HomePolitiek en EconomieBenjamin Netanyahu, the power politician who chose self-preservation

Benjamin Netanyahu, the power politician who chose self-preservation

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Benjamin Netanyahu bowed this week to weeks of protests against his authoritarian coup. Is it a strategic maneuver or has the Israeli prime minister reached his limits? “Anyone who’s ever worked with him knows to expect another dirty trick.”

Netanyahu seemed oblivious when he addressed a pleiad of world leaders on Wednesday, precisely at the Summit for Democracy, an initiative of US President Joe Biden. Two days earlier, he had suspended a controversial judicial reform after a blistering day of spontaneous strikes and demonstrations against the erosion of the rule of law. Those fears are unfounded, Netanyahu said on Wednesday, quickly defending his plans.

When he hit the pause button on Monday, Netanyahu cast himself as the wise King Solomon. “I refuse to cut the nation in half,” he said. “We are not against enemies, but against our brothers.” Still, he blamed the unrest on his opponents, an extremist minority that is “fuelling a civil war.” In doing so, he forgot that the business world, the tech sector and even the military also supported the protest.

Netanyahu, the man with an uncanny ability to build winning coalitions, has lost his magic.

Anshel Pfeffer

Biographer Netanyahu

“Netanyahu has certainly damaged Israel’s image as a liberal democracy, and that promises to be harmful,” said Mairav ​​Zonszein, an analyst at International Crisis Group, from Tel Aviv. The reform of the judiciary was designed to trim the Supreme Court and give the last word to politicians. And then there was the recent law that makes the dismissal of a prime minister almost impossible. That text was tailored to Netanyahu, who is mentioned in three corruption cases.

Israeli commentators noted that 73-year-old Netanyahu may have hit his limits. The prime minister always showed skill in political escape routes and often outsmarted his opponents. But on Monday he suddenly threw in the towel. “Netanyahu, the man with an abysmal ability to build winning coalitions, has lost his magic,” wrote Anshel Pfeffer, the author of a biography of the prime minister, in Haaretz newspaper.


year prime minister

Netanyahu is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, serving more than 15 years.

Yet no one rules out that Netanyahu will still win his battle. “Anyone who has ever worked with him knows that you can expect another dirty trick,” said opposition leader Yair Lapid. For Netanyahu, power is central, even if it won him few political friends. The aversion went so far that eight parties – ranging from liberals to nationalists to Arabs – joined forces in 2021 to form a motley government without Netanyahu.

This seemed to have put an end to the kingdom of King Bibi, as his supporters and opponents call him. It was little consolation that after 15 years of leadership – between 1996 and 1999 and from 2009 to 2021 – he was Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. The opposition cure did not last long, because the ‘anti-Bibi coalition’ soon fell apart like loose sand. Netanyahu made his comeback in December 2022 at the head of a government with radical right and ultra-Orthodox parties.

American talk shows

Netanyahu spent part of his early years in the United States, which is still evident in his English. He studied at MIT and Harvard and worked as a consultant. In 1984 he became Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations. The smooth diplomat became a welcome guest on TV talk shows. He tirelessly advocated the Israeli cause, especially after a Palestinian uprising or intifada broke out in 1987.

After diplomacy, Netanyahu chose politics in 1988. His favorite target was Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who he said was wasting “Jewish traditions and values” by presenting the Palestinians with a state of their own. After the 1993 Oslo peace accords, Netanyahu regularly spoke at rallies where Rabin was threatened with death. When Rabin was killed by a Jewish extremist in 1995, Netanyahu washed his hands of his innocence.

Netanyahu and Rabin’s assassination

Barely a year after the sensational assassination, Netanyahu surprised by winning the election. The left-wing parties reacted with shock to the victory of a right-wing agitator. The fact that the new prime minister quickly showed that he would prefer to sabotage the peace process with the Palestinians only reinforced the aversion. When Netanyahu lost the election in 1999, his political career seemed over and he left politics disillusioned.

Mr. Security

Ten years later, Netanyahu returned to the top level. The peace process had now completely bogged down and a second Palestinian uprising had hardened public opinion in Israel. Instead of making peace, Netanyahu closed off the Palestinians with a meter-high ‘security wall’. That earned him the nickname Mr. Security on. The relative safety also translated into an economic boom with a thriving tech industry.

But the Palestinians paid a high price. “The only peace Netanyahu will consider is one in which Israel forces the Palestinians into submission,” wrote biographer Pfeffer. Under Netanyahu, Jewish colonies continued to grow in the West Bank. About 500,000 Israelis now live in occupied Palestinian territory. As Netanyahu predicted, there was no “diplomatic tsunami” of sanctions in protest against colonization.

Even his rivals admit that Netanyahu is a brilliant politician. But he could have done more with his talent, said Ben Caspit, who has written two biographies of the prime minister. If he had presented the Israelis with a peace treaty, it would have been approved by 80 percent. He could have become the king of the center. But he’s not brave enough.’ Pfeffer also believes that Netanyahu never seized the opportunity to make peace.

Brute force

Both biographers ignore Netanyahu’s family tree. The prime minister is the son of influential historian Ben-Zion Netanyahu, the ideologue of Revisionist Zionism. That movement opposed the left-wing Zionism of David Ben-Gurion, the founder of the Jewish state. Ben-Zion had no interest in rapprochement with the Palestinians. Only brute force could keep the Jewish state afloat in a hostile environment, he believed.

A simple fact has been proven once again: strength attracts and weakness repels.

Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister

Netanyahu echoed his father’s message after signing a landmark deal with the United Arab Emirates in 2020. “A simple fact has been proven once again: strength attracts and weakness repels,” he said. In his book ‘The Netanyahus’, the American writer Joshua Cohen provides a fascinating insight into the ideological formation of Netanyahu. Although it is a novel, it is based on a real visit by Ben-Zion to the US.

In his career, the preservation of power seems to have gained the upper hand over ideology. It explains why Netanyahu joined forces with radical right-wing parties late last year. In exchange for their support, he gave controversial leaders such as Itamar Ben-Gvir – once convicted of terrorism – and the self-proclaimed homophobe Bezalel Smotrich key positions in the cabinet. Both added fuel to the fire this week by sending thugs onto the streets.

“Netanyahu is fighting to survive,” says analyst Mairav ​​Zonszein from Tel Aviv. ‘To achieve his goal, he concedes a lot to the radical right. So you can say that he is the hostage of his radical coalition partners.’ In his 2018 biography, Pfeffer already warned about the current tensions and the prime minister’s legacy. “The day Netanyahu steps down, his legacy will prove not to be a secure nation, but a deeply divided society living behind walls.”

If you want some motivation, then here is your way: Frases Positivas

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