People seem to enjoy hating on Bibi. I’ve honestly never seen an Israeli prime minister so widely complained about while still being so popular. Often I hear diatribes about Bibi that end in “but I voted for him because he’s the lesser of evils.” Often these diatribes involve the person just stam hating him without explaining any reasons. Other times, I see the myths that are highlighted below.
I’m going to go right out there and say it: I think Binyamin Netanyahu is pretty darn awesome.
Not only can he speak two languages without an accent, he also has degrees from MIT and Harvard and served in both the War of Attrition and the Yom Kippur War, the latter for which he left college in the US to fight and still managed to finish a four-year degree in two and a half years.
Sure, he’s made some mistakes in his personal life, with at least two of his three marriages rocked by affairs, but excluding that he’s a pretty okay guy.
Myth 1: Bibi doesn’t want peace, or a two-state solution. He’s not a peace partner.
Truth: Bibi has expressed very clearly he wants a two-state solution with mutual recognition if that means it will stop the conflict between our two peoples. In recent years, Abbas gave Bibi a list of demands that are non-negotiable, that he must agree to in order to restart negotiations. All of these conditions – right of return for the eternal multi-generational refugees, the lifting of the blockade, the removal of Israeli military presence and allowance of a Palestinian army, the complete ethnic cleansing of Jews from Judea and Samaria, and unlimited influx of weapons, will necessarily lead to the destruction of Israel – and that’s exactly the intention Abbas made very clear to his constituents. Since Bibi rightfully doesn’t want to meet the suicidal demands, he is suddenly considered a hardliner, when anyone who is a true Zionist would refuse to enter negotiations under these conditions because accepting any of these options, let alone all, will mean the end of Israel. So it is indeed Abbas who has hardened over the years, as the fruits of his rabid indoctrination campaigns against Israel and Jews have shifted public opinions in the Palestinian Territories away from peace.
Myth 2: Bibi is the most corrupt PM of all time and worsened the economy while exacerbating the enormous privilege enjoyed by monopolies.
Truth: Bibi actually is known for doing the exact opposite. In all his terms as Prime Minister, the economy boomed. With a strong background in economics, he promoted a free market economy and actually worked to dismantle the monopolies, the presence of which stem from Israel’s former government-owned corporations and lack of privatization. In 2002, following a deep recession due to the second intifada, Netanyahu, then finance minister, again was responsible for rescuing the economy. He continues to speak out against monopolies, believing that free markets and competition are the keys to economic prosperity. Not to say the issue of monopolies doesn’t have a long way to go, just that Bibi helped alleviate it rather than harm it.
Myth 3: Bibi singlehandedly destroyed bipartisan support for Israel in the United States.
In 2012, he supported republican candidate Mitt Romney, a stark deviation from the tradition of neutrality the Israeli government has upheld with regards to US elections. He even spoke at congress against Obama’s wishes in 2015, alienating most of the democratic contingent.
Truth: The situation looks terrible on the surface but if we remember that Bibi is not just a head of state, but also a man, it will make more sense. See, one of the candidates in that election was a close friend of Bibi’s from his Bain days in the late 1970’s. Mitt Romney and Benjamin Netanyahu go way back. On top of that, Obama and Netanyahu don’t always see eye to eye because of their vastly different worldviews – Bibi’s staunch pragmatic capitalism and their vastly different views on solving the conflict. If your best friend was running for president against someone you really didn’t see eye to eye with, would you support your best friend? It seems Bibi put his friendship before politics, and his opportunistic opponents in the Democratic Party – egged on by Bibi-hating, Meretz-loving J-Street – found exactly the way to use that against him.
As for his insistence on speaking to Congress, it was because he feared the repercussions of the impending Iran Deal. Obama, who was strongly in favor of the Iran Deal and has a history of silencing opposing voices, knew this and made it a big stink. Not surprisingly, he knew Bibi’s speech would only undo the hard work he did trying to promote it, and he couldn’t let that happen. Treating Bibi’s visit as a betrayal, he used it as an opportunity to shame him for opposing the Iran Deal, as discrediting Bibi was the only way of maintaining his party’s support for the deal. Therefore we can blame Obama for making Israel a partisan issue, not Bibi, who was acting on his conscience and making what I feel was a vital decision for him at the time, even though the deal went through.
Bibi has a history of being somewhat of a clairvoyant when it came to important policies. He predicted exactly what would happen from the Oslo Accords, aptly referring to them a “Trojan Horse” and strongly opposing them. He also threatened to give up his leadership in the Likud over the unsuccessful Gaza Pullout of 2005, again predicting exactly what would happen and vehemently opposing it. Why? Because Netanyahu is a renowned expert on counter-terrorism. He has even published several books on the subject starting in the late 1970’s.
Myth 4: Bibi comes from wealth, he has no idea how Israel actually lives and never truly sacrificed himself for the country.
Truth: Bibi served in the army twice as long as the average non-career soldier. Between 1967 and 1973, Netanyahu served in the special forces unit, Sayeret Matkal, putting his life on the line in dangerous life-threatening operations. Both of his brothers also served in the same unit, with his elder brother Yoni paying the ultimate price. As for Bibi, he got injured many times, even shot in the shoulder during Operation Isotope in 1972. Two of his children finished service in the army, and one of them is even currently in combat intelligence.
So he comes from wealth. Labour’s Yitzchak “Buji” Herzog also comes from wealth and I don’t see nearly as many people penalizing him for being out of touch.
Myth 5: Bibi and his government haven’t advanced gay rights in Israel and are too obsessed with appeasing the Haredim to maintain a coalition.
Truth: Every prime minister, left-wing and right-wing, has brownosed to the religious Haredim in a similar way. Bibi hasn’t made anything worse regarding Haredi privilege in Israeli society. He’s only ever supported bills encouraging enlistment for Haredim, and integration of Haredim into society. As for LGBT? The first gay Knesset member was sworn in under Bibi and Bibi frequently speaks words of encouragement at gay pride parades. In order to fix the issue of Haredim and lack of LGBTs’ right to marry in Israel, we need to completely overhaul the system, and blaming Bibi won’t help.
Myth 6: Bibi is too cerebral and doesn’t actually do anything.
Truth: This particular myth is often repeated from the right: “Bibi is too leftist!” He’s arguably one of the most hardliner PMs in Israel’s history, as the right has never been historically very popular with the exception of the settlement movement in the 1980’s. That being said, he generally leans left on social issues and right on issues we can’t compromise – namely security and defense. He turned Israel from a socialist nanny state into a free market economy. He launched strong retaliations in operations Pillar of Defense and Protective Edge, which many critics viewed as “over the top” but most military experts saw as a just deterrent. So Bibi is far from left-wing. The fact that the international community doesn’t like him is a sign alone that he does a lot, because the world tends to like their Jews weak, defenseless, and subjugated.
Myth 7: Bibi is a racist.
Truth: If supporters of another party, a party that wants to overthrow your government and destroy Israel, were getting money from foreign governments to bus Arabs in from small Arab villages who wouldn’t ordinarily vote, knowing they will almost certainly vote against you, you would probably vent too. I don’t think he meant it badly or even for it to be public, but such was the case. He’s spent a lot of time since then trying to make it up to Arabs, going so far as to even approve increased funding to Arab schools by the largest amount in history. In fact, overall, Bibi’s government is pretty friendly to Arab cultural initiatives. Bibi has also spoken dozens of times about how he just wants Arabs to feel like a part of Israel.