How did Netanyahu come to believe he runs the world?

AuthorMilner, Arthur
PositionOPINION - Benjamin Netanyahu

September 17, 2012

I arrived in Israel Friday morning, travelled to Bethlehem in Palestine, and then to the international city of Jerusalem. There's no trace, that I've seen, of the apparently upcoming war with Iran or the recent protests against the Palestinian Authority.

The English version of Haaretz, Israel's left-wing newspaper, is bustling with attacks on Netanyahu's efforts to destroy Israel. I am reminded of a column by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman from a few months back: "It seems obvious from here that the narrow-minded policies of the current [Israeli] government are basically a gradual, long-run form of national suicide." (1)

According to several major Jewish journalists in the United States, that suicide is no longer "long-run." The New Yorker's David Remnick: "It is hard to overestimate the risks that Benjamin Netanyahu poses to the future of his own country." M.J. Rosenberg, formerly of AIPAC and Israel Policy Forum: "Binyamin Netanyahu poses an existential threat to the Jewish state. Those who claim to care about Israel need to speak out. Will we really allow this rightist egomaniac to destroy a 2000 year old dream?"

How did it come to this?

Initially it seemed the threatened bombing of Iran was just another diversion from settlement expansion. As long as Israel was killing or threatening to kill people in Lebanon, Gaza or Iran, no one paid attention to Palestinians losing their homes. (Even now, under cover of potential international disaster, Israel--not the settlers' organizations but the actual government of Israel --is seeking a ruling from Israeli courts to allow it to build 40 new settlements on privately owned Palestinian land.)

But Netanyahu's recent behaviour is fantastic. Does he--and do Israelis--really think they can order the world about? Do they really think it's all right to start a war that will destabilize the world because they're nervous? Do they think they, who actually have a nuclear arsenal, can bomb another country that they merely suspect is building one? Do they really think they can grossly interfere with the U.S. election and that there will be no consequences?

I guess they do. And if they--Netanyahu and his supporters and Jewish Israelis--really do think they run the word, how did they come to believe such a ridiculous thing?

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