The Netanyahu Years, y Ben Caspit, translated by Ora Cummings
This book was written by a hack. It was also translated by a hack, and by that I can figure that the translator did a good job at translating a not very good book. Ultimately, a book about a person can only be so good if that book is written by someone who has little fondness or respect or sympathy for the person they are writing about. The American middlebrow historian David McCullough, a historian I happen to personally respect, once thought to write a dual biography of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, but upon doing a great deal of research he realized that while he had a great deal of sympathy for John Adams he had less for Thomas Jefferson, and so instead wrote about John Adams, giving him a well-deserved historical re-evaluation, and then write about 1776 as a whole from the research he had done. The author of this book would have been wise to have adopted the same approach and stopped writing about a person that he did not care for and did not respect, because such contempt makes this book far less enjoyable to read and far less important about its subject than it would otherwise be.
This book is almost 500 pages long and it is divided into four parts with an epilogue. The first part of the book provides a biography of the Prime Minister, beginning with a period in 2015 where he won a narrow election and then discussing his grandfather and father’s lives and political struggles and his own education and time in the army and consulting experience and his three marriages and efforts to rise within Likud. This takes up about half of the book or so and contains information that is widely known but with the unfriendliest possible interpretation of it. After that the author talks about Bibi’s supposedly dangerous relations with right-wing millionaires and other politicians. The third and fourth part of the book talk respectively about Bibi’s not unreasonable hatred and fear of Iran and its nuclear program and the unsolvable Palestinian issue. In both of these situations the author finds himself in sympathy with unrealistic leftist positions and simply cannot find it within himself to take these concerns seriously or to hold the Palestinians to the same standard that he holds the Israelis when it comes to being responsible for peace. Obviously, given the author’s animus towards its subject, this book is going to be of limited value.
Almost every page of this book oozes with contempt for the current Prime Minister of Israel. The author thinks him a liar above and beyond the general quality of secular politicians in any country. I happen to disagree. The author finds the pessimism of Netanyahu bothersome, while it is a pessimism I share. The author clearly doesn’t like Republicans or people who are conservative in general and that happens to be my own political philosophy, such as it is. All of this tends to create a lack of congruence between the author’s judgment and my own. The fact that the author praises Obama for his hostility towards Netanyahu and only grudgingly if at all praises the Prime Minister for his efforts in painting Obama as an enemy of Israel, something that was not difficult to do given the unrecognized problems that the contemporary left of the West has with Judaism in general given the blind loyalty that the Western left has towards supposedly oppressed peoples like the Palestinians. All of that tends to make Israel feel unsafe and the author is unfortunate in viewing this as a right-wing problem and not an aspect of reality that needs to be addressed. That is for the loss of everyone involved, including the reader.