Netanyahu autobiography is fascinating, timely read


ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

“Bibi: My Story” by Benjamin Netanyahu, Simon & Schuster, 724 pages, $35

Mark Twain’s famous response to the premature publication of his obituary — “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated” accurately describes the political career of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving prime minister, who reportedly appears to have led his conservative-nationalist Likud Party alliance to a clear won a clear victory in last Tuesday’s election third term as prime minister, has attained a clear victory for Netanyahu and his allies.

The Likud Party and its ultra-Orthodox and far right allies is ahead of his rivals, including the odd coalition of diverse parties, made up of left, right, centrist and even Arab-Islamist factions, who are united in their dislike and distrust of Netanyahu. If his Likud-led coalition wins at least 64 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, he will once again head Israel’s government.  Yair Lapid, the interim prime minister, called Netanyahu to concede the election and wish him well.

On the eve of Israel’s fifth election in just under four years, Netanyahu, commonly known by his childhood nickname of Bibi, published his autobiography: “Bibi, My Story,” a smoothly written, well-researched tome that gives a detailed chronicle of his remarkable career.

Bibi is praised lavishly by his admirers, but even his detractors admire his adroit handling of domestic and foreign affairs.

Bibi is more savvy than his immediate successor, the rightist Naphtali Bennett or the centrist Lapid, the  interim head of the caretaker government. Itamar Ben-Gvir, described as an extreme nationalist, and Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the Religious Zionists, are strongly against negotiating a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

Thomas Friedman, longtime foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times, lamented that the ultra-nationalist and Haredi partners in Bibi’s coalition has “ended Israel as we have known it.” Bibi said in recent interviews with Judy Woodruff and Fareed Zakaria on PBS.

In the interviews and his book, Bibi deploys his verbal skills, speaking and writing in perfect English, American style, which he learned at American high school and later at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

His parents, Benzion and Cara Netanyahu, both ardent Zionists, had a strong influence on Bibi and his brother Yonathan “Yoni” Netanyahu, who was killed by Palestinians and German terrorists during the daring rescue of 104 passengers at Entebbe on July 4,1976.

Bibi’s father was a leading Israeli scholar and author of a multi-volume history of Sephardic Jewry. Benzion lived to the age of 104, and his hardline position on territories influenced Bibi in his long career. Bibi, 73, was prime minister of Israel from 1996 to 1999, and 2009 to 2021.

From 1967 to 1972, he served as a soldier in an elite special forces unit of the Israel Defense Forces.  He served as Ambassador to the United Nations, where he argued forcefully against the nuclear arms deal with, Iran, saying it would “pave the way” for Iran to enrich its uranium to weapons grade.

Netanyahu highly praised former President Donald Trump for moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and for backing the Abraham Accords — peace deals with Israel Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Sudan.

Netanyahu states in his book that he has his sights on Oman as another Arab state to join the Abraham Accords.

Netanyahu has also had a long and mostly positive relationship with President Joe Biden, from his many years as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Vice President. Biden also supports the Abraham Accords. Biden called Netanyahu to congratulate him on his victory.

Bibi is an almost physical embodiment of the state of Israel. On the back cover of the book is a black and white photo of Bibi as a tough young IDF soldier, weapon firmly in his hands.  By contrast on the front cover is a color photo of Bibi with every silver hair in place.

Bibi is armed and ready to defend Israel militarily on the battlefield and to use his intellect and verbal skills at the negotiating table.

Bibi’s book is not only a fascinating memoir of a skilled and complex leader; it is a detailed guide to Israeli history, politics and diplomacy by a skilled master of his craft. Once again, Netanyahu has earned his nickname “The Magician” for his ability to return to power over and over again. His new autobiography has been published just in time.