By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
However much President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry assure US lawmakers and Jewish leaders that United States support for Israel has remained strong and solid – despite Prime Minister Netanyahu’s by now obviously futile efforts to derail the Iran deal – it’s difficult to believe that US-Israel relations will be easy during the time that remains of the Obama administration.
Already in 2010, long before the Iran deal became the issue, Martin Indyk – at one time US ambassador to Israel and later as special envoy to the efforts to make peace with the Palestinians – described Netanyahu as lacking generosity of spirit.
The Times of Israel quotes an Indyk e-mail of 2010 that Israel’s current prime minister has a “legendary fear of being seen as a ‘frier’ (sucker) in front of his people.” This may account for Netanyahu posturing himself as the strong man of Israel who will defend the country and the people under all circumstances. Such a stance is bad enough in an insecure bully in the school yard, but it’s dangerous when applied to international relations. Critics may have a point when they say that Netanyahu’s strong and determined persona may hide very serious emotional weaknesses.
Deploying similar pop psychology, Sidney Blumenthal who was Hilary Clinton’s close confidant when she was secretary of state wrote about Netanyahu’s efforts to please his father who feared that the son wasn’t sufficiently committed to the Greater Israel vision, which, of course, precludes the establishment of a Palestinian state. Blumenthal also says something about Netanyahu wanting to honour the memory of his brother Yoni who lost his life in the Entebbe raid and is remembered in Israel as a hero.
If the observations by Indyk and Blumenthal are correct, perhaps Netanyahu’s relentless pursuit of the Iran issue should be viewed from their perspective. His arguments may seem rational especially to Republicans who’re against Obama under all circumstances, but their root may be of a different order.
Yet Netanyahu is still at the helm, not because Israel is a totalitarian state run, as many of them are, by a paranoid dictator but because it’s a democracy the citizens of which cannot unite enough to vote for two or three political parties like in other democratic states. The result is that every government Israel has ever had has been a coalition, and being the prime minister of a coalition requires more manipulative than leadership skills. His new campaign to control state broadcasting may be of the same ilk.
Yet there’s no alternative leader on the horizon. Assuming that the official leader of the opposition Isaac Herzog won’t make the grade, Yair Lapid, the media savvy head of the much smaller Yesh Atid party has begun to style himself as the next prime minister. Not only would that be undesirable – better the neurotic you know than the showman you distrust – but it’s also unrealistic. The Number Two on his party list Shai Piron knows it best. He has just left the Knesset to take up a post in education, presumably assuming that Lapid’s ambitions are vain in every sense of the word.
Remarkably, however, despite the allegedly psychologically inhibited prime minister and the lack of a viable alternative, Israel is functioning reasonably well and life here is as good or better than in most countries in the free world – and for us Jews arguably very much better than anywhere else. Of course, it could be even better if….
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By Rabbi Dow Marmur.