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Bibi: My Story

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In contrast to Netanyahu’s cultivation of Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, Jabotinsky strongly opposed Abba Ahimeir and the maximalists in his Revisionist movement. Jabotinsky never wavered in his opposition to authoritarianism and illiberal thought. He died in the US in 1940, attempting to create a Jewish army to fight the Nazis. There are few new or surprising details in it. Netanyahu’s life has already been reported on in minute detail by the Israeli media and been the subject of half a dozen biographies already. And yet, in his telling it is still a fascinating story of the meteoric rise of a boy who spent his childhood split between Jerusalem and various American cities. His five years of military service in the most elite of Israeli combat units, followed by his years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Then the death in Entebbe of his elder brother Yoni and a few years in which he seems to have gone astray, not quite finding himself in the business world either in the U.S. or Israel. Until he got the unexpected offer to become Israel’s deputy ambassador in Washington at the age of 32, making him an almost overnight media star and launching his breathtaking public career. It is significant that Netanyahu only applies the epithet ‘dictator’ to virulently anti-Israel regimes such as Syria and Iran. Putin and Xi jinping are not granted that label because Netanyahu clearly perceives that it is not in Israel’s national interests to do so.

Peter Robinson: Your generation has succeeded. Israel faces dangers, but it's going no place. This state is here to stay. Your children, what's the task for their generation? Netanyahu recalls the well-attended Israel Solidarity rally in Trafalgar Square in May 2002 in the midst of suicide bombings by Palestinian Islamists and falsehoods about the Jenin ‘massacre’, taken up by sections of the British media. There was considerable internal debate within Jewish leadership as to whether it was wise to call upon Netanyahu’s services to present the case for Israel. Netanyahu pledged not to be controversial, but on the day could not resist the temptation to reach rhetorical heights — telescoping Chamberlain, appeasement, Churchill, the British in Palestine, Palestinian terrorists, antisemites, Arafat and the PLO into one long monologue. Richard Harries, the then Bishop of Oxford, commented later that Netanyahu ‘used the occasion for his own political purposes’. The history that Bibi discusses about himself and his family and their intersection with the State of Israel is fascinating. His grandfather and father were intimately involved with forming the Jewish state. But sadly, their names are rarely noted in this light.Bibi Netanyahu: Proof is in five other boxes too. I wrote it all longhand. Pain, actually my hand was aching, but I wrote it, and I wrote it during budget debates at the Knesset while I was bringing down this government. I wrote it in the swirling roads of the Galilee in the Negev as I was going to campaign stuff, and my assistant, Ophir Falk, was sitting next to me. And as I was writing this, I was giving it to him and he was typing it in. I'm a 19th-century guy. Bibi Netanyahu: Yes, exactly, exactly, he was writing. So you would agree that for a political figure, where words are your fundamental medium for persuading your public, for persuading your citizens, you think things through in writing? Bibi Netanyahu: Right, okay. Well there's a sixth eye, it's called the I, Israel. And Israel's contribution to American intelligence over the years is very, very significant. And you can talk to some of your, of the people who are familiar with this, and they'll tell you just how, it's growing all the time. So the answer to the question that you raised, is we need an alliance of democracies who are innovative and resolute in shoring up our common civilization by increasing our power. Perhaps not through our numbers, although our numbers can grow too, but through our hearts and minds. You need both minds, very good minds, but you need a solid heart too. One needs to recognise that two things have happened in recent years. As there is nobody on the Palestinian side to negotiate with as the corrupt Fatah on the West Bank is more or less at war with terrorist Hamas in Gaza, the route to peace is, as Bibi explains, not through the Palestinians but around them. Importantly, peace can only be made with the Arabs when a right wing Government is in power in Israel. The problem remains with the Palestinians. They still have not accepted the right of Israel to exist – and they still want its destruction.

Netanyahu notes that he regularly studied the weekly Torah portion with his son. Yet in political life, he has ignored the universalism within Judaism and its concern for global justice.” Israel’s politics are fractious and tribal. The far right grows as the left is decimated by the failed dream of the Oslo peace accords. Yet outside politics, things there are less fevered and acrid. Start-Up Nation has supplanted the kibbutz. Technology makes the desert bloom. I think the choice of Iraq is a good choice, it’s the right choice,” he said, adding: “It’s not a question of whether Iraq’s regime should be taken out but when should it be taken out. It’s not a question of whether you’d like to see a regime change in Iran but how to achieve it.” And finally, comparing still-minor contemporary figures (i.e., Ben-Gvir and Smotrich) to a giant of a century ago is puerile and gratuitous; it lays bare Schindler’s preference for personal bloviation over serious analysis. He then proves his own narcissism in concluding Jabotinsky view of Bibi’s autobiography would comport with Schindler’s as his own “review provides at least part of the answer.”

There was certainly a point towards the end of 2021, when the new Bennett-Lapid government which had seemed so precarious from the start, looked like it may actually survive a while longer, after passing the state budget in November, when Netanyahu instructed his lawyers to start negotiations with the attorney-general over a possible plea bargain. That would have meant him receiving a reduced sentence in his long-going corruption case which at the very least would have barred him from running again for office for years to come. But the talks came to nothing and then the government lost its majority in early April and things began to look a lot different. But in unconventional scenes similar to those in countless books of reportage and Trump tell-alls, Netanyahu also says that to sway Trump from his desire to pursue peace between Israel and the Palestinians and to scotch his positive first impression of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, the Israelis deployed golfing metaphors and maps of New York City.

Netanyahu was born in Israel but attended high school in Philadelphia and graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Throughout his book, Netanyahu calls his dad, Benzion Netanyahu, “Father”. Netanyahu the elder taught at Cornell. His son respects the US but is not enamored by its culture. It includes, among other topics, Mr. Netanyahu’s upbringing and education in both Israel and the United States, his own military service with a branch of Israel’s special forces, the Sayeret Maktal, his entry into business and then Israel’s diplomatic service in Washington during the Reagan administration, and, of course, his various terms as Prime Minister and leader of the opposition. While any autobiographer can be expected to put the facts about his or her life in the best possible light, what emerges—independent of what Mr. Netanyahu writes about himself—is a picture of a highly competent man of many, varied talents and someone who has much to teach about leadership. Bibi Netanyahu: There is rising, not enough, but it's rising. And the same thing by the way I do with the Orthodox community, the two lower income classes, if you will, groups in Israeli society. I am encouraging, in some ways also pushing, into the free market, because with both of them, I limited child allowances, which was very difficult politically, 'cause they were having incrementally growing child allowance, so when you got to the sixth child, from there and beyond, you could live on hundreds of dollars in today's money, hundreds of dollars for each child, and so you could just live off having a lot of children. And that is a demographic and economic suicide for the state of Israel. So I cut the child allowances to the level of the first child and basically, how shall I say this, actively encouraged both groups to enter the job market, which they did. And so participation in the job market in Israel, which was well beyond, below the OECD average is now right there where it is. Netanyahu castigates Clinton and Obama for purported messianism and naivety but says nothing of his own bad calls. For instance, in September 2002, he testified before Congress in support of the Iraq war.From the opening chapters to Bibi: My Story, I did not like the title. This is neither a simple nor sterile personal political biography. Netanyahu’s account is foundationally a love story that spans thousands of years. I’m not talking abo If we get a lot of mandates, we will have the legitimacy to demand significant portfolios such as the defense and the treasury,” Bezalel Smotrich, head of the far-right Religious Zionism party, declares. But most, if not all the manuscript had been written by then and in parts, it seems to have been therapeutic for Netanyahu, as if he was both establishing his legacy and place of history, but also convincing himself, not just the readers, that he remains Israel’s essential leader. The book opens heroically with Netanyahu’s time in the Sayeret Matkal — Israel’s remarkable commando force that has defended Israelis and Jews against lethal forces. He is rightly proud of his service and his participation in the storming of the Sabena flight at Lod airport in 1972. When he was with Rivlin,” Netanyahu writes, “Trump blurted out, ‘Bibi doesn’t want peace.’ For some unfathomable reason, this bombshell wasn’t leaked.”

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