Israelis call him the "messiah" for the rich and have accused him of "betting against" US President Barack Obama in the 2012 elections by funnelling money into Mitt Romney’s campaign, via a billionaire buddy and business magnate Sheldon Adelson. He "amazed" the UN assembly with his bomb-inspired "artwork" (or cartoon-work) and left Bill Clinton cursing. He had toed the hardline in Israeli politics so fervently that Madeline Albright called him a Jewish Newt Gingrich (and it wasn't a compliment!).
After seventeen years on the Israeli political scene, right wing Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is still trying to get things ‘right’. With Israel’s economy floundering on a massive budget deficit, ginormous taxes and a decline in growth despite Bibi being the main economic man for a previous era as well as the past decade, Netanyahu - affectionately known as Bibi - is losing against himself. The country saw waves of mass discontent against his staunch right steer of the economy, manifesting in Arab Spring-like protests in 2011 under the banner of Israeli people demand social justice.
In all cases one things is clear- he is no longer the economic champion that he was in the ‘90s. After serving as Minister of Finance from 2003-2005, Netanyahu exerted extraordinary control over the Israeli economy - it seems that he’s either stuck in the past or he’s lost his touch, as Israel’s finances are nothing to write home from Birthright about.
Isolating Israel even further from its regional allies through incidents such as the Gaza Freedom Flotilla of 2009, Bibi’s new gameplan has been jeopardising Israel’s relationship even with longstanding ally US. Publicly backing pro-Israel Republicans and getting in a flap over the relationship between Obama and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani has tested the BB friendship between Barack and Benjamin that has seen frosty moments.
Seventeen years after he became Prime Minister, Bibi’s role in Israeli politics seems like a drug: the longer Israel is addicted, the worse the consequences will be. After being ruled by Bibi for so long, will they ever be able to go cold turkey?
Though his unopposed PM leadership may appear a strong indicator that his next commissioned artwork piece de resistance will be a picture of Israelis drawing massive hearts around the name, “Bibi,” domestic protests in response to living prices not to mention a steady growing backlash from the international community on his diplomacy suggest a different story.
We recount seventeen of Bibi’s mishaps for each year of what some former PMs from Israel have described by disgruntled ex-Shin Bet head Diskin cynically as his second-coming “messianic leadership”. As we take a look at the culmination of his politics - both in public policy and in the personal realm - it becomes increasingly evident that Bibi may be more than Israel - and its future - can handle and why he is more of a liability for his state.
He might be a hardened veteran politican known to his peers as Netanyahu, but for all his blunders and botches, he will never stop being Bibi to his critics. So here's the blight of Benjamin and a case for him being bad for business all round...