The story is told of Bibi Netanyahu at a demonstration in Paris in 2015. He was placed in the second row behind an African leader. When the march began, he pushed the African out of the way and moved ahead to lead the parade waving the Israeli flag beaming and responding to the cheers of the crowd as if they were meant for him personally. He then used the footage in the soon-to-be Israeli election making it seem he was a favorite of the European crowds. After a bruising campaign based on his failings, he turned it around, winning a surprising victory.
Mr. Netanyahu appears again to be in trouble. He is polling in the 30-plus percent range. The war in Gaza has postponed meaningful elections for three months to January 30th of next year. But then a war draws the populace closer to the leader and thus could affect the outcome — at the very least prevent a serious embarrassment for the prime minister.
More serious for him are the three cases charging him with bribery and corruption. He and his wife accepted some $300,000 worth of gifts including cases of pink champagne, expensive cigars and jewelry for Sara. The gifts came from Australian billionaire James Packer and Hollywood film producer Arnon Milchan.
A key witness in the case is Hadas Klein, the long-serving assistant to Milchan who wanted to maintain a close association with the Netanyahus. She produced $12,000 worth of receipts for cigars. In an emotional testimony, she complained of the mistreatment by Sara, claiming she screamed at her when she was unable to fulfil her specific requests.
In return, Netanyahu was able to help Milchan extend his US residency permit by talking to US officials. He was also able to adjust Israeli regulations exempting Israeli returnees from declaring foreign income — presumably of substantial benefit to Milchan.
In retelling personal anecdotes from Natenyahu’s long and varied life, it is only fair also to recount incidents reflecting positively upon him. Thus he returned to Israel from MIT, the well known US institution, after the end of the Six Day War and volunteered for the army.
Then it was May 1969, and a low-key war of attrition between Egyptians and Israelis continued. Air attacks by Israelis and deadly artillery fire from Egypt was almost a daily affair. Egyptian commanders laid ambushes along the road connecting Israeli strongholds and Israelis responded with their own.
So it was that a small group including Sergeant Netanyahu was crossing the canal in a small paddle boat. But to be silent, instead of a paddle they pulled themselves along with a cord anchored on both sides of the canal. The Egyptians were ready and opened fire killing people in the front of the boat. Others instinctively retreated to the back, upsetting the boat’s balance and tipping it over. To cut a long story short, Netanyahu fell in the water together with his heavy pack and almost died, struggling to keep alive with his own will and strength until his comrades’ eventual help saved him.
Given an interminable history of war, one would think Israel would work towards a lasting peace with the Palestinians — not a regime of dominance. Will there ever be peace? It will take men of vision and understanding — not the present leadership on both sides, and the same in the White House. Flattening Gaza is hardly likely to prevent the conflict becoming the Mideast’s hundred years war.