Illustration by Lior Zaltzman
In his speech to Congress a few weeks ago, Bibi concluded with a quote from none other than Moses, the great leader of the Jews and hero of Passover.
Indeed, many of his supporters might see him as a modern-day Moses, boldly rebuking the arrogant Pharaoh (whether Obama or the Ayatollah) and sticking up for the liberty of the Jewish people. Having been schooled in America — just like Moses raised in Pharaoh’s house — he was able to go straight to the seat of power and speak in a smooth and elegant English on behalf of his nation.
True, Moses was “not a man of words” — not exactly the first description of Bibi that comes to mind — but the Prime Minister has had some speech malfunctions, too: just this week he had to apologize for “unintentionally” offending all Arab citizens of the State of Israel. So he can relate.
And just as Moses split the sea, Bibi has miraculously split the U.S. government along partisan lines regarding Israel — the Red Sea now totally red.
Still, some of his detractors see Bibi not as Moses but as the hated Pharaoh. From the Palestinian perspective, he is no less than a callous and oppressive slave-driver. To the Israeli left, he is the stubborn, arrogant leader prepared to lead his people to destruction rather than cave to pressure and just let the occupied territories go.
Besides, Pharaoh was given to frequent changes of heart, first letting the Jews go and then refusing only to reverse himself again. Bibi, too, has lately found himself supporting Palestinian statehood one day and adamantly rejecting it the next, until the following morning when he’s back to supporting it. Sure, the political motivations were different — locusts and frogs for Pharaoh, voters and Obama for Bibi — but the flip flopping is the same.
The truth is, however, that Bibi is neither Moses nor Pharaoh. He’s not a humble man with a profound mission of justice, but he’s also not an egomaniacal tyrant fighting against God and nature and everything good.
So who is he?
As far as characters in the Exodus story go, Bibi strikes me as most like the Pharaoh’s cadre of magicians: a man of exceptional cunning, using “secret arts” to achieve seemingly impossible feats, but one who ultimately knows the limits of his power.
Like the magicians, Bibi claims the extraordinary gift of clairvoyance about where the Middle East is heading, as well as an uncommon ability to manipulate world powers and events according to his design. Yet when push comes to shove and his “secret arts” reach the end of their potency, Bibi will attribute his shortcomings to unstoppable outside forces: “This is the finger of God!”
In a word, he’s a politician.
The question, then, is what exactly do the magicians want? And what will they do to get it?
The answers are pretty straightforward: To preserve the status quo, and whatever they can manage.