Israeli columnist Ari Shavit, now at the Hebrew Makor Rishon weekly newspaper, had this to say about Binyamin Netanyahu in his article last week (translation by this writer) :
"I, too, wish to say thank you to Binyamin Netanyahu."
"Thank you, Bibi, for dedicating your extraordinary abilities to the Zionist cause when you could have stayed in the Boston Consulting Group. You could have made big money on Wall Street, you could have become one of the American billionaires you so admire, but you decided to return to Israel, to your provincial birthplace, and enlisted all your strengths and rare energies to deal with the problems of the Jews and to empower the Jewish State. You did this with great success for four decades. You placed yourself in the center of our lives and did your utmost to make our future secure. Thank you.
"Thank you, Bibi, for providing Israel with a strong and wise voice from the time you were UN Ambassador, during the 1980s. And for how, after the chaos of Oslo, you rebalanced Israel in the 1990s. And for using the terrible multi-dimensional crisis of the 2000s to effect an economic revolution here. And for fighting like a lion against Iran's nuclear plan. And for pushing back against the Palestinian attacks on the Jewish State. And for your exemplary conduct during the "Arab Spring." And for achieving official peace agreements with four Arab countries and unofficial peace arrangements with most of the Arab world. For extracting natural gas from the sea. And for Israel's leap to the head of worldwide cyber. And for your surrounding Israel with defensive walls and domes. And also for turning Israel into the most vaccinated country in the world, exiting the corona pandemic in an almost miraculous way. And for defining us as a regional power, and as a world power in certain fields. Thanks.
"Thank you, Bibi, for granting the Jewish people's small and beleaguered country unprecedented international standing. After the decade of the second Inftifada and the Second Lebanon War, you granted us a decade of strategic steadiness. After the great international crisis you gave us a decade of economic growth. Facing the endless attacks against the legitimacy of the Zionist project, you succeeded in establishing a powerful Jewish state. You added tactical agreements with China, Japan, India, Russia, Brazil and countless other states to our strategic agreements with the USA. You created a system of deep and multi-faceted relationship with the Muslim world and opened up the gates to Africa once again. You succeeded in proving that even when sticking to your guns you can build strong relationships with former antagonists who respect strength, shared opinions and interests. For national, political and international achievements – thanks. "
Every word above is true – and non-revisionist historians can without doubt add to the unbelievable list of this one dedicated man's achievements, despite the unrelenting enmity of Israel's left, the constant media attacks (remember the idiotic accusation that Sara Netanyahu did not report the income from returning empty bottles to the store or used Israeli tax money to feed her elderly father when he lived with them, this reprehensible "news" breaking just about when Michelle Obama spent millions to vacation in Spain?) and, lest we forget, the diligent search for material with which to launch investigations (down to cigars and whisky from friends) and an ongoing court case for charges which renowned international lawyers declared to be a shameful precedent.
Bibi is far from perfect, all his accomplishments notwithstanding. But instead of simply saying that and perhaps bringing some examples, Shavit, unable to rise above the power of Israeli media cloning, rehashes the mantras we heard during the election campaigns and even more since the new government was formed. He writes:
"But after I have said thank you again and again I also have a question. And another. And another. Were you really unaware that your long years of rule made you adopt the Bolshevik principle that says that the end justifies the means? Didn't you realize that at some stage you forgot to see yourself as someone who serves the country and began to believe that the country has to serve you? Didn't you realize that at some point (2015?2016?) a deep change occurred in you, making you begin to act like Louis XIV who felt that 'l'etat c'est moi'?"
This, of course, is poppycock. The prime minister who, his guards said, stayed up nights to try to find a solution to the corona pandemic, who lived in an official residence whose shabby condition shames the country (but God help him if he so much as replaces the rugs with holes in the living room) and who signed the Abraham Accords just a few months ago could hardly be said to feel that the country should serve him or that the end justifies the means. Perhaps Shavit is confusing him with the notorious Ehuds, Prime Ministers Olmert and Barak, whose disastrous leadership and financial activity might be better suited to those accusations.
But Shavit goes on: "Did you not notice that the political ploy of divide and conquer that you adopted tore society apart? That at some point under your rule, the inner threat became the real existential threat to Israel? That your tribal rhetorics made the people who had achieved historical solidarity were breaking up into a weak association of tribes? "
"That little by little your royal approach eroded Israeli loyalty to the state? That the country ceased to be the country of all its citizens and its ability to be the national home of the Jewish people? Etc. These are the questions that makes me put an asterisk above my expressions of gratitude."
It is important to state here that the divisive idea that Israel is tribal was first declared by outgoing President Rivlin, who hates Netanyahu with a passion. Rivlin, by the way, cited Israeli Arabs as one of four tribes, and indeed, their rioting does speak of tribalism. We certainly have widely differing sectors in this country, but miraculously, after 2000 years of exile and scattering across the globe, most of us can and do hold together – and our enemies have learned that we are totally loyal to the state when threatened.
There is definitely antagonism between various sectors, but there is also so much love, altruism and brotherhood when you look at the man in the street instead of the media and academia, so much toleration of differences, that it puts the lie to Cassandra-like prophets. And the largest tribe by far, which Rivlin did not define (his delineations were haredi, religious Zionist, secular and Arab Israeli), is the composite one that voted for Likud or for right wing parties because that tribe, while differing in levels of observance from vaguely traditional to very haredi, wants a Jewish country. Those who demonstrated weekly outside Netanyahu's home, for the most part, do not. They feel the country, to which they arrived on the Mayflower, has been stolen from them by the Sephardic Jews, termed "the second Israel." The new, elitist government (even the national religious MKs in Kadima fit that description) has nary a Sephardic Israeli and that has not gone unnoticed.
"The home of all its citizens" quoted by Shavit is a euphemism for radical left aspirations to do away with that Jewish atmosphere, while "the ability to be national home of the Jewish people" is another, alluding to the attempt to force recognition of the rapidly intermarrying Reform Movement. However, every Jew can come to Israel and become a citizen, and the aliya numbers are climbing, this without religious recognition of every movement that resembles Judaism in some particulars.
It is true that a good number of those who Netanyahu raised and nurtured in his political circle turned against him and that some literally hate him, but it would be wise to temper our judgment on the reasons for that with the fact that not only his unfortunate broken promises, but their own personal jealousy (none of them holds a candle) and impatient ambition, are potent factors in undermining their political mentor. That has been the way it works since Julius Caesar felt Brutus' sword in his back. There are no friends in politics, and no shortage of ingrates.
That is not to say Netanyahu did not make mistakes, probably the worst his not realizing that Naftali Bennett would actually join the left after Bennett repeatedly said publicly that he never would, nor is Netanyahu faultless and neither did he do everything we wanted. But we can only hope to be led by someone of his stature in future years.
The stream of childish reports from Lapid, Shaked et al about finding ministries in disarray and accusing Netanyahu of shredding papers – which everyone does with personal papers when he leaves elected office – are as pitiful as they are ill-mannered. One feels like saying: No excuses, no tantrums, no complaints – just do your jobs.
Shavit ends with a call to Bibi: "Someone once told me that you are not a Shakespearian figure but a Homeric one.Your strengths and weaknesses come straight from Greek Mythology or from the Iliad and the Odyssey, so that the tragedy was built in and was with you all the way. That is why we really have to thank you. Big time. And that is also why we must remember to put that asterisk near the thanks. It tells us there was no other choice. You wrote the tragedy that forces you to leave by your own hand."
Ari Shavit would do well to remember that Odysseus returned home. Since Israelis do not learn much classical literature in school, It might be a good idea for him to read what happened next.
Rochel Sylvetsky made aliya to Israel with her family in 1971, coordinated Mathematics at Ulpenat |Horev, worked in math curriculum planning at Hebrew U. and as academic coordinator at Touro College Graduate School in Jerusalem. She served as Chairperson of Emunah Israel and was CEO of Kfar Hassidim Youth Village. Upon her retirement, Arutz Sheva asked her to be managing editor of the English site, a position she filled for several years before becoming Senior Consultant and Op-ed and Judaism editor. She serves on the Boards of Orot Yisrael College and the Knesset Channel.