Bibi, political genius

Joseph Aaron

What a crazy world we live in.

We just had the first Muslim woman elected to Congress, a woman who during the campaign had criticized the BDS movement against Israel saying it was counterproductive and prevents dialogue, but who after she won the election, said she supports the movement.

Okay, so she lied in order to get elected. No big news there, that’s something one can say about pretty much every politician to a lesser or greater degree. What is crazy about Ileana Omar is that she is pushing for a change in House procedures that would make it possible for Jewish members of Congress to wear a yarmulke on the House floor if they want to.

Seems there is an 181-year-old rule that bans members of Congress from wearing hats of any kind, something I did not know. And while Omar is doing it so she can wear a headscarf called a hijab, fact is that some Jewish organizations are supporting her efforts. So you have Jews supporting an effort by a Muslim who believes in BDS. Are our politics crazy or what?

And then there is J.B. Pritzker, our incoming governor. A multi-billionaire, he will be the wealthiest person to ever serve as governor of any state in American history and the second wealthiest person to ever hold any office of any kind, behind only Michael Bloomberg.

And yet, there doesn’t seem to be any anti-Semitism rearing its ugly head about that, which, when you think about it, think about our history, is quite amazing.

What is also amazing, and not in a good way, is how much chilul Hashem there has been in the last year or so. Chilul Hashem means the desecration of G-d’s name, which occurs when a Jew does something that reflects poorly on Judaism, on the Torah’s teachings, and so on G-d.

The last year has seen more chilul Hashem than any 12 months I can remember. More than  half of the prominent men accused of sexual harassment and abuse have been Jews, including many of the big ones like movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and CBS head Les Moonves. And, of course, there has been Sheldon Adelson, casino billionaire who has thrown around his millions to buy the favor of the president, so much so that incredibly, unbelievably, his wife Miriam was recently awarded no less than the Presidential Medal of Freedom, this nation’s highest civilian honor. Yes the Donald recently handed out his first batch of those very prestigious medals and his list included Babe Ruth, Elvis Presley, Justice Antonin Scalia, Sen. Orrin Hatch, football greats Alan Page and Roger Staubach  — and Miriam Adelson. As they used to say in magazine quizzes, which name doesn’t belong on this list?

Even if you’re a right wing nut and love Sheldon and how he basically single handedly convinced Trump to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and even if you like that he said that he preferred Israel stop being a democracy to giving up one inch of land to the Palestinians, you gotta wonder how Miriam Adelson deserved to get an award traditionally given to our most distinguished and accomplished citizens.

Sheldon bought it for her, that’s how, and if that isn’t a chilul Hashem I don’t know what is. No I’m not saying it will result in anti-Semitism. I am saying it doesn’t reflect well on the Jewish people and Jewish ethics and Jewish values.

And then we had Princess Ivanka add to the large pile of chilul Hashem by, you ain’t gonna believe this, having used her private email address for official government business. And, you ain’t gonna believe this, she said she did so because she didn’t know there are rules against that. Yes, little Ivanka, our Orthodox Jew in the White House, did exactly what her daddy berated Hillary for night after night after night. Once again, Ivanka playing by her own entitled rules, being the very stereotype of the American Jewish Princess. And that’s not even mentioning her imbecilic husband who is the best friend of and chief advocate for Saudi Arabia’s crown prince MBS who, we now know for sure, ordered the murder of a journalist, whose body was dismembered with a bone saw and whose grisly death the Saudis lied about for weeks. And that’s not to mention Jared’s arrogance in thinking he could handle reorganizing the federal government, solving the opioid crisis, managing relations with China and Mexico, doing prison reform and oh yeah bringing peace to the Middle East, Trump saying only Jared could make “the ultimate deal.”  Jared, who has yet to even present us with his peace plan. What a joke, but with Ivanka and Jared doing so much to so much wear their Orthodox Judaism on their sleeves, what a chilul Hashem.

And then we have Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, who sit atop Facebook. We learned that these two Jews, who have made much a public fuss about how Jewish they are, not only knew the Russians and others were using Facebook to spread disinformation during and interfere with the 2016 election, but they did much to cover up their knowing, even hiring an unsavory public relations company to smear their critics, foremost among them a fellow Jew, George Soros, who they used classic anti-Semitic charges against.

And now I’m going to say something nice about Bibi Netanyahu.

I get nasty letters from time to time, some saying why do I never have anything nice to say about Bibi ever. Well this time I do.

The man is a political genius, an absolute political genius.

I mean it. Recently Hamas fired more than 400 missiles from Gaza into Israel. Now normally Israel would bomb the crap out of Gaza in response, but instead, after 48 hours, Bibi negotiated a cease fire with Hamas. So much for pretending we never talk to them.

Well, the right wing nuts in Israel went, well, nuts, saying Bibi had let Hamas off the hook, had in fact rewarded their outrageous behavior, had in fact emboldened them, given them a symbolic victory. As a result, Israel’s defense minister, the head of one of the five or six political parties that make up Bibi’s coalition government, resigned. And soon after, the heads of three of the other parties said they too would resign, thus bringing down Bibi’s government and forcing new elections.

Seemed like Bibi was in some political trouble. And yet, political mastermind that he is, he was able to put an end to the rebellion in a few days. Bibi went on TV in Israel and made one of the most incredible speeches I have ever heard. Part of me was sickened by the manipulative cynicism of it, but part of me, I must admit, was impressed by the political genius of it.

Bibi has been prime minister for 11 years, will soon be Israel’s longest serving prime minister ever, beating out even Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion. Israeli politics are a snake pit of intrigue, double-crossing, backbiting and game playing, and so for Bibi to last so long at the top, to outlast so many of his rivals, is truly the work of a political artist.

And Bibi showed how artistic he is with this latest crisis. When it seemed like he had been weak, had once again failed to take any bold action, once again showed himself to be the only prime minister in Israel’s history of whom it can be said he never once in any way took any bold action, he called on all his communications and psychological skills to beat back his rivals and show himself to be the political operator par excellence.

“We are in the midst of a battle, and in the middle of a battle we don’t abandon our posts,” Netanyahu said. “In the middle of a battle, we do not play politics. The security of the nation is beyond politics, and the security of the nation is also beyond personal considerations.”

What a load of baloney. Wrapping himself in the flag, using a military analogy in a country that venerates its army, making it seem like Israel is at war when it is not, and saying when you are at war, you don’t play politics, when politics is exactly what he was playing by making the speech he made, claiming for national security reasons his government must not fall, saying it is a time to go beyond personal considerations when personal considerations were what his speech was all about, namely saving his job, making it seem that the heads of the other parties were traitors.

He then pulled the old ‘I know what to do but it’s so delicate I have to keep it a secret from the pubic you just have to trust me’ gambit. “I will not say this evening when we will act and how we will act,” Netanyahu said. “I have a clear plan. I know what to do and when to do it. And we will do it.” What it is, he didn’t say.

What he did say is that he would take on the job  of defense minister himself, meaning that at this moment he is Israel’s prime minister, foreign minister, defense minister, health minister and minister of immigrant absorption. Jared would be proud.

Then he added a little Jewish guilt “At this sensitive security time, it would be irresponsible to topple the government. Whether our partners decide to topple the government or not, we will continue to take action to ensure the security of our state and of our people.”

He then made himself out to be the great man, the indispensable man, the only one who can lead Israel. He even pulled out the ultimate prop, his sainted brother Yoni, commander of the mission to Entebbe and the only Israeli soldier to be killed in the daring rescue.

Recalling how he had lost friends, his older brother and almost his own life in battle, he said, “I dedicate my whole life for the security of Israel.” He then added “I risked my life time after time to safeguard our lives here in the Land of Israel.”

Cue the sounds of Hatikva, the pictures of Theodor Herzl. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. And his rivals, the heads of the other parties, didn’t stand a chance. And indeed, the next day at a news conference originally scheduled for them to announce their resignations from the government, they all issued statements saying they would not leave, it just wouldn’t be right, we just can’t do it. Mister tough guy Naftali Bennett, who had blasted Netanyahu’s handling of the Gaza situation only days before, now said meekly, “We are removing all political demands and standing here to help Israel win again.  It’s better that Netanyahu beat me in politics than [Hamas leader Ismail] Haniyeh beat Israel in the battlefield.”

Bibi Netanyahu is a political genius. With one ten minute speech, he made himself out to be Israel’s savior, made it seem like Israel was in the middle of a war of life and death, made it seem like his opponents were unpatriotic, made it seem unthinkable that Bibi would not continue to be prime minister forever and ever more.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am no fan of Bibi, but you gotta admire genius when you see it, admire a work of political art when you see it, and between evoking his dead brother hero and letting us know he’s got it all worked out in his head how to fix the situation, Bibi showed himself to be the master of masters.

His manipulation of the Israeli public might be a chilul Hashem in its own way, but man, how he saved his own neck was truly a wonder to behold.

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