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Power and Paranoia

Power and paranoia seem to go together. The more you have of the former, the more are you likely to be burdened by the latter. Biographers of Stalin, for example, when describing his ruthless rule also tell of his relentless persecution mania.

Binyamin Netanyahu is, mercifully, no Stalin, but as the longest-serving prime minister of Israel with many impressive achievements in his portfolio, he has enough power to be plagued by paranoia. As two weeks after the elections on March 2, his trial on three serious charges is about to begin, it gives him cause to feel persecuted.

In his case, it’s the judiciary and the police that are his primary targets. But as he heads a right-wing government, any group or individual opposing him is a dangerous renegade lefty, perhaps even in cahoots with other imaginary or real enemies bent on destroying not only him but the country. That’s why he is pulling out all stops, whether justified and reasonable or not, in order to stay in power.

Not only does he try to frighten the electorate by warning us that Benny Gantz, the leader of the other big party hoping to replace the current incumbent, will only be able to form a government with Ahmad Tibi, the most Likud-feared of the leaders of the Joint Arab list, the third-largest party in Israel. If that’s not enough, people close to Likud are reported in today’s Ha’aretz to have hired a firm that specializes in unearthing indictable dirt in their clients’ opponents. An allegation of misconduct by a company of which Gantz was in charge has been an early crop, but there may be others on the way. Donald Trump, Netanyahu’s ally and perhaps role model, knows how to use such information.

One of the side effects of the power-paranoia syndrome seems to be amnesia. That’s probably why Netanyahu appears to disregard the evidence that when Ehud Olmert was Israel’s prime minister and about to face his trial for corruption (for which he ultimately went to jail), Netanyahu declared publicly that a prime minister facing trial cannot remain in office. How quickly one forgets things for reasons of expediency! Or explains them away by stating that the two situations cannot be compared.

All this suggests – it’s the pessimist talking again – that a fourth election in the next few months is on the cards. Unless Avigdor Liberman takes his Yisrael Beiteinu party to either Netanyahu or Gantz, neither will be able to form a government. Of course, Liberman fearing that the electorate will punish him in the next round may also be touched by amnesia and forget that he has openly vehemently opposed either side in the past by now joining one of them.

If Liberman wants to tell us that there’s not much between the two parties in terms of ideology, he may be right. In any case, I’ve seen nothing in the campaign so far that tells us what the parties stand for. In the case of Netanyahu, it may be safe to assume that it’s more of the same. As for Gantz, it’s difficult to know how he differs from his opponent. The two parties don’t seem to be ideologically very different. But perhaps those who’ll vote for Gantz believe that not being Netanyahu is enough of a qualification to become the next prime minister of Israel.

The above may not tell readers anything they don’t know already, but the primary purpose of this page is to give its author an opportunity to vent his frustration. I hope that you’ll forgive the imposition.

Jerusalem 26.2.20                                                                                                                            Dow Marmur

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