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Analysis

The Netanyahu enigma

Since Raviv Drucker exposed the submarine affair almost seven years ago, I have wondered about the super-powerful magnet that binds Benjamin Netanyahu to the shackles of power more than any other politician who also strives to sit on the leader’s chair without vacating it. What is it that makes him so eager to hold on to the helm of government even by improper means?

It is a historical curiosity. What are Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and “Hamlet” if not that? The modern West dealt with this in the 1960s in two resounding bestsellers: one – Allen Drury’s “Advise and Consent,” and the other – “What Makes Sammy Run,” by Budd Schulberg. It was a brilliant depiction of what drives politicians. Only that they were forgotten over the years.

A long line of psychologists deals with this issue in democratic countries, and in Israel, they tried to solve the puzzle, which is essentially quantitative – that is, a lust for power to an extraordinary degree. Netanyahu’s biographers, Ben Caspit and Mazal Mualem, dealt with this, and the question remains unsolved.

One possibility, simplistic and straightforward – the pursuit of honor. The urge to impose the will of the individual on the many. Joseph’ biblical dream of the sheaves bowing down before the leader. The craving for money. Hedonism.

Another possibility, which has developed over the years, is a process of self-conviction that befalls Netanyahu, according to which he was chosen by some divine presence to lead the people of Israel in an age of shaping its sovereignty.

Since 2003 he has been sharing in private events a survey conducted among public figures in Israel in which he came out as the most intelligent and wisest of them.

  • The Messiah? Not in the sense of faith, but in the test of changing regimes, in the style of sages: “There is nothing between this world and the days of the Messiah except the subjugation of kingdoms alone.”

It is reasonable to assume that the fusion of these two possibilities plays a role in Netanyahu’s clinging to the seat of power, and they are what cause him to reject convenient plea bargain proposals in the criminal prosecution against him, which would have required his resignation as prime minister.

  • My wife, Dana Margalit, who is a professor of psychology, raised an interesting idea: In their old age, there are people who do not want to prolong their lives, but do so because of their fear of death. So too, it is possible that Netanyahu is no longer in the throes of striving for achievements, but fears that his retirement will highlight his string of failures, and therefore acts to prolong his days in power.

In my opinion, it is inconceivable that Bibi – who educated and intelligent and versed in the history of nations and their leaders –operates a mechanism of denial so strong that it clouds the dialogue between himself and his failures: in stopping the Iranian nuclear program; in his heavy responsibility for the flawed paradigm of bolstering Hamas’ rule in Gaza; in the rift he caused in relations with the Democratic Party in the US, whose pro-Palestinian wing further exacerbates President Joe Biden’s reluctance to help Israel; in the disproportionate damage he has inflicted on Israel’s rule of law, blindly following Yariv Levin and Simcha Rothman; and in the surrender that is capitulation by inviting Itamar Ben Gvir into his government.

He understands full well what history books will write about all this, and in trying to push away the embarrassment – he adds one blunder after another.

Most of all, he understands that the demand for his removal from the premiership is the biggest consensus that currently exists in Israeli society, whether openly or for now only in private.

All this could lead him to wrong conclusions, chiefly among them – lengthening the war beyond what is necessary. He probably does not feel that the judicial reform protests that preceded the war will pale in comparison to what awaits him on the streets.

Source: Dan Margalit – Israel Hayom