Bibi The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu

Review :

I read this biography because it is very timely. Anti-Semitism is in the news, as is Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel. From his birth to an American mother in 1949 Bibi's childhood was different than any other Israeli leader. I was surprised to find out that his mother, Tzila Segal, was from Minneapolis, where I am from. The author emphasizes how Americanized Bibi became, spending most of his high school and college years in the US. He speaks with impeccable English, and is well versed in American culture-the good and the bad. He blends in well with Americans, which has provided him access to American power elites from a very early age. He practices his speaking skills and becomes a sought after character on the emerging 24/7 news media.The author weaves the history of modern Israel with the experiences and development of the man that would become the most consequential leader of modern Israel. We see his 5 year military career, serving with distinction in several military offenses, while in a small paratrooper unit. He rose to the rank of Captain, which is not unusual. The author points out that in later years Bibi is adverse to large sale military operations. Is this because his only experience is with small elite units We're not provided an answer. We see that very early on Bibi is prone to lying, self-aggrandisement, and womanizing. He marries three times before settling on Sara with many codicils involved.His rise to power is characterized by positions he has taken through the years. By 1978, at he age of 29 he had already taken the position that the US should not support the two-state solution. Never mind the fact that he had decided that Israel would not support the two-state solution. He had already decided Israel should take a strong stance on influencing US foreign policy. And he had decided that the only obstacle to peace in the Middle East was the Arab's determination to destroy Israel. We see the evolution of the Begin Doctrine that "no Arab nation was allowed an atomic bomb". Bibi brings Frank Luntz, not yet a GOP guru, to Israel to develop the Likud Party Hasbara, a handbook on the conservative Israeli view . It was aggressive, bellicose, and very specific about what their talking points would be. It is still in force today. Bibi takes the stance that "Once the case for Israel is properly presented, if you still disagree you are probably anti-Semitic."Bibi becomes Israeli ambassador to the UN at age 35 and uses it as a platform to express the Israeli point-of-view, to his advantage. He then becomes the Israeli Prime Minister in 1996 at age 47. His success is short-lived, as he is voted out of office in 1999, not to return to elected office for another ten years. In the interim he becomes obsessed with the idea that the media is the enemy. He becomes obsessed with polls. He enlists Sheldon Adelson to create a newspaper that is favorable to him. He becomes a victim of celebrity as he succumbs to luxury, fine food and rich living.In spite of all this he is elected again to three terms as Prime Minister 2009- 2016. He stands on the verge of being the longest serving Israeli Prime Minister since David Ben Gurion, And yet, with elections coming up on April 9th, he is facing indictments for corruption, bribery, and malfeasance. Whether he will survive is open to question.The final words of the author are prescient-"On the day Benjamin Netanyahu leaves, his ultimate legacy will not be a more secure nation, but a deeply fractured Israeli society, living behind walls."


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