Is Benjamin Netanyahu Israel’s once and future Prime Minister?
As long as Benjamin Netanyahu has been in politics, there have been political opponents, critics, and even allies willing to predict his imminent defeat and ultimate exile from public life.
It seems the end of the political career of Benjamin Netanyahu has been predicted almost as many times as there have been disagreements in the Knesset, and often for the same reasons.
What oddsmakers betting against him often forget is that Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu was an elite soldier long before he entered the hard-scrabble arena of politics. He is nothing if not a survivor.
Most public servants, elected officials and politicians are in the business they have chosen because they want to make a positive difference in the world. For some, love of community, love of country, altruism- together with a penchant for glad-handing and at least some affinity for power- informs their actions.
These leaders operate under two fundamental beliefs: 1.) Something can be done; and, 2.) They are the someone to do it.
When others might give up, give in, take the loss, accept defeat and move on, they just keep coming. To give up would mean abandoning, not only work undone, but those two fundamental self beliefs as well.
Politicians and public servants often face defeat in their line of work; sometimes worse. Defeat can mean everything from falling short in campaign fundraising to a botched military maneuver that gets people killed.
Defeat can certainly come at the ballot box
As the great American writer Kurt Vonnegut once opined, “there is something…different about someone who looks out over a huge group of people and thinks, ‘you know who would be great at governing everyone? Me!’”
Politics, especially by today’s standards, requires an almost unshakable level of confidence in one’s abilities, organizational and managerial skills. Politics in many places has become a full-contact sport.
The ability to survive, not only the gauntlet of leadership and whatever that might bring from a pandemic to invasion by a neighboring nation, while steering an entire nation and its people in the direction of an ever more peaceful and prosperous future, isn’t in everyone.
These qualities do exist in Benjamin Netanyahu. Whether you agree with him or not, support him or not, when it comes to Israel, Netanyahu doesn’t seem to trust anyone else to do the job properly.
Perhaps with good reason: Israel is in a tenuous position.
Israel has long been the target of terrorists, proxies, rouge governments and extremists.
The tiny democratic nation has been subjected to so many attacks, Israel built an “Iron Dome” purely for defensive purposes. Of course, it isn’t really an Iron Dome at all; it is an advanced anti-missile defense system that shoots projectiles fired at Israel out of the air.
This isn’t the usual course of action for a nation under unfriendly fire.
For comparison, let’s say a political faction in Cuba took over the country and started firing missiles at innocent civilians in Florida, protesting the “colonialist occupiers,”- i.e. innocent men, women, and children, many with Cuban heritage- living there today.
Let’s say that instead of finding and eradicating those responsible, because they are using the Cuban people as human shields, the U.S. started merely shooting missiles out of the air.
That’s the Iron Dome.
And it doesn’t always work because of course it doesn’t.
But even after the Abraham Accords last year made it clear that peace in the Middle East is not contingent on Israel cleaving to the demands of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, Israel continues to be under constant threat.
The Iron Dome is no panacea. Nor does it solve the seemingly intractable problem of Iran’s rouge government getting The Bomb.
Iran’s extremist government is responsible for perpetuating so much terrorism against its nearest neighbors and coreligionists, Muslim-majority Middle Eastern nations from UAE to Morocco have been normalizing ties with Israel over the past 1.5 years, inking broad trade deals and security agreements.
The thought of a nuclear Iran has been enough for many of those nations, including the tacitly-approving silent power-player, Saudi Arabia, to agree to shelve the Palestinian question for the more pressing immediate issue of countering Iran.
Things have gotten so bad between Iran and its neighbors, the outright assassination of Iranian General and mass murderer Qasem Soleimani by the Trump Administration barely stirred a condemnation from that quarter.
Now that the U.S. has demonstrated, unequivocally, its unwillingness to engage in more “forever” wars on foreign soil- first in Afghanistan and now having failed to come to the aid of Ukraine with military support- Israel and its Middle Eastern neighbors will need to depend on themselves and each other for mutual security and protection.
Russian President Vladimir Putin may have been the first would-be conquerer to notice other world powers, including global superpowers and their allies, have been greatly weakened by COVID19 and are now being further weakened by deep economic woes and supply chain issues.
Putin will not be the last.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine wasn’t something new; prior to it, Putin’s government had been carrying out a war against Ukraine for over a decade. In 2022, the perfect storm created by a global pandemic, shut-downs, shortages and weakened governments was an opportunity Putin couldn’t resist.
Not since World War II have world powers been in such a vulnerable state. This kind of opportunity comes along once a generation, if that. Other opportunistic malefactors are sure to follow suit and take advantage.
The Chinese Communist Party already has, effectively using COVID19 mitigation safety measures to conveniently quash the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong into a fine powder. The CCP has been carrying out the same tactics Russia has been using against Ukraine for the past decade, against Taiwan, which may soon suffer a similar fate.
With the world distracted, in distress and grappling with so many other challenges, now would be a great time for North Korea’s Kim Jong Un to move on South Korea, as he has long threatened to do. Something funny is happening with elections in some South American countries.
Turkey’s President Erdogan is making foreign policy analysts and human rights organizations very nervous with his possible intentions towards some of Turkey’s nearest neighbors.
And in Iran reigns one of the most murderous, dangerous, and extremist governments in the history of the world on the very precipice of getting the most dangerous weapon mankind has ever invented, the sum total of a 10,000 year arms race.
Will the Mullahs of Iran wait for the world to recover? Or would now be the best time for nefarious acts?
Considering this vast, dangerous and shifting landscape, Israel is staring bleakly into a future in which a government that routinely expresses an intention to wipe Israel from the face of the earth has a nuclear bomb, plus enough money, proxies, and material support to use it.
Benjamin Netanyahu hasn’t been a perfect leader of Israel; far from it. But with the stunning collapse of Naftali Bennett’s government, only a year into a four year term, it is clear that the Israeli electorate which crowned Bennett over Netanyahu isn’t the same one contemplating the future of Israel today.
When Netanyahu left office, things were rather looking up in Israel. Middle Eastern nations were normalizing ties, trade relationships were blossoming, Israel was enjoying new acceptance on the world’s stage.
Today, the outlook is a bit darker.
Whatever Iran’s government plans to do to Israel, and they make no secret of what those plans entail, there may never be a better time to act.
With the world distracted and domestic problems keeping global leaders busy, Vladimir Putin recently made the calculation that he could get away with escalating his long-simmering conflict in Ukraine.
For the most part, so far, he has. Putin’s actions in Ukraine haven’t drawn other nations into a shooting war against Russia, the Ruble is one of the strongest currencies on the world market today and rival nations have hurt their own economies as much as Russia’s with a landslide of sanctions, possibly more.
Trade is globalized now; it would appear sanctions don’t hold the threat they once did.
Putin isn’t the only aggressor on the chess board; plenty of other ambitious and martial despots, dictators and rogues are going to look at the landscape and see an opportunity to consolidate money, power, might or all three without the consequences they might have suffered five years ago.
Or five years from now.
Israeli voters may soon need to decide who they trust in these dangerous times to stand against the forces of chaos and war, if Israeli legislators don’t decide first and allow Netanyahu to form a new coalition.
World nations aren’t playing the same game they were 2 years ago; or even 1 year ago. They aren’t even playing on the same game board. We aren’t entirely among friends.
In war, you should never allow your enemy to decide the field of battle. Should the enemies of global peace decide 2022 is the ideal field of battle, it will be up to world leaders to take another important piece of advice on warfare, before it’s too late.
If you ever ind yourself doing what your enemy expects you to do in battle, do something else immediately.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)