Benjamin Netanyahu: A Sad Albatross

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu
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By Dr. Vitus Ozoke 

There is one thing a country must not have – and must therefore avoid by all means. A country must, by all means, avoid corrupt leadership. In good, normal, and ordinary times, a country with corrupt leadership may still manage to chug along without suffering dire existential consequences. However, such a country must pray – and hope – that it is not hit with a major catastrophe, one that requires a credible and popular leadership that can summon the unquestioned and enthusiastic loyalty of its vast citizenry. When a country confronts major challenge of existential proportions, a credible leadership not only becomes necessary, it becomes imperative.

The beleaguered nation of Israel has been hit with the worst existential catastrophe in its history, comparable only to its 1973 Yom Kippur (Ramadan) war with the Arab nations of Egypt and Syria. One of the major differences between 1973 Israel and 2023 Israel is that the 1973 Israel was in the hands of a credible leadership. For all her jingoistic and xenophobic flaws, Prime Minister Golda Meir, the Iron Lady of the Middle East, was not corrupt. Today’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not just corrupt, he is incredibly corrupt.

Netanyahu is so corrupt that when he has been indicted for corruption, his strategy has been to fight his corruption indictment with even more corruption. Since January, tens of thousands of Israelis from all walks of life have been engaged in large-scale demonstrations and protests across Israel in response to Netanyahu’s unprecedented push to weaken the Israeli Supreme Court and reform the judicial system by limiting judicial oversight on official decision-making and legislation. Remarkably, among these protesters have been some members of Israel Defense Force (IDF) who have avowedly withdrawn their loyalty to Netanyahu.

Questions are:

1.     Did Hamas choose this time to attack Israel because it thought, not quite unreasonably, that Israel was vulnerable from growing cracks of insubordination in its security and defense ranks?

2.     Did Hamas choose this time to attack Israel because it believed, not quite unreasonably, that Israel’s intelligence agencies were lax and distracted by Netanyahu politics?

3.     How does a nation’s army disaggregate patriotism to nation from the filthy lucre of a corrupt commander-in-chief? Should the average Israeli soldier even have to undertake such difficult and profound calculations? How fair is that?

4.     How fair is it to mobilize Israeli soldiers to confront a deadly foe at the command of a corrupt and loathsome commander-in-chief? What are implications for troop morale?

In truth, I do not pretend to know the right answers to these questions. What I do know, however, is that a corrupt leader is an albatross on his nation, both in good, normal, and ordinary times, and even worse so in bad, dangerous, and challenging times. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not the best face of Israel right now. He is the ultimate albatross. If he resigns today, it will be a psychological relief to the average Israeli even as the bloody stench of the horror of Black Saturday still hangs in the air.

But, beyond Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, there is serious lesson for corrupt leaders in other dark corners of the world. Africa must be paying attention to Tel Aviv. A corrupt leader is a national security threat to his nation. A corrupt leader is the single most dangerous security vulnerability for his nation. A corrupt leader is an open invitation to opportunistic foreign enemies, yet a secret bouncer to the loyalty, morale, and patriotism of local national army. Is Abuja listening? Is Yaoundé watching? Is the Nigerian Supreme Court taking notes? I hope so. I hope so. I can only hope so.

Dr. Vitus Ozoke is a lawyer, a civil and human rights activist, and a public commentator based in the United States. 


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