Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is an excellent manager who knows how to distinguish the important from the unimportant and focus on achieving his goals: keeping his government in power and perpetuating the occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem while minimizing domestic and international opposition.
All his actions and decisions are a product of these goals, and the results are in his favor. Over the past seven years, Netanyahu has won three elections and removed the two-state solution from the Israeli and global agendas.
In his Haaretz column this week, Raviv Drucker belittled the prime minister’s managerial abilities as “nonexistent,” providing examples of his promises that haven’t been fulfilled – from lowering housing prices and advancing his natural gas plan to an Eilat casino and the bill authorizing the suspension of Knesset members.
The nation-state bill, the so-called balcony construction reform, the introduction of Uber to Israel and the shuttering of the Israel Broadcasting Authority can all be added to the list. Bibi promises, Bibi gets enthusiastic, Bibi pushes for what he wants, but nothing happens.
All this is true, but unimportant. These failures haven’t stopped Netanyahu from achieving his goals. Let’s assume the gas framework is too complicated to arouse the public’s interest, and Israelis don’t care if they do their gambling in inexpensive Bulgaria rather than expensive Eilat.
But the cost of homes affects everyone. Frustrated Israelis who can’t buy real estate for their children should be taking it out on the government and the person who heads it. Still, soaring prices haven’t prevented Netanyahu from being elected again and again. Netanyahu has only benefited when “the housing crisis” has ruined the careers of potential rivals such as Yair Lapid and Moshe Kahlon.
A good manager needs to know what to do and what not to get involved in, and Netanyahu lets others deal with what could stir controversy or fail. The so-called “change the elites” project designed to eliminate public support for dividing the land into two states was transferred to Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Culture Minister Miri Regev. The fight against international pressure to end the occupation was contracted out to the heads of the “opposition,” Isaac Herzog and Lapid.
Meanwhile, the smashing of the Supreme Court was entrusted to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin. In his previous terms, Netanyahu dispatched Ehud Barak to take the fall for the project on attacking Iran, and Tzipi Livni to commit political suicide on a “peace process” without any prospect of success.
Netanyahu’s great teacher was Ronald Reagan, who showed little interest in the work of the administration and viewed rhetoric as the essence of leadership. Like Netanyahu, Reagan kept to himself and lacked friends – someone who lived in the shadow of a domineering wife but shone in front of a crowd and the cameras.
Like Reagan, Netanyahu talks like an aggressive hawk and acts like a dove when it comes to using force. Both would prefer a good story to precision on the facts. Reagan quoted an imaginary statement by Lenin, while Netanyahu blamed the mufti of Jerusalem for the Holocaust. Jacob Weisberg, a Reagan biographer, called these lies “sentimental fictions.”
Reagan was considered a chatterbox and clown by his adversaries, but today he’s remembered as a leader who won the Cold War thanks to the wild arms race he forced on an impoverished Soviet Union. Netanyahu isn’t there, but the winds are blowing in his favor. He’s taking advantage of America’s ebbing in the Middle East and the collapse of Arab states to near his dream of eliminating international recognition of the existence of a Palestinian people with national rights.
No one in the West had heard of the Palestinians until they started hijacking planes in the late ‘60s. Netanyahu hopes that with a little more determination, effort and a crackdown on dissidents at home and boycotters abroad, he can return the Palestinians to their hazy status as “Arabs” without rights.
Journalists who use minor matters like housing, natural gas and the staffing of Netanyahu’s office to convince people that Netanyahu is a weak man, soft politician and failed manager are only helping him. While they’re busying themselves with such nonsense, or with Sara Netanyahu’s unfair treatment of her servants, Netanyahu is quietly moving ahead unhindered toward his real goals. That’s his real test, and for now at least he’s passing with flying colors.