Before I get too deep into this, I want to ask that you read it only for what it is; one man’s opinion of another’s psyche. I don’t want to rehash the whole Israel/Palestine issue yet again, particularly since a new chapter is being written at this very hour, and nobody yet knows how this one will end.
This is probably going to piss some folks off, but that’s life (I do it all the time). I thought since events are again calling the world’s attention towards the middle east, that I’d try to shed some light on what I think makes Benjamin Netanyahu tick. Again, the conclusions are my own observations — though the rest is factual.
My position on the conflict has always been thus: I believe that a two state solution is the only way peace will ever be achieved. A Jewish homeland as defined by the League of Nations in 1920 and voted into existence by the UN in 1948 has every right to exist. But not within the borders it now occupies, which encompass the West Bank of the Jordan River. I’ve argued with my Jewish and pro-Israeli friends until I’m blue in the face over this point, but unless and until Israel relinquishes the West Bank and ends these insane “settlements,” there can be no peace. When the British Mandate ended 66 years ago, the West Bank became a part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and remained so for almost 20 years. It was seized by Israel during the Six Day War in 1967 and never returned, despite two United Nations decrees that it do so. If there’s ever to be a Palestinian state, it can only be there — on the very hills and valleys where their ancestors have lived for centuries. I don’t want to go over every nuanced detail of the Arab/Israeli conflict in this article (as if it hasn’t been hashed and rehashed by millions elsewhere with no solutions), but it’s my belief that the Palestinians are being unfairly characterized by some in the media by the worst amongst them, such as Hamas. The vast majority of Palestinians aren’t all that different from their neighbors to the North; they just want to live their lives in peace, kiss their babies and one day, die a natural death. As things are today, that’s not possible.
On July 4th 1976, just as Americans were celebrating our bicentennial, a drama was unfolding half a world away; possibly the most sensational rescue mission of all time. The 1976 raid on Entebbe, Uganda by Israeli special forces. For those who weren’t around at the time, a group of ultra-leftist Palestinian and German terrorists – the PFLP (a radical offshoot of Arafat’s PLO) and the Revolutionary Cells – joined forces and hijacked an Air France jetliner filled with Israelis, flew it first to Benghazi Libya then to Kampala Uganda, where the brutal dictator Idi Amin allowed the terrorists to use the airport at Entebbe as a safe haven for them to conduct their business. He even tasked his Ugandan soldiers to guard the hostages so that the terrorists could catch some sleep.
The Yitzhak Rabin government authorized a mission to fly transports filled with Israeli commandos and equipment (including a replica of Idi Amin’s Mercedes limousine to try to catch the terrorists off guard) down to Uganda under the cover of darkness. Their mission: kill the terrorists and rescue the hostages. The operation was a spectacular success, with all the terrorists killed and only four Israeli casualties.
One of those four Israelis killed was a highly revered Lieutenant Colonel in the Special Forces; a 30 year old Harvard educated man his fellow soldiers called “Johnnie.” His actual name was Yonatan. Yonatan Netanyahu, and he was the older brother of the then 27 year old Benjamin, who now goes by Bibi. As with most kid brothers, Bibi idolized Yonatan. And probably all the more so, as he was a commander of the Sayeret Matkal, an elite reconnaissance unit. Yonatan was leading his men off the tarmac during the operation when a Ugandan sniper shot him through the chest. He died on the spot. He was the only Israeli soldier killed during the mission, the other three casualties being hostages killed during the mêlée.
Now flash forward a few decades. Either by fate or by a comedy of errors, Bibi Netanyahu was elected Prime Minister of Israel, and winds up seated across the table with none other than Yasser Arafat, the very head of the PLO whom he blames for his own beloved brother’s death. Arafat eventually renounced all forms of terrorism, but think about that; Bibi Netanyahu, a man who in a court of law would have been asked to recuse himself due to a conflict of interests, found himself face-to-face with a man he viewed as complicit in his brother’s murder. And that’s no hyperbole. Had it not been for the PLO’s tacit support of the Air France hijacking, his brother would have not perished on that tarmac back in 1976. And now, these two improbable actors found themselves as the kingpins to whatever peace could be salvaged following thousands of years of enmity.
I may be wrong about this, but I don’t think so. It’s my belief that because of this twisted bit of history, Bibi Netanyahu has personalized the entire Israel/Palestine conflict. The ultimate conflict of interests. I believe deep down inside him, he’s living the life of his big brother vicariously; a man he loved and looked up to, and now that he has the power, is doing what he can “for Yoni.” I believe he is precisely the wrong man at the wrong time to be leading Israel, and I believe the body count reflects that. You don’t have to have a Phd in psychology to understand this. Of all the right-wing leaders Israel has elected over the years; Menahem Begin, Ariel Sharon, and now Bibi Netanyahu, Bibi’s been the most intransigent, stubborn and ruthless of them all, and I believe it’s because he’s a man more motivated by personal tragedy than policy.
If the people of Israel truly want peace, they’ll have to accept two realities: One, that the West Bank must eventually be returned to the Palestinians to become a state of their own … and two, that nothing will change as long as Bibi Netanyahu is allowed to fight his own personal vendetta. He can call the Gaza Campaign a “defensive operation” if it makes him feel better, but I’m not buying it. His policies, his methods and his apparent lack of compassion for the misery he’s caused come from a deeper, darker place. He has to go, for the sake of peace. And so do those goddamn settlements.