King Bibi the First?

Article Summary
In reaction to the recent TIME magazine cover of Israeli Primie Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as "King Bibi," Nahum Barnea satirizes the new Israeli coalition forces and the urge to rule without opposition. 

Kings, an American journalist who recently returned from a tour of several Middle Eastern countries told me, are the real survivors in the Arab world. Republican regimes are collapsing one after the other. Look at what has happened in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Libya. Look at what's going on in Syria, and in the Gulf Oil Emirates. The monarchic regimes, on the other hand, are holding out, in Saudi Arabia, too. In Morocco, the King is bending with the winds of change and weathers the storm. Even in Jordan. The present belongs to the kings.

Here, in Israel, too, I noted.

Excuse me? He said.

When you last visited here, Israel was a republic, I said. Now we are a monarchy. And it's official. Even TIME Magazine wrote as much [in the lead story of its last issue devoted to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu]. "King Bibi" was the cover.

A funny headline, he said. I haven't read the story.

A formative headline, I corrected him. The news is that Israel is at long last becoming an indigenous part of the region. What's good enough for the Saudis and the Abu Dhabians is good enough for the Jews. We are about to crown a king.

Why would you want to do that, my American colleague wondered.

To gain stability, I replied. When Netanyahu presented his new 94-member coalition, he explained that Israel's biggest problem was governmental stability. And he is right. Stability is the most important thing. He has not said it yet, not explicitly at least. However, as you have realized in your recent visit to Saudi Arabia, there is nothing more stable than a king.

On the other hand, my American friend tried to argue.

Wait a minute with that other side, I said. We have still not exhausted the debate on the advantages of monarchy. A king does not have to run for elections; see, we have already saved two or three billion shekels there – if not more than that. A king has no need for a party, he does not have to convene any central committee meetings nor hold any primaries. A king can do without a cabinet of thirty ministers. All he needs is one Metternich and one Rasputin.

You mean Ehud Barak and, what's his name, Natan Eshel? My American friend insisted on spelling it out.

Among others, I granted. Let's go on. When you have a king, nobody is raising a brow over his wife's meddling with state affairs. After all, she is the queen. She is entitled to it. His children are princes. And they are duly given the royal treatment, from day one. His relatives are blue-blooded dukes and counts. You cannot miss it, they are the privileged nobility. His aides are all of the aristocracy. Thus, for instance, nothing can prevent him from appointing his military secretary's brother as the director general of the palace bureau. In a republic, it would be denounced as conflict of interest. In a monarchy it is applauded as a welcome addition to the royal court's entourage, and, naturally, nobody is complaining.

Hang on, he said. Isn't that what's actually going on in your country today?

Not really, I replied. Not yet. There are still, here and there, enclaves of those longing for the old order. However, it is already quite clear where the wind blows. The voice of the people is all for a kingdom.

You know what, my friend said. You have made your point. I'll go along with you. A king, that's what Israel needs today. A king isn't afraid of swimming against the current. A king can dare; he can take the initiative, he can make decisions…

Quite the contrary, I countered. That's what is so great about kings, they never have to make any decisions. They are kings because they have been preordained to become kings by some divine force. They do not have to submit any plans; they do not have to formulate a vision; they are accountable to none. The throne is theirs; it has always been and it will always be, no matter what.

Sounds good, my American associate said. Can we too have something like that?

Back to our routine reality and the more mundane issues on the agenda: Tuesday, May 22, general elections [were] to be held for Israel's largest labor union, the "Histadrut". Incumbent Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini, who has been running the Histadrut institutions high-handedly [since January 2006], is seeking to defend his leadership position against Knesset Member (Labor) Eitan Cabel. It is an unequal struggle between the inexperienced would-be Histadrut head Cabel and the powerful boss of the Labor Union Eini. The vast majority of the political establishment, including Cabel's Labor party, supports Eini and his faction. It's a sold game.

There are good reasons for not showing up at the ballots. However, there is one thing that justifies the trouble. Political organizations without opposition are doomed to degeneration and corruption. It is true for the Israeli parliament in its present [inflated] state and it is all the more true for the Histadrut, which exists as an extraterritorial enclave, evading the media radar. An assertive, forceful opposition faction would do good not only for the Histadrut members, but for Eini himself. 

Found in: royalty, opposition, netanyahu, middle east, israel, coalition, benjamin netanyahu

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