside. The healthcare system has been starved for funds for years, consistent with uber-capitalist Binyamin Netanyahu’s policy of reduced public-sector spending in general. While the population has grown steadily over the years, the number of hospitals / hospital beds hasn’t kept pace, and in fact has barely increased. Israeli hospitals operate at near-capacity year-round, the number of ICU beds per thousand population is among the lowest in the OECD, and there is also a shortage of ventilators and other critical equipment. This, of course, has exacerbated the severity of the pandemic.
- Much of Netanyahu’s base consists of people living in so-called development towns located in the country’s far north and the Negev. One would think that Bibi would make sure to take good care of these people, but no, he thumbs his nose at them as well. Or as he told one woman in Kiryat Shmona who demanded to know why the area was losing its first-aid station, “You’re boring us” (4).
- Netanyahu destroyed the Israeli social safety net. For example, unemployment benefits used to be at a standard typical of social-democrat countries. But now they’re at “unbridled capitalism” levels – unlike salaries, of course — and they’re taxed (5.)
- Economic inequality has increased greatly under Netanyahu (6a ). And the anti-trust regulators have been asleep on Netanyahu’s watch (see the entertaining, if upsetting, video about “Monopolies in the supermarket.” The clip’s in Hebrew, but it’s pretty clear what’s being said: (6b) ). Consumers have taken it on the chin also because Netanyahu, supposedly Mr. Capitalist, hasn’t had the courage to take on various special interest groups. As a result, there are still all sorts of import restrictions and tariffs that protect local industries, a vestige of Israel’s socialist past.
- There’s always plenty of money in the budget when keeping Bibi’s party members and coalition partners happy is involved, to the tune of hundreds of millions of shekels. Tiny Israel has far more government ministries than the US, for example, since several pointless ministries were created solely to give ‘deserving’ politicians a place to hang their hat during the day – as well as to have an impressive title and a lot of perks. But the Likud refused to fund an increase in pensions for the elderly, which are miniscule.
- Several veteran Likud members who had once been the leading lights of the party, people like Benny Begin, Dan Tichon, Michael Eitan, Dan Meridor, and Limor Livnat announced before the last election that they would not support Netanyahu (8a). Benny Begin, son of the revered Likud founder and Prime Minister Menchaem Begin, recently went one step further and joined Gideon Saar’s Tikvah Hadasha (New Hope) party (8b). Saar himself is a veteran Likud member who left the party in disgust (8c).As for what constitutes the Likud Knesset representation these days, well, these MK’s and ministers are reminiscent of the lyrics to another Baby-Boomer song, “clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right.” The most vocal and foul-mouthed of the lot, if you were to offer them a penny for their thoughts, you could expect to get change. This doesn’t prevent them, however, from serving as Bibi’s attack dogs. What they certainly aren’t serving is the Israeli public.They are also a disgrace to the memory of Menahem Begin, a “democrat and liberal par excellence,” (8d) as many of them seemingly haven’t a clue as to what democracy entails. Yariv Levin, Knesset Speaker, doesn’t even make a pretext of discharging his duties in a non-partisan fashion. And when the establishment of the Kan Broadcasting Authority was being discussed, intoned Miri Regev, who might have been a Russian Commissar in a former life, “What’s the point of this new broadcaster if we don’t get to control it?!”
- Netanyahu is corrupt and has been indicted on charges of three serious crimes. Let’s explore what his ‘breach of trust’ case involves. A senior Communications Ministry official was preparing a set of regulations / legislation that would have encouraged greater competition among Internet providers, which of course would have meant savings on monthly fees for consumers. But Shaul Elowitz, a friend of Bibi’s, had a controlling interest in Bezeq, the local phone company, which had a virtual monopoly on Internet infrastructure. And these new rules would have been detrimental for Bezeq. So Bibi fired the ministry official, appointed an errand boy in his place, and the latter quashed the pending regulations – meaning Bibi put his friend’s interests above those of Israeli consumers. And by the way, Bibi wasn’t just being a nice guy to his pal – there was a quid-pro-quo involved (9).
- Rather than just ‘going quietly,’ resigning, and standing trial, like Ehud Olmert did, Netanyahu has attacked all the state institutions that have or will be involved in investigating and prosecuting him, including dedicated public servants he himself appointed (10).
- Netanyahu is disdained by virtually all of the people who’ve had to work with him closely. For example, shortly before his death, the late esteemed Mossad head, Meir Dagan, who’d had a bellyful, went public about his dealings with Netanyahu (11). Netanyahu, for his part, displays almost no loyalty to his underlings.
- It’s bad enough that Bibi is the source of much strife and ‘inter-tribal’ discord within Israel. But thanks to his always putting his haredi coalition partners first where religious issues are concerned, Israel’s relations with diaspora Jewry have become strained as well (12).
- Netanyahu is led by the nose by Israel’s Queen of Entitlement, his wife Sarah, and his social-media hatchet-man, son Yair (a must-watch, a short clip in which a well-known entertainer discusses his dealings with the Netanyahus one long-ago Yom Ha’atsma’ut: (13) — in Hebrew, but highly entertaining; worth finding a Hebrew speaker to watch this with, if necessary).
- The Netanyahu’s live high-off-the-hog at taxpayer expense. The Israeli version of Air Force One is basically a flying luxury hotel, and cost some NIS 580 million (!). This sum could have gone a long way to building a badly-needed additional hospital, for example.
- And then, of course, there’s the pandemic. It’s often been said that Netanyahu has mismanaged the crisis, but this is not only inaccurate, it’s plain wrong. The problem isn’t that Netanyahu’s response has been inept, but rather that, far worse, it has been politically motivated. This is why Netanyahu appointed healthcare professionals as “Corona czars,” although in retrospect, they clearly were only window dressing. Their advice was ignored, and the ‘traffic-light’ strategy they proposed was never implemented, since Bibi’s overriding concern was not to offend his haredi coalition partners. And so Bnei Brak is perpetually a red zone and nothing is done about it, while the Arabs get fined, and we’re all in lockdown yet again. Some 4,800 people have died, and economic misery is the lot of many (15).
One final point: Netanyahu loves to claim that anyone who opposes him is a leftist. With the death of socialism, the main, perhaps only, demarcation between left and right these days concerns the future of the West Bank / Judea and Samaria. Note that this issue, indeed, even the word ‘Palestinian,’ appears nowhere in the above.
And now to conclude by coming full-circle with some voter advice in the spirit of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways:”
Vote for Bibi’s yariv, Nadiv!
Maybe Zelicha, Micha!
Perhaps Tikva Hadasha, Hedva!
This time it’s meant to be.
Send Bibi to jail, Gail!
Put him in Maasiyahu, Shmaryahu!
Show Sara the door, Dror!
And set yourself free.
AND SET YOURSELF FREE!