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The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil,    but because of the people who don't do anything about it    
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A boy called Bibi
By: Uri Avnery
Gush Shalom
2 May 2015

THERE ARE two different opinions about Binyamin Netanyahu. It is difficult to
believe that they concern the same person.

One is that Netanyahu is a shallow politician, devoid of ideas and
convictions, who is led solely by his obsession to remain in power. This
Netanyahu has a good voice and a talent for making shallow speeches on
television, speeches devoid of any intellectual content – and that`s all.
This Netanyahu is highly `pressurable` (a Hebrew word invented almost solely
for him), a man who will change his views according to political expediency,
disclaiming in the evening what he has said in the morning. None of his words
should be trusted. He will lie and cheat anytime to assure his survival.
The other Netanyahu is almost the exact opposite. A principled patriot, a
serious thinker, a statesman who sees danger beyond the horizon. This
Netanyahu is a gifted orator, able to move the US Congress and the UN plenum,
admired by the great mass of Israelis.

So which of these descriptions is true?

IF IT is true that the character of a person is shaped by his early childhood,
we must examine the background of Netanyahu in order to understand him.
He grew up in the shadow of a strong father. Benzion Millikowsky, who changed
his foreign name to the Hebrew Netanyahu, was a very dominant and very unhappy
person. Born in Warsaw, then a provincial town in the Russian Empire, he
immigrated to Palestine as a young man, studied history at the new Hebrew
University in Jerusalem and expected to become a professor there. He was not

Benzion was the son of an early adherent of Vladimir (Ze`ev) Jabotinsky, the
extreme rightist Zionist leader. He inherited from his father a very extremist
outlook, and passed it on to his three sons. Binyamin was the second one. His
elder brother, still a child himself, called him Bibi, and the childish
appellation stuck.

Benzion`s rejection by the prestigious young Hebrew University turned him into
a bitter man, a bitterness that lasted until his death in 2012, at age 102. He
was sure that this rejection had nothing to do with his academic
qualification, and everything with his ultra-nationalist opinions.
His extreme Zionism did not stop him leaving Palestine and seeking his
academic luck in the United States, where a second-rate university gave him a
professorship. His life`s work as a historian concerned the fate of the Jews
in medieval Christian Spain – the expulsion and inquisition. It engendered in
him a very dark world view: the conviction that Jews will always be
persecuted, that all Goyim (non-Jews) hate the Jews, that a straight line
connects the auto-da-fי of the Spanish inquisition with the Nazi Holocaust.
During the years, the Netanyahu family went back and forth between the US and
Israel. Binyamin grew up in America, acquired perfect American English,
essential for his future career, studied and became a salesman. His obvious
talent for this profession attracted a Likud foreign minister, who sent him to
the UN as Israeli spokesman.

BENZION NETANYAHU was not only a very bitter person, who accused the Zionist
and Israeli academic establishment of failing to recognize his academic
stature. He was also a very autocratic family man.
The three Netanyahu boys lived in constant awe of Father. They were not
allowed to make any noise at home while the Great Man worked in his closed
study. They were not allowed to bring other boys home. Their mother was
completely devoted to her husband and served him in every way, sacrificing her
own personality.

In every family, the second child of three is in a difficult position. He is
not admired like the eldest, nor indulged like the youngest. For Binyamin this
was especially hard, because of the personality of the eldest.
Yonatan Netanyahu (both names mean `God has given`) seems to have been a
specially blessed boy. He was good-looking, gifted, much liked, even admired.
In the army, he became the commander of the revered Sayeret Matkal (`General
Staff Commando Unit`) – the elite of the army`s elite.
As such he was the ground commander of the daring 1976 Entebbe commando raid
in Uganda, which liberated the captive passengers of a flight hijacked by
Palestinian and German guerillas on the way to Israel. Yonatan was killed and
became a national hero. He was also adored by his father, who never quite
accepted the qualities of his second son.

Between his father, the embittered Great Thinker, and his elder brother, the
Legendary Hero, Binyamin grew up as a quiet but very ambitious boy, part
Israeli, part American. He worked for some time as a furniture salesman, until
he was discovered by the far-right Likud foreign minister, Moshe Arens.
Between his obsessive need to be approved by his father and to be found equal
to his glorious brother, Netanyahu`s own character was forged. His father
never quite appreciated him, once saying that he would make a good foreign
minister, but not a prime minister.

Being his father`s son, Netanyahu incited the people against Yitzhak Rabin
after the Oslo Agreement and was photographed on the speaker`s balcony during
the demonstration in which a symbolic coffin of Rabin was carried around. Soon
after, when Rabin was murdered, he denied all responsibility.

Rabin`s successor, Shimon Peres, failed miserably, and Netanyahu became prime
minister. It was a total catastrophe. On the evening after the next elections,
when it be came clear that he had lost, multitudes streamed to Tel Aviv`s
central square (now named after Rabin) in a spontaneous demonstration of joy
like that at the liberation of Paris.

His successor, Labor`s Ehud Barak, had no more luck. A former army Chief of
Staff, admired by many and especially by himself, he compelled President Bill
Clinton to convene an Israeli-Palestinian peace conference at Camp David.
Barak, who was quite ignorant of Palestinian attitudes, came to dictate his
terms and was shocked when they were rejected. Coming home, he declared that
the Palestinians want to throw us into the sea. Hearing this, the public threw
him out and elected the tough far-right general, Ariel Sharon, the founder of

Netanyahu became Minister of Finance. As such he was quite successful.
Applying the neo-liberal ultra-capitalist teaching he had absorbed in the US,
he made the poor poorer and the rich richer. The poor seemed to like it.
Sharon was the father of the settlements in the West Bank. To strengthen
these, he decided to give up the Gaza Strip with its few settlements, which
were a disproportional drag on the army. But his unilateral retreat from the
Gaza Strip shocked the rightist camp. The elder Netanyahu called the move a
`crime against humanity`.

Impatient with opposition, Sharon split the Likud and founded his own Kadima
(`Forwards`) party. Netanyahu again became the leader of Likud.
As usual, he was lucky. Sharon suffered a stroke and fell into a coma, from
which he never recovered. His successor, Ehud Olmert, was accused of
corruption and had to resign. The next in line, Tzipi Livni, was incompetent
and unable to form a government, though all the ingredients were there.
Netanyahu, the man who was kicked out just a few years earlier by the cheering
masses, came back as an imperator. Again the masses cheered. Shakespeare would
have loved it.

SINCE THEN, Netanyahu has been elected again and again. The last time was a
clear personal victory. He vanquished all his competitors on the Right.
So who is this Netanyahu? Contrary to popular opinion, he is a man of very
strong beliefs – the beliefs of his far-right father. The entire world is out
to kill us at all times, we need a powerful state to defend ourselves, all of
the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan has been given us by God
(whether he exists or not). Everything else is lies, subterfuges, tactics.
When, in a famous speech at Bar-Ilan university near Tel Aviv, Netanyahu
embraced the principle of `Two States for Two Peoples`, those who knew him
could only smile. It was as if he had recommended the eating of pork on Yom

He dangled this statement before the eyes of the naive Americans and let his
Justice Minister, Tzipi Livni, lead endless negotiations with the
Palestinians, whom he despises. Whenever it seemed that the negotiations were
nearing some goal, he quickly put up another condition, such us the ridiculous
demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Nation State of the
Jewish People. He would not dream, of course, of recognizing the Palestinian
territories as the Nation State of the Palestinian People – a people he does
not really believe exists at all.

On the eve of the last election, just now, Netanyahu announced that there
would not be a Palestinian state as long as he was in power. When the
Americans remonstrated, he repudiated himself. Why not? As his Likud
predecessor, Yitzhak Shamir, famously said, `It is permitted to lie for the

Netanyahu will lie, cheat, repudiate himself, raise false flags – all for the
purpose of achieving his one and only real goal, the Rock of our Existence (as
he loves to say), the heritage of his father – the Jewish State from the sea
to the river.

THE TROUBLE is that in this area, the Arabs are already the majority, a small
majority, but one that is bound to grow steadily.

A Jewish and democratic state in the entire country is impossible. The popular
joke has it that this is too much even for God. So He decreed that we have to
choose two of the three attributes: a Jewish and democratic state in part of
the country, a Jewish state in all of the country that will not be democratic,
or a democratic state in all of the country that will not be Jewish.
Netanyahu`s solution to this problem is to ignore it. Just go on, enlarge the
settlements, and concentrate on the immediate problem: install his fourth
government and plan for his fifth, four years from now.

And, of course, show his father, who is looking down on him from heaven, that
after all little Bibi, his second son, is worthy of him.

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