Bibi II: Same Character Flaws, Same Plot Line

Gershom Gorenberg

My new piece about Netanyahu’s second term as a remake of the first is up at The American Prospect:

Since my wife began writing screenplays, I get a lesson in the mechanics of a film each time we watch one together. First lesson: Pay rapt attention to the opening moments. Character is being revealed; the entire plot is being laid out, though we may not yet understand how. Take the monologue at the start of Michael Clayton, where in a manic voiceover, a lawyer insists he’s not insane but rather, that his firm’s work has left him covered in excrement from which he cannot cleanse himself. Yes, we will learn, this madman is the sole compass of sanity in a world where the law is utterly befouled. It’s all there, the whole story.

I suggest watching the opening scenes of Benjamin Netanyahu’s return to power — call it Bibi II — in the same way. It’s not just that the Netanyahu cabinet…  is the largest in Israel’s history or that key positions are held by politicians manifestly unqualified to deal with the crises that Israel faces. What’s revealing is how Netanyahu constructed his coalition, in more of a panic than a process.

We’ve learned that the Netanyahu character remains the same as it was during his previous three-year episode in power, in the late 1990s: He is, in principle, a hardliner. That said, the principle he holds most strongly is that he should be prime minister. And the public advocate of unbending diplomatic stances is, in fact, a weak negotiator who hands out contradictory concessions to whomever he meets. Barack Obama, take note: Netanyahu speaks loudly and carries a small stick.

Read the rest here, and return to SoJo to comment.

7 thoughts on “Bibi II: Same Character Flaws, Same Plot Line”

  1. Gershom – I was wondering if you could comment on a sentence – http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/09/movies/09abro.html?_r=3&pagewanted=2 – from a Times article.

    It is this – The other day busloads of Israeli high school students arrived, as they regularly do, at the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial, draped themselves in Israeli flags and sang patriotic songs.

    I don’t know – when I visited Auschwitz, I remember feeling sadness – there was nothing uplifting or hopeful about the experience, in any way. Why all the chest beating at this horrific graveyard?

  2. V-
    My own interpretation of the excerpt you brought from the Times is due to the failure of Zionism and much of the modern Jewish world to give any real definition to what it means to be a Jew, a Zionist and an Israeli. Today, for most Jews who are committed to participating in a communal Jewish framework (either living in Israel, belonging to a synagogue outside Israel or participating in other organized Jewish activities and groups) it really boils down to the famous statement which is made as a joke: “come, let us survive together”. In other words, all they can say is that since “they tried to eradicate us a few decades ago, let us show them that we are still around, for the heck of it”. A Jew who is really tied into his Jewish identity meaning living a Jewish life based on Jewish values coming out of Jewish tradition, i.e. the Torah, doesn’t need to be reminded that he is a Jew by physically being present at the site of the greatest human degradations in history. Instead, he is aware constantly of the meaning of Jewish existence through the daily round of mitzvot, prayer and study that the rooted Jew feels so at home with. Secular Zionism attempted to redefine Jewish identity through a version of 19th century European nationalism, and naturally since that has become discredited in the “progressive” circles that modern Jews feel they are a part of, that has left a crisis of identity for these Jews, which only a major emotion shock, like visiting Holocaust sites can engender and which usually fade out after a short time after the encounter, because of the usual lack of reinforcement the experience really requires (this reinforcement would come by presenting the Jew with the fact that Jews and Judaism represented a value system totally at odds with the totalitarian mindset that brought these horrors to the world, not simply a demand “come let us survive together”!)

  3. Netanyahu is the PM that “progressives” like Gershom “love to hate”. I should point out that I am not a big fan of his, but fairness requires pointing out that his term as PM from 1996-1999 was the quietest in Israel since the Oslo fiasco was foisted on the country in 1993. He was accused by the Left of “not doing enough to make peace with Arafat”, yet when Barak succeeded in ousting him in 1999, he also failed to make peace and left Israel with the terrible suicide bomber war. Note how Gershom speculates that Bibi will try to use military force to strengthen his position. This is simple demagoguery…..the previous gov’t which I presume Gershom supported in 2006 when Olmert ran on a platform of carrying out a large-scale unilateral withdrawal from Judea/Samaria, not only did NOT succeed in making peace but also gave Israel TWO wars within three years, both of which were more or less failures. So what is Gershom trying to scare us with?…threats that Bibi won’t make peace? Even the “peace camp” of the Left can’t because the Palestinians don’t want peace no matter what gov’t is in power in Israel.

    Also, don’t forget that Tzippi Livni’s opposition Kadima party, which is now allied with the Arab parties and MERETZ in the opposition is largely made up of former Likud people which leads me to think that they will not be able to form a coherent opposition in conjuction with the truly radical post-Zionist Left and anti-Zionist Arab parties.

  4. Your analyses are excellent, Mr. Ben David. One can agree with you that people without adequate philosophical thought populate the large group of Israelis stretching from Tzipi Livni to Meretz. Hence the constant comic foolishness in their (our) behavior.
    However, your position is much darker: in fact, you do not need the State of Israel at all. The real Jews of your concept do not need it – that ridiculous idiotic creature populated by fools…

  5. Mr. Gorenberg, i would like to hear what you think on the day that Bassem Ibrahim Abu-Rahma, the demonstrator shot to death by a gas canister to the chest at an nonviloent protest in Bilin , was laid to rest — seeing that you called on palestinians to muster their “courage” and use nonviloent means against israel?

  6. Thanks Y. Ben David for the thoughts. I apologize for not responding sooner – I had not visited SoJo for a while.

    I would only add that the Holocaust is a major part of being a Jew and always will be – we can not pick and choose our history, it is there with us for eternity. However, we can respond to it. I think many Israelis respond by characterizing their very national existence as a phoenix that arose through the ashes of the Shoah.

    Personally, as an agnostic American Jew, I think those ashes are so dark and that mass murder site so evil that I can not identify with this Israeli – “But we arose from it” = view.

    People should view that site and leave profoundly disturbed. This jingoism is completely misplaced.

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