The death of Netanyahu's father is no cause for national mourning
For a moment, Benjamin Netanyahu indeed pulled at our heartstrings. The picture of him next to the fresh grave of his father, shedding a tear, his voice choked as his son supported him, could not leave anyone unmoved. The most mechanical, "tele-prompted" and made-up of Israel's prime ministers looked human and real for a moment, unlike at other times. A person who loses his father, even when that father is of a well-advanced age and the orphan is already 62 years old, is a sad scene. The figure of a dominant father who has passed away is also a seminal moment in the life of a son.
But the prime minister's loss is a private matter even though Israel under Netanyahu has tried to create an atmosphere of national mourning around it. It has been a long time since the country mourned the death of an intellectual to such an extent. It has been a long time since it mourned "the father of" in such a way.
In his death, but only in his death, Prof. Benzion Netanyahu became a national figure. That entire day, all the news broadcasts opened with the announcement of his death - and the man who was rejected by the Israeli academic establishment and wandered in foreign pastures had a moment of belated success.
Prof. Netanyahu was an intellectual and historian who was involved to a very small degree in what was happening in this country and spent a considerable part of his life as an immigrant in the United States like most of his siblings. He had an intriguing biography - but there are many other accomplished intellectuals of that kind. Were he not the father of the prime minister, it is unlikely that his death would have received mention, and certainly not more than a few lines at the tail end of the news.
With all sincere condolences to Netanyahu - may he know no further sorrow - there is something very worrisome about turning his father's death into a cause for national mourning.
Once again, Israel was made aware that its present prime minister is much more than just another politician. When his son goes on a date accompanied by armed guards and when his wife is involved in high politics to a far greater extent than most of the cabinet ministers; when every ride of the prime minister's through the streets of Israel is like the journey of the ruler of a banana republic, accompanied by innumerable rumbling cars racing past traffic lights that have been stopped on his behalf; when his bureau becomes more and more like a Byzantine court with endless advisers and whisperers; and when even his vacations get wide media coverage - where he was and what he did, what he ate and what he drank - Israel is becoming more and more like a monarchy, headed by a royal family that is elevated high above the people.
It was merely an ironic coincidence that the two dates were so close - the senior Netanyahu was buried on the same day as Holland celebrated the birthday of its queen, Beatrice. The citizens of Holland celebrated by smearing their faces with paints in the national colors and singing songs in honor of their queen. Meanwhile, here the nation mourned the death of its father-king.
But Holland is (vestigially ) a monarchy and Israel is not (yet ) one. We have falafel and a prime minister who changes every few years when there are elections and who, as far as anyone knows, does not have blue blood. Our king is not merely naked, now he is also an orphan.
The father's death also led to endless analyses and discussions about the father's influence on his son during his life and the effect of his death on him from now on. Psychology for dummies, fed to a nation whose prime minister has lost his father when he himself is in his sixties, is not a healthy sign, nor does it say much for the public discourse.
Some analysts predicted that Netanyahu would change his political positions now that he was free of the fearful shadow of his father. Others were of the opposite opinion. My colleague, Ari Shavit, went even further (in Haaretz's Hebrew edition ): "The fateful question to be asked a day after Benzion Netnayahu was laid to eternal rest is whether the hour of reconciliation has arrived?" No less. That's how far the involvement in analyzing the depths of the soul of a rather incompetent Israeli prime minister has gone - as if that could supply decisive answers to fateful questions.
The mourning ought to have been left to members of the Netanyahu family and the deceased's close associates. The psychological analysis of the son could have been left to psycho-historians.
After the seven-day mourning period, reality will once again confront the mourners, both the real ones and the supposed ones, and they will have to face a more depressing, gloomy and fateful situation than the news of the death of an elderly professor.
It is ridiculous to have to mention that Netanyahu is a flesh and blood prime minister who is judged solely by his achievements and those, sadly, are far fewer than the list of his failures and dangers, which is growing longer from day to day - with his father at his side and apparently also without him.