Throwaway thoughts of the power hungry


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Behind all the tough talk of powerful people lies a smaller, more humble human: what do they say to their pillows at night?

ISRAEL and South Africa share something in common – they are both perfect examples of the maxim that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The tactic making the headlines in South Africa today is how Daily Maverick journalist Marianne Thamm stooped to the lowest possible level by rifling through the trash can of Economic Freedom Fighters cadres and writing a story based on her findings.

What would a similar tactic reveal if it was applied on a more philosophical level to Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? So, rather than doing a forensic analysis of the rubbish in his dustbin, it would cast a forensic eye at his thoughts as he puts his head on his pillow at night. Today, he basically runs the state of Israel with self-serving actions aimed only at keeping himself in power and holding onto its benefits. Court actions and criticisms surrounding him show this phenomenon clearly. It is likely he will be indicted and may even go to jail.

Netanyahu’s former media consultant, Yossy Levy, has spoken out publically about his former boss, who he says has no serious long-term vision for Israel. Levy became his senior aide in 2008, and was promoted to the role of media advisor when he became Prime Minister.

He is quoted as saying Netanyahu has “no qualms about any trick or shtick and makes a mockery of everyone,” and the continuation of Netanyahu’s power is the only thing he holds sacred.

People tend to see Netanyahu as a “magician” who brought the Likud party to an unprecedented high of 12 seats in 2006. But Levy says Netanyahu is drowning in investigations and cannot function properly, and hasn’t a moral or public mandate to make fateful decisions. Many people are worried he will make critical decisions based on his own personal interests rather than on those of the state of Israel.

Netanyahu has, amongst other things, demonstrated a willingness to make alliances with parties in Israel that would be anathema to a more balanced approach. He has also led Israel into a relationship with the most anti-Semitic authoritarian regimes such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Furthermore, to the dismay of many Jews and Israelis, he has openly developed a closeness to the US President Donald Trump, deemed untrustworthy and dangerous to most of the thinking world. He has played off the ultra-religious parties against their secular counterparts, once again to stay in power. But even more seriously, he has thumbed a nose at the legal institutions of the state of Israel by supporting the Nation-State Bill which has turned Israel into an “ethnic” state, rather than what its founders, including David Ben-Gurion, envisaged.

Netanyahu has, in addition to all of these misdemeanours, kept elements of the Israeli public transfixed by his ability to continue acting the role of strong man who will keep Israel safe, in the assumption that defence is the primary role of successful leadership in Israel.

What could Netanyahu think in his private moments? Is it blind power all the way, or is there a human being somewhere inside there who feels embarrassed at the lengths to which he has gone to stay on top? Does he feel remorse for the people he has pushed aside? Does he fear the looming possibility of indictment? Does he acknowledge his mortality, remembering he won’t be Prime Minister for ever?

We can obviously never pick through the throwaway thoughts of anyone, just as prying in dustbins is borderline immoral, but one can’t help but speculate at what the private life of Netanyahu may reveal at this moment in history.

GEOFF SIFRIN is a journalist in Johannesburg, South Africa, and former Editor of the SA Jewish Report. Email: 

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