Wasted Talent: The Tragic Figure of Binyamin Netanyahu

Binyamin Netanyahu shakes Yasser Arafat's hand at the White House as Bill Clinton and King Hussein watch (Image credit: Avi Ohayon/Government Press Office of Israel)

Binyamin Netanyahu shakes Yasser Arafat's hand at the White House as Bill Clinton and King Hussein watch (Image credit: Avi Ohayon/Government Press Office of Israel)

On my wall hangs a list of photos of the men who played a significant role in the 2005 expulsion and exile of thousands of holy Jews from their homes in Gaza and northern Samaria.

Some of our spiritual leaders at the time predicted that each one of those who raised their hand against our people and land would get their due. Over the years I have checked off many of the names and faces from my list.

It began straight away with the number one perpetrator of the crime, then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. His last conversation before he fell into a coma was a boast of how he would continue the expulsions in additional parts of our land.

For eight long silent years, he was sentenced to hang between heaven and earth. It was as if we were being presented with a living lesson on display. It was hard not to get the message, though of course many refused to do so, even then. I often wonder when the rest of the shameful opportunists will get theirs. I suppose some may have already done so and I am just not aware of it - one does not know what goes on behind closed doors. Some have received theirs in the most public fashion, like former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Moshe Katzav who were sent to prison for mundane shameful crimes.

Bibi’s Turn? It looks like the game is up for another high profile politician who raised his finger in favor of the criminal expulsions.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has some good things going for him. There is no better spokesman for Israel to the world at large. His speaking skills and his grasp of the issues are superb. He helped wind down the socialist-leaning system that was holding the economy back, and Israel has been flourishing since. His efforts to raise awareness about Iran were on target. The Left has serious heartburn when his name is even mentioned - I guess that is worth something in and of itself. The tragedy of “Bibi” is that he is so talented, yet just does not have the backbone (some may call it the fear of Heaven) to do what he probably knows he should be doing. He was vehemently opposed to the fatal Oslo deal with Yasser Arafat and his fellow terrorists in 1993. After three years of predictable terror, he defeated Shimon Peres in the 1996 elections. And yet he did not send Arafat and his rogues packing and restore sanity - he was afraid. No backbone. This was a wake-up call for me.

Shortly after that, there was an incident that told me once and for all that he was not the Jewish leader we were hoping for. Far from it.

In his first year in office, the Western Wall Tunnel exit was opened, making access available for larger numbers of visitors. That was a very good thing.

The "Palestinians" were not happy with the idea of masses of people learning about Jewish roots in Jerusalem and so they rioted for a few days. Arab members of the joint "peace patrols" turned their guns (that we provided by Israel in Oslo) on their Jewish partners. In the end, 17 Jews were murdered by our "peace partners."

Moment of Clarity

US President Bill Clinton called Bibi and Arafat to Washington for a pow wow in order to preserve the "peace process." I can still see in my mind's eye what I thought I never would behold: Even as the Jewish victims were still being buried, Bibi shook Arafat's hand. It was not just a formal quick gesture. He grabbed Arafat's very bloody hand with his two, pumping with a big smile. It was at that moment that I understood all I needed to about Bibi. Afterwards the fact that his long tenure was underscored by settlement freezes and broken promises to his ideological core supporters came as no surprise.

He always made sure to include a Leftist party (whether it was led by Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni, Yair Lapid, Moshe Kahlon) in his coalition to be used as a fig leaf and lightning rod. He refused to include the most ideologically Right party as he preferred his fig leaf instead. He is a politician's politician if there ever was one. On the many occasions that he abandoned the very principles and policies for which he was elected, he always had an excuse: "It's not me, it's my problematic coalition partner." He gave away almost all of Hevron and other large swaths of land to Arafat in the 1998 Wye River Memorandum. Besides smiles from Clinton and some favorable Liberal press, we got nothing in return - besides more murders, including the infant Shalhevet Pass who was shot in her father's arms in Hevron by a "Palestinian" sniper positioned on a hill which they received at Wye. He enforced a ten-month freeze on any building or maintenance activity for 400,000 Jews living in Judea and Samaria. Again, we got nothing in return besides increasing bitterness at home and encouraging our enemy's expectations of more of the same. The same has been true regarding his unofficial building freeze since 2013 and uprooting of communities like Amona. When Moshe Feiglin challenged his leadership in the Likud on ideological lines, Bibi took off the gloves. He can deal with many things but not with a person pressing him for honesty and uncompromising fidelity to our people and land. He spent 20 years trying to destroy Feiglin as a challenger; in the end he succeeded.

No doubt this was one of his most important wins. He could now proceed with the show he performs so well, unhindered by a nudging voice demanding truth and courage.

Wasted Talent It finally looks like the noose is tightening around Bibi's political neck. His back is against the wall. Who knows how the last hours will look. Bibi, in my opinion, is a tragic figure. He could have been the greatest prime minister of our modern Jewish country. Instead, he will be remembered for his love of expensive cigars and champagne provided by rich benefactors.

He will be remembered as the prime minister who in 2009 announced his support for the "two-state solution," which was so antithetical to everything he promised his voters. He thus let the fatal "Palestinian state" genie out of the bottle, lending his stamp of approval to what he knows is a lethal danger. But he could not resist the pressure from US President Barack Obama. He wanted to buy time and a pat on the back - again. It could have been different. I expect I will soon be crossing one more name from the list on my wall.

Shalom Pollack

Contact Shalom Pollack, veteran licensed tour guide, for upcoming tours at Shalom Pollack Tours: Personalized Tours in Israel.

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