In addition to wearing the hat of prime minister of Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu wears at least three other hats. He’s Israel’s foreign minister, its communications minister and its defense minister. The other members of the cabinet seem to be yes-people, if they’re members of Netanyahu’s Likud party, and necessary burdens if they belong to any of his coalition partners.
I’m reminded of an old British cartoon showing the Thatcher government at dinner. The waiter asks the prime minister: “What will you have, Madam?” She replies: “I’ll have the steak.” Waiter: “And the vegetables?” The prime minister: “They will have the steak, too.”
- Netanyahu is foreign minister because his foreign relations enhance his position in the country. The fact that this involves him in intimate relations with unsavoury potentates around the world doesn’t seem to worry neither him nor his supporters. A columnist in Ha’aretz described Netanyahu recently as the pope of the Jewish people who grants indulgencies to seemingly repentant sinners as long as they profess their love of his government. That’s how leaders of countries where anti-Semitism is rampant – Hungary, Austria and many others – are considered to be great friends of the Jewish people provided they hide their hatred of Jews when dealing with the current prime minister of Israel.
- Netanyahu is communications minister because, like his friend and mentor – and perhaps also disciple – Donald Trump, he considers the media the purveyors of lies and subversion when they tell the public as it is about their political leaders. By being the minister of communications the prime minister of Israel believes that he can manipulate the media.
That alleged manipulation has prompted the police to indict him and his wife for bribery and related crimes. Needless to say, Netanyahu tells us that it’s a plot by the outgoing police chief who, contrary to usual practice, wasn’t appointed for another year when his three-year term was up. The indictment is viewed by some as the chief’s act of revenge. The fact that the commission responsible for appointments and the government are at odds as to who should succeed the outgoing police chief further complicates the situation.
That opposition politicians should demand Netanyahu’s resignation while his case is being dealt with is understandable. It seems that independent observers are also of the same opinion. There’s nothing to suggest that the prime minister will heed the call. One of his reasons might be that a favourite Likud man, Gideon Saar, now out of office, may be invited by the president to form the next government. In fact, Netanyahu is currently promulgating a law that would make that impossible.
- Netanyahu is the defense minister after the previous incumbent, Avigdor Lieberman, resigned in the hope of furthering his own political career. Lieberman’s rival, the even more hawkish Naftali Bennett, wanted the job but has held back for now. He may not do so if someone else takes the place of Netanyahu. Bennett’s action may then break up the coalition and force elections, which Netanyahu probably wants to delay until the current fury about the bribery charges dies down, at least a little.
Nothing of the above should give the impression that Israel is in particular trouble in comparison to other countries. Think of the upheaval in Britain, indeed in Europe, around Brexit or the demonstrations in France around fuel prices, etc. etc. etc.
Jerusalem 3.12.18 Dow Marmur