| Point of View |

For a Case of Whiskey

Why the nation isn't buying the self-righteous “Anything But Bibi” campaign

 

We have been observing a riveting and remarkable political show, due to wind up on March 2 (but then again, Part IV might still be waiting in the wings). In a violent and underhanded campaign, the battle cry of “Anything But Bibi” continues to reverberate.

The “No Bibi” campaign is focused almost entirely on the indictments faced by the prime minister, without any kind of alternative diplomatic plan or even social vision. There is no plan how his opponents will run the country differently if they reach the seat of power. The main thing is: Anything But Bibi.

But as aggressive as the campaign is, the boundaries of the political camps are pretty clear, and the Blue and White party’s cries of purism as they try to rise to power on the wings of a hate campaign don’t seem to be moving too many citizens. The ethical demands of “anti-corruption” are transparent and even hypocritical, as is evidenced by the hot water Benny Gantz, head of the cobbled-together Blue and White opposition, also finds himself in.

Several MKs allied with Netanyahu have turned around and accused Gantz of corruption, following a State Comptroller’s report that the police behaved improperly with regard to Gantz’s cybersecurity company, which it hired in a contract for NIS 50 million. Gantz managed to take NIS 4 million for himself before the company went bankrupt.

Meanwhile, despite the indictments Bibi faces for a series of misdemeanor crimes, he’s thriving — notching up one diplomatic achievement after another, adding them to his basket of accomplishments. He’s busy globetrotting to diplomatic and economic forums in Africa, Asia and South America, and he is respectfully welcomed all around — including in Muslim countries and others that were, until recently, hostile to Israel.

He’s standing on his long-proven record of solid leadership bringing Israel among the top tiers of the world in agriculture, technology, business, medicine and other areas. And the maze-like quality of politics notwithstanding, he’s deftly made his way through the complex and tight web of international relations, having positioned Israel in such a way as to be on speaking terms with those who just a few years ago had considered it unthinkable.

Should we just take it for granted that there is a prime minister who is royally welcomed at the White House, and then travels to Moscow to tell his friend Putin about his talks in Washington? Let’s reflect just a few years back, when there was a chilly hostility between the two blocs, in addition to the cold shoulder Moscow gave the Jewish state. Let’s also recall the economic successes of recent years, and that in almost every survey gauging Israelis’ satisfaction, nearly 90 percent of them reported being happy with their lives here.

These successes are not incidental. Had Bibi’s opposition not been so consumed by hate (and perhaps envy) and struck by political blindness, they might even have reluctantly admitted that there have been few leaders like him since the founding of the state.

Yes, we’ve heard the cynics who claim that all of Netanyahu’s efforts and feverish activity to notch up political accomplishments are to maintain his hold on power for as long as possible and to avoid the indictments hanging around his neck. That is possible. I do not purport to know what others are thinking. But what is important to me, as an Israeli citizen, are the results he is achieving for the benefit of our little country.

And what of the personal corruption charges? Yes, I concede that Binyamin Netanyahu is no paragon of virtue. And as a Torah-observant Jew, I’m his polar opposite on the spiritual spectrum. My lifestyle differs from his on matters far beyond the cigars and champagne that have become insufferable to his opponents.

But as I look at the current Israeli reality, I’m reminded of the way President Lincoln responded to an advisor who, like the Blue and White members of our day, sanctimoniously spoke against one of the country’s most talented generals because he drank heavily. That general, Ulysses S. Grant, managed impressive battles during the Civil War and achieved numerous victories for the North.

“Ah!” exclaimed Honest Abe in response to the charge. “Maybe you can tell me where he gets his whiskey? Because if I can only find out, I’ll send a barrel of this wonderful whiskey to every general in the army.”

No, I won’t send Bibi a case of whiskey, nor a shipment of cigars, for that matter, but I’d be very happy if he continues to ratchet up achievements for the benefit of the residents of this country.

Indictments? Let him deal with them himself — is it your job to prosecute him? And anyway, even a magnifying glass won’t help you figure out exactly what he’s being accused of that falls into the category of subversive, criminal behavior. The “Anything But Bibi” camp is sure that the Israeli public will be convinced by their spirit of purity and valiant campaign for clean ethics. In other words, they have a positive opinion of the Israeli public, which is surely repulsed by all that corruption. But while the Israeli public might not appreciate Bibi’s ethical and personality flaws, at the same time it appreciates his accomplishments in real time.

Why else, as it compares a Bibi in power to the quite unexciting alternative, does it respond, “Yes, davka Bibi”?

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 799)

 

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