By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
The Israeli media have reported recently on another secretly recorded conversation between Mrs. Sarah Netanyahu, the wife of the prime minister, and the spouse of the former mayor of Sderot, the town that was hit by many of the Hamas rockets last year. The ex-mayor had apparently criticized the prime minister, so now Mrs. Netanyahu came to her husband’s defense.
One of the things she’s reported to have said was that, had her Bibi been born in the United States, he would have become that country’s president. This confirms me in my suspicion that the current prime minister of Israel is also a card-carrying member of the US Republican Party.
On Tuesday he’ll have an opportunity to address fellow-Republicans in the US Congress as well as the Democrats who may choose to attend. To prepare himself for the event, he didn’t seem to rely only on his speech writers. He also wanted to give the impression that he’s seeking guidance from Above.
That’s why, on the eve of his departure, Binyamin Netanyahu went to the Western Wall, perhaps to pray but most decidedly to be photographed there. A leader should perhaps be on speaking terms with God, but most decidedly he should be seen by his voters to be speaking to God.
There’re those in Israel and abroad who surmise that had the prime minister been prepared to listen rather than brief the Almighty, he might have realized that his visit is ill-conceived and potentially damaging to Israel. That’s at least what his critics are saying.
His supporters, on the other hand, give us the impression that the speech will not only protect Israel from the Iranian nuclear menace but, in fact, save the world from it. Netanyahu may not be able to be the president of the United States but he’ll show us that he cares more for the world than the man who now occupies the White House.
By contrast to opponents and supporters alike, hard-headed realists are telling us that, despite the palpable chill in the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu, the relationship that matters – between the United States and Israel – won’t be affected by any of it, because America needs Israel perhaps almost as much as Israel needs America. They call it a strategic alliance.
Despite my natural inclination to side with the naysayers, I’ve come to believe the realists and suspect that the hype is due to election fever in Israel, fuelled by Netanyahu no less than by those who oppose him. Once the elections are behind us, it’ll be business as usual between Israel and the United States.
Not everybody in Israel thinks that that’s a good thing. In recent years Israel has reached out to India and China to reduce its dependence on America. The growing number of young Israelis travelling in the Far East and being influenced by its reputed spirituality may come to offer an alternative to the strong American influence – cultural no less than political – that currently prevails here.
Thus, despite the unease and embarrassment of many Israelis on the eve of their prime minister’s performance in Washington, few seem to believe that, though it may irk us, it won’t harm the country in the long run.