(Nov. 2)  Benjamin Netanyahu will take office again as the prime minister of Israel with one last chance to be remembered more for governing successes than for personal failings. U.S. President Joe Biden can help by getting out of Netanyahu’s way.

First, let’s acknowledge that Netanyahu is perhaps the most successful free-world political leader of the past 30 years. This assessment relates not just to his keeping political power, but more importantly, to his use of it for salutary effect both for his nation and for broader peace and freedom.

Both as finance minister and as prime minister, Netanyahu used free market and fiscally conservative policies to turn a lethargic economy into a near-miraculous exemplar of growth. And despite all the dire warnings that he would be a reckless warrior, in truth, Netanyahu consistently has combined military strength with caution and diplomacy.

Who would ever have guessed 30 years ago that Israel would have either formal accords or de facto cooperation with so many Arab or Muslim states, including Jordan, Morocco, Egypt, Bahrain, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia? Netanyahu is largely responsible for all but Egypt and Jordan in that group, and he certainly strengthened (even if not originally forged) the cooperation with the latter. Israel itself is more secure than ever in its 75-year modern history, and the entire region is more stable, while the evil Iranian mullahs are more isolated and now face increasing pressure from their own restless people.

Alas, Netanyahu has left a messy domestic trail behind him. From the perspective of this observer, who isn’t an expert in Israeli law, the alleged transgressions that have Netanyahu under indictment look less inherently illegal than to be instances of either extreme self-indulgence (gifts, cigars) or unethical Machiavellianism (trading favorable access for favorable press coverage). And stories are legion about him being untrustworthy in the realm where the personal and the political intersect, making enemies (or broken political carcasses) of erstwhile allies and supposed proteges.

Netanyahu, at 73, should know that if his coalition holds together for a full four-year term, this really should be his final and triumphant term in office. He should use it to unify, to act less narcissistically, and to groom rather than destroy a possible successor (or several)….. [The full column is at this link.]


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