My Diaspora Love Affair with Bibi Netanyahu

March 8, 2012 by Raffe Gold
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This week the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu, addressed the annual AIPAC Policy Conference. He has made the trek to the US annually to speak before the powerful pro-Israel lobby and Bibi, like his speech before the US Congress, can always find a warm and receptive audience…writes Raffe Gold.

Raffe Gold

His speech contained many of his favorite lines about Iran, the Holocaust and the danger that Israel faces. All of this is true. But this year I found myself both nodding in agreement and shaking my head violently. I came to realize that over the last year my view of Netanyahu has changed significantly. He is now my Prime Minister and with that comes a whole new ballgame.

I have always admired Bibi Netanyahu. His life story should be admired. He has served his country as a top-notch commando, he has bled for the State that he loves, he devoted his life to public service be it in positions within the foreign service, politics or in his two terms as Prime Minister. Add to this the fact that he is both an eloquent speaker and has not lost his lyrical Philadelphian accent he is truly the greatest asset Israel has in terms of foreign affairs. Deployed to American, Britain or Australia and Netanyahu is a tour de force, a whirlwind of clever quips and comments that could put any detractor in their place. This is how I viewed Bibi from the Diaspora, when he was Israel’s Prime Minister, but now that I too am an Israeli citizen I see him not through his words but his deeds.

Netanyahu’s legislation now impacts my daily life. It is not that I blame him for how the Ultra-Orthodox extremists in Beit Shemesh treat women by spitting on them and calling them whores. I blame him for the failure to integrate this community into the modern age and it is under his tutelage that Orthodox-Secular relations have disintegrated to the point where some fear civil war. I do not condemn Netanyahu for not engaging the Hamas terrorist organization, they remain fractured amongst themselves and as proxy agents of Iran they represent a danger to Israel, but I do blame him for failing to negotiate with the PA and continuing to build settlements against all international conventions and common sense. I blame Bibi not for the decisions of Shas or of Yisrael Beitanu but I blame him for not being brave enough to make a decision during the debate rather than waiting until the debate itself has been resolved. Benjamin Netanyahu is my Prime Minister and with this I view him with an entirely new set of eyes.

There are few countries in the world that could evoke a similar bond than that which the Jewish people have with Israel. As a Diaspora Jew I was concerned primarily about how Israel appeared to the average Australian. As her representative Bibi had no politician that could surpass him. But this was when I was concerned with a small sliver of Israel, hasbara. I did not fully take into account the multitude of problems that Israel faces domestically: a banking and financial system that is in desperate need of reform, an electoral system that remains deeply flawed and the fact that 18 families control a majority of Israel’s economy. These are problems that would not bother me, or many Diaspora Jews, because they are inherently Israeli problems that need Israeli solutions. We saw some of these solutions emerge last summer with the protests but unfortunately they appear to have died down for the time being.

Today I can say that Netanyahu’s luster has lost the shine that it once had and I can say with confidence that it’s not him it’s me…I can say that because he has not done anything. His policies have stagnated Israel. I see his premiership through the eyes of a concerned Israeli rather than a Diaspora Jew who cares about how others think of Israel than of what Israel does to herself. Despite all of this and the last three years of his second term he will most likely be re-elected. Few have hopes that Yair Lapid will be able to gain enough momentum to unseat the king. Tzipi Livni, despite being named one of the ‘150 women who shakes the world’, cannot muster up enough support amongst her own party to shake her fist and there remains so much squabbling and in-fighting amongst the left-wing parties that they could not build a sandcastle let alone a coalition government. Netanyahu looks to win another sweeping victory with the fascistic Lieberman on one side and the extremist Shas/UTJ parties on the other. Netanyahu can speak the most honeyed words but his policies are dipped in a chalice of poison. As Diaspora supporters of Israel continue to back her, as they well should, I hope they remember that smooth sentences do not necessarily make a good Prime Minister. A good leader must have the courage to make the tough decisions and seeing Netanyahu as an Israeli I can tell you that this is a love affair that is well and truly over.

Raffe Gold is a recent immigrant to Israel from Australia. He can be contacted at twitter.com/raffeg

Comments

3 Responses to “My Diaspora Love Affair with Bibi Netanyahu”
  1. Shirlee says:

    Raffe, if you are so smart, what do you suggest Netanyahu does then, if you think he should do something? This should be quite enlightening

    Netanyahu is anything but weak. It’s a situation no one can handle

    Gabrielle, as for the stupid remark “interested to stay in power than to progress the country.”

    I think he has proved otherwise. Look in your own backyard at dear Julia, if you think that. There is a classic example of what you just wrote

  2. gabrielle says:

    It amazes me that in a country where science and technology have such high profile, a significant proportion of the population (the ultra Orthodox)are barely educated for the modern world. I agree with Raffe. Unfortunately Netanyahu is a weak leader and more interested to stay in power than to progress the country.

  3. George says:

    Time for Netanyahu to take a vacation.
    His friends and family should insist on it.

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