Unless some major surprise takes place in the next few hours (and in the Middle East everything is possible), Israel's next Prime Minister will be, once again, Benjamin Netanyahu. It's that old Jewish saying once again "the problem with political jokes is that at some point they become Prime Minister". I think we might have to update the saying, because Benjamin Netanyahu is about to prove that a political joke can be Prime Minister - twice.
For those of you who were lucky enough to forget the guy, here is a quick reminder:
Benjamin Netanyahu AKA "Bibi", "Mr. Netanyahu" and "That buffoon that I can't believe he is running for office again" won the election in 96', running against then Prime Minister and Noble prizewinner Shimon Peres. I'm not sure if you Americans can relate, but it was a tough day when an untalented right-wing nominee won the election by a mere few thousand votes, over the experienced and wise left wing candidate.
His years in office were good for me; after all I am a comedy writer. A few months after he was elected, he ordered, despite the objection of the Ministry of Defense, that a new exit be dug out in the underground tunnel of the Western Wall. Digging up the holiest place in the world didn't seem to bother the young leader. As work started he decided to take a tour of Europe, ignoring the warnings as not "a good enough reason" to cancel his tour. So while the quarrymen carved away at the heart of the three major religions, Mr. Netanyahu was in far away London. 16 IDF soldiers and over 70 Palestinians were killed, but hey, we got a nice new tunnel, and now no one can say that in Israel there is no light at the end of it.
In promoting the peace process in the Middle East Netanyahu's only claim for fame was the Wye River Memorandum, which was signed in October 1998. It was an agreement with the Palestinian Authority that was breached by both parties on the flight back home. It was such a waste of paper that if you search for it in Wikipedia, you'll get the message "Create the document".
Netanyahu's wife Sarah is an odd mixture between Jackie Onassis and Jackie Chan. In one famous incident, Mrs. Netanyahu allegedly threw a shoe at her secretary. My guess is that these days she's thinking of suing an Iraqi journalist for violating her copyrights.
However, Benjamin Netanyahu was not all bad - during his tenure, he succeeded where all his predecessors failed - uniting the entire nation, probably for the first time since the revelation of Sinai. In 1999 it didn't matter if you were left wing or right wing, Jewish or Arab, secular or orthodox, the entire country was united in a desire to send Netanyahu as far away as possible from office.
After he was defeated by Ehud Barak in the 1999 election, he temporarily retired from politics, but returned in 2003 and accepted the post of Minister of Finance. There is no death penalty in Israel, but we got pretty close with Netanyahu's economic policy towards old and poor people. Like everything in the Middle East, no one can explain how the hardcore Netanyahu voters always were and still are those exact same people.
Netanyahu has often been accused of having a severe memory problem, but electing him PM for the second time this coming Tuesday, will prove that memory loss is a national epidemic.