The change of sea that is Netanyahu’s case
The likely overthrow of the landmark Israeli prime minister would end a decade in power that transformed both Israel and the US.
Benjamin Netanyahu had to cancel.
A veteran of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process or lack of it got the call from the young Likud chair. Days later, the budding political leader of the right-wing Israeli party would confess to a peccadillo, not his first, with a PR adviser. In command style, Netanyahu went on the offensive. He appeared on live television to avert the scandal. He owned it.
It didn’t matter that it was hardly his first affair in his mid-forties, or that the indiscretion was attributed not to the disrespect of his first but to the third wife, or that the exposure was the filming of the adult trial by a former political adviser. He won the race. It was the early 1990s, and Netanyahu’s panache may have been part of Bill Clinton and former Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Berry: betrayed by everyone around them, especially her own ability to be vice, and yet somehow gutted.
Today we would call such bravery “Trumpian,” but if the 45th President was the proponent of such an approach, he was hardly its architect. Netanyahu’s rise in Israeli politics – into the pantheon of historic significance that includes Israeli founder David Ben-Gurion, President Shimon Peres, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon – was far from complete for reasons that should now be obvious. He had a brief tenure as prime minister in the late 1990s, only to find himself back in the relative cold. In the following years, extravagant representation of interests because the Iraq war did little harm to his reputation as a statesman (something rivals like Secretary of State John Kerry would do) recall the legislature in later years).
Historically, Netanyahu has been a divisive figure in America, as a UN ambassador in the 1980s and later in a variety of formal and informal roles that enabled the MIT graduate to deepen his ties with Washington. James Baker – Republican Godfather, Reagan Chief of Staff, and George H.W. Bush Secretary of State – hated Netanyahu, not to mention the burgeoning republican lockstep with Jerusalem. This saga is repeated in Peter Baker and Susan Glasser new biography of the old statesman.
But it’s history. Because Netanyahu undoubtedly got the last laugh.
At the age of eighty, Baker howled at the renewed Prime Minister “Political gimmick” In the mid-2010s, the Israeli standard-bearer was received by a king in the US Congress, an escalation in his feud with incumbent American President Barack Obama. If it was risky, it didn’t matter as Netanyahu received the gift of a career with the election of Donald Trump in 2016.
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Now that the ax is raised in Netanyahu’s career, excuse this writer for holding out for finality. Netanyahu got out of the traffic jam earlier; In fact, he seems to live for Jams, like the man he eventually befriended Donald Trump, he’s a daily gamer.
But it looks bleak.
The ingredients for Netanyahu’s potential death are in and of themselves old-fashioned Netanyahu: so chatty in his approach that he was betrayed by a former chief of staff. Should Neftali Bennett, who formed an outrageous anti-Netanyahu coalition with Islamists, win a vote of confidence in the Knesset, he will end the current Prime Minister’s twelve-year term for good. As a European philosopher and Portuguese politician Bruno Macaes remembers it, Netanyahu finally hit his match: “So Naftali Bennett became PM. Not surprised. He had the fire. “
It is difficult not to relate such a downfall to current events: Netanyahu’s ubiquitous criminal detection, Trump’s eviction from Washington and the changing dynamics of US perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In May, Israel razed Hamas targets in Gaza; they won the battle. But it is less clear – with a Democratic Party and a millennial US population moving away from unwavering support for the Israeli hardline – that the country won the media war, which would be a first.
Such a reversal would come at a bittersweet moment for the conservatism and nationalism by which Netanyahu defined himself: civilization pride has arguably never been more pronounced since the country was founded, with birth rates, including secular births, an outlier in the Western world . Many conservative US commentators read the Israeli file and condemned Bennett for a cynicism, for a bare will to power that came at the cost of ruining a good cause.
But US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made it almost clear on Thursday that no man is too big to fail, not even Benjamin Netanyahu. He met with eternal Netanyahu rival Benny Gantz, Deputy Prime Minister (Israel only) and Defense Minister. “The Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister discussed the US-Israel partnership and America’s iron commitment to Israel’s security.”
So if this is a sunset worthy of the orange-pink landscapes of the Tel Aviv sky, it will be a spectacular one in which Netanyahu goes down as if in league with the precarious giants of his time. Trump card. Modes. Erdogan. Putin. Netanyahu.