Netanyahu’s exit won’t redeem Israel

Let’s stop using the pitchforks on the prime minister — much less will change than expected if the center-left takes power.

By  | Mar. 1, 2015 | 12:05 AM
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Feb. 16, 2015. Photo by Reuters
Benjamin Netanyahu did not “ruin” or “destroy” Israel’s relations with the United States. Too bad, because few things have corrupted Israel more than its warped relations with America. The prime minister only wrecked his personal relations with the current administration. Not good, but not too terrible.

Washington will continue to blindly finance, arm and support Israel in all its wars and occupations, with Netanyahu or without him. And it will resume its embrace of Israeli prime ministers once the current one is replaced. Just wait and watch the Americans and Europeans cheer if Isaac Herzog is chosen; just see how everything returns to normal with no lasting damage.

Depictions of Netanyahu as the destroyer of U.S.-Israeli relations are part of a demonization campaign now reaching its peak. Israel is beset by a curse, and that curse is named Netanyahu, only him.

He’s the devil incarnate. Every detail of his repellent behavior is portrayed as a crime and national calamity – just give us more examples like the misappropriation of garden furniture or the pocketing of bottle-deposit money, and we’ll show you the devil living at the prime minister’s residence.

Yes, Netanyahu is a bad prime minister, though not much worse, if that, than most of his predecessors. He has embarked on fewer unjustified wars than Ehud Olmert, he has built fewer settlements than Ehud Barak (relative to his time in office), and he’s apparently less corrupt than Ariel Sharon. Israel’s situation in many areas has deteriorated during his term, but this process didn’t start when he took over and will not end when he leaves.

The view is that Israel’s only problem is Netanyahu; his removal will herald redemption. But Netanyahu isn’t the only problem, not even the main one, and his removal will definitely not achieve any resolution.

The harping on him has long exceeded rational limits; it’s like voodoo ceremonies or exorcism rituals. Maybe his effigy will be burned at the Lag Ba’omer bonfires this May. A curse hangs over Israel and its name is Netanyahu, only Netanyahu. He embodies all our demons, without even mentioning his Lady Macbeth.

How easy it is to ascribe everything to him. How convenient it is to pin all the ills of this country and society on his imperious image with his glued hair and fake pathos, believing that it’s not us, it’s him. How easy it is to believe that all will be well when’s gone, that all our wounds will be healed and a thousand flowers will bloom.

This of course is the easy way to deal with problems, typical of a society in denial. He’s the “illegal outposts” whose removal will end the occupation. He’s like Yasser Arafat was; if only he were gone, peace would prevail. If only we get rid of Netanyahu, all will be well.

This is laughable when considering Netanyahu’s rivals Herzog, Tzipi Livni, Yair Lapid and Moshe Kahlon. Much less will change if they take power than is projected in the demonization campaign.

How easy it is to canvass against him and how fashionable it is to sigh “Oh, that Netanyahu.” Just give us more pitchforks against this enemy of the people. It’s not that there isn’t anything to attack him for — the list of damage is long — but the exaggerations and focus on him alone have made the campaign suspect.

On Tuesday he’s speaking at a joint session of Congress. Israeli analysts, who never step outside the consensus of the herd, will compete over who shoots better barbs at him and who better describes the “historic” damage his speech will cause U.S.-Israeli relations. But soon a new squadron of the latest fighter jets will land here, supplied by the United States to Netanyahu’s Israel so it can bomb Gaza once again.

Gideon Levy tweets at @levy_haaretz.com



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