Following the inconclusive results of Tuesday’s election, weeks may elapse before a prime minister is chosen, and there is a chance that Benjamin Netanyahu’s political career isn’t over yet. Perusing the headlines about Netanyahu over the past year, Ruthie Blum notes how many have referred to him as a political “magician,” or some variant thereof. But this cliché misses the point:
It’s a propaganda ploy, because it enables a total dismissal of [Netanyahu’s] actual accomplishments, with an added whiff of the bemused awe associated with a spoon-bending performance [by the Israeli magician] Uri Geller. Indeed, with the stroke of a few computer keys, Netanyahu is reduced to the Wizard of Oz—some guy behind a curtain who has managed to pull the wool over the eyes of a public longing for courage, heart, wisdom, and a safe Jewish homeland to call its own.
The truth about Bibi, however, is that he is a master, not a magician. His maneuvering of Israel’s implausible political system—while running the country, conducting measured military operations against its many enemies, chief among them Iran, and diplomatic ones against the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement—is nothing short of miraculous. Denigrating it by suggesting that it’s more a function of trickery than of leadership is shameful.
This is not to say that Bibi warrants no criticism, or that without him at the helm, Israel is doomed. On the contrary, the Jewish state was established five months before he was born. It managed not only to survive but thrive for nearly five decades before he became prime minister for the first time in 1996. Nor is it reasonable or desirable to hinge the country’s continued resilience and strength on a single leader, no matter how great.
Netanyahu will not outlive the 200,000 or so babies who were born in the Jewish state since the beginning of 2018. But there is no doubt that he will go down in history as one of Israel’s and the world’s most influential and consequential leaders of all times. . . . Under [his] watch, the tiny war-torn Jewish state has become a world power to be reckoned with in every way, and not only the obvious ones, such as military prowess, high-tech genius and medical advancement. In the industries of cooking, fashion, movie and TV, too, Israel is a global player. In addition, despite repeated hysterical assertions, Israel is not “isolated.” . . . Israel’s economy is booming to such an extent that the ever-strengthening shekel has presented a problem to local manufacturers. And in spite of its over-the-top prices, the Holy Land is a prized tourist destination.