Old Socialist ＆ Almost Marx comment.
Read first these paragraphs of Ari Shavit essay/book review ＠TLS : these paragraphs, are immediately bathed in hyperbole : Now this singular actor in a Shakespearean tragedy of his own making … This essay/book review is an apologetic of a particular kind. I’ll place in bold font the final sentences of the quoted paragraphs of this excerpt.
Benjamin Netanyahu is a unique international phenomenon. When he first strode on to the world stage, in 1984, as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ronald Reagan was the president of the United States, Margaret Thatcher was the prime minister of the United Kingdom and Freddie Mercury had yet to sing “Bohemian Rhapsody” at Live Aid. When he was first elected prime minister, in 1996, Bill Clinton was in the Oval Office, John Major in 10 Downing Street and Helmut Kohl in the Bundestag. But, decades after his illustrious counterparts have become historical figures, Netanyahu is not only alive and kicking politically, but intent on stirring up new storms. Following his election victory on November 1, he was sworn in as prime minister on December 29 for an unprecedented sixth term.
Netanyahu is also a unique Israeli phenomenon. The time he has spent in the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem – more than fifteen years – far outstrips that enjoyed by Yitzhak Rabin (six years), Menachem Begin (six) or Golda Meir (five), let alone Shimon Peres (three) or Ehud Barak (two). This tireless “wizard” (Netanyahu’s political nickname) has even surpassed David Ben-Gurion (thirteen) to become Israel’s longest-serving leader.
On the human level Netanyahu is similarly unusual. One of his close associates once told me that he has never met a more impressive – and flawed – individual. The capabilities of this seventy-three-year-old statesman are striking: he is a man of piercing insight and formidable historical and economic expertise, who has form for identifying profound sociopolitical trends before they fully emerge. He is also notable for his narcissism, suspiciousness, deep-seated pessimism and distinct lack of emotional generosity.
Now this singular actor in a Shakespearean tragedy of his own making has published an autobiography: Bibi: My story. He wrote it, as I understand, because he feared his imminent political demise, devoting nine of his recent eighteen months in parliamentary opposition to writing this 654-page account of his life’s war, his life as war. Netanyahu wrote quickly, in long-hand – and English. His text is trenchant, eloquent, barbed and fat-free. The statesman who admires Ernest Hemingway almost as much as he does Niccolò Machiavelli tries to stick to the facts and build a narrative his detractors cannot refute. Yet he is ultimately less interested in his readers than in the only deity in which he truly believes: the god of history. Netanyahu’s autobiography is the ultimate defence statement, presented to the high court of human chronicles
Compare the above with the first paragraphs of Tom Friedman New York Times essay of January 17, 2023:
If I could get a memo onto President Biden’s desk about the new Israeli government, I know exactly how it would start:
Dear Mr. President, I don’t know if you are interested in Jewish history, but Jewish history is certainly interested in you today. Israel is on the verge of a historic transformation — from a full-fledged democracy to something less, and from a stabilizing force in the region to a destabilizing one. You may be the only one able to stop Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist coalition from turning Israel into an illiberal bastion of zealotry.
I’d also tell Biden that I fear that Israel is approaching some serious internal civil strife. Civil conflicts are rarely about one policy. They tend to be about power. For years, the fierce debates in Israel about the Oslo Accords were about policy. But today, this simmering clash is about power — who can tell whom how to live in a highly diverse society.
The short story: An ultranationalist, ultra-Orthodox government, formed after the Netanyahu camp won election by the tiniest sliver of votes (roughly 30,000 out of some 4.7 million), is driving a power grab that the other half of voters view not only as corrupt but also as threatening their own civil rights. That’s why a 5,000-person anti-government demonstration grew to 80,000 over the weekend.
The Israel Joe Biden knew is vanishing and a new Israel is emerging. Many ministers in this government are hostile to American values, and nearly all are hostile to the Democratic Party. Netanyahu and his minister of strategic affairs, Ron Dermer, had plotted with Republicans to engineer Netanyahu’s 2015 speech in Congress against Biden’s and President Barack Obama’s wishes and policies. They would like to see a Republican in the White House and prefer the support of evangelical Christians over liberal Jews and that of M.B.S. over A.O.C.
This essay is Mr. Friedman’s second attempt, to come to terms with Zionists Fascism, at, 1,454 words, the first attempt, 4 thousand words plus, I addressed only partially in this commentary
Headline: What in the World Is Happening in Israel? Dec. 15, 2022 https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/15/opinion/israel-palestinians-arabs-jews.html The first paragraphs, of this highly garnished, and nearly hand-wringing travelogue, betrays Friedman’s state of mind, featuring at first befuddlement, then something like resignation, and at the end faint hope…
The imaginary Memos are the essential part of Mr. Friedman’s political intervention, I will quote these:
Framed by: ‘Biden needs to tell him, （Netanyahu） in no uncertain terms:’
Bibi, you are riding roughshod over American interests and values. I need to know some things from you right now — and you need to know some things from me. I need to know: Is Israel’s control of the West Bank a matter of temporary occupation or of an emerging annexation, as members of your coalition advocate? Because I will not be a patsy for that. I need to know if you really are going to put your courts under your political authority in a way that makes Israel more like Turkey and Hungary, because I will not be a patsy for that. I need to know if your extremist ministers will change the status quo on the Temple Mount. Because that could destabilize Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and the Abraham Accords — which would really damage U.S. interests. I will not be a patsy for that.
Framed by ‘Here is my guess of how Netanyahu would respond’, （to Biden）
Joe, Joey, my old friend, don’t press me on this stuff now. I am the only one restraining these crazies. You and I, Joe, we can make history together. Let’s join our forces not to simply deter Iran’s nuclear capabilities, but to help — in any way possible — the Iranian protesters trying to topple the clerical regime in Tehran. And let’s, you and me, forge a peace agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. M.B.S. is ready if I can persuade you to give Saudi Arabia security guarantees and advanced weapons. Let’s do that and then I’ll dump these crazies.
With this, to call the whole of this exercise in ‘historical speculation’ of the most dull-witted kind, is to describe Mr. Friedman’s career as a New York Times Public Intellectual. The last two paragraphs are indicative of his intellectual procedures , sometimes named Journalism.
I applaud both foreign policy goals, but I would not pay for them with a U.S. blind eye to Netanyahu’s judicial putsch. If we do that, we’ll sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.
Israel and the U.S. are friends. But today, one party in this friendship — Israel — is changing its fundamental character. President Biden, in the most caring but clear way possible, needs to declare that these changes violate America’s interests and values and that we are not going to be Netanyahu’s useful idiots and just sit in silence.
The vexing question remains of where Ari Shavit ends his ‘book review’.
What is missing from Bibi: My life story is empathy and introspection. The man who has experienced and accomplished so much is apparently ill equipped to share any genuinely sincere feelings with his readers. His memoir is light on self- criticism – and heavy on self-adulation. Two noteworthy exceptions are the endless admiration he shows for his father and the abiding love he shows for his older brother, Yonatan. The description of Yoni’s death (in his role as commander of the hostage rescue operation in Entebbe in July 1976) and the anguish that followed are heartbreaking. The young Bibi travelled seven hours from Cambridge, Massachusetts to his parents’ home in Ithaca, New York, to tell them their eldest child was gone.
As I got closer, I saw my father through the big front window. He was pacing back and forth, deep in thought, his hands clasped behind his back. Suddenly he turned and saw me. Bibi, he smiled in surprise, but when he saw my face, he instantly understood. He let out a terrible cry like a wounded animal. I heard my mother scream. If there is a moment in my life worse than hearing about Yoni’s death, it was telling my parents about it. I felt like a man on a rack whose limbs are torn from him one by one. How could I go on living?
A profound sense of mission helped Benjamin Netanyahu to overcome the tragedy underpinning the leader he has become – amplified by his belief that he is Israel’s Winston Churchill. The sure-to-be turbulent years of his latest tenure as prime minister will d.termine if his talents will indeed secure the future of his nation, or whether his flaws will endanger the very existence of the Jewish state.
Call this by its name, a mild critique in the name of The Zionist Project, as the historical/moral sine qua non. Ari Shavit and Benjamin Netanyahu share the same ‘tragic sense of mission’. As the Palestinians are subject to the ‘Zionist’s Genocide On The Installment Plan’ , recorded every day on twitter, as it happens.
Old Socialist ＆ Almost Marx