Bibi: My Story

  • Review
By – March 6, 2023

Talk about time­ly: This mem­oir by Israel’s for­mer and future prime min­is­ter reached book­stores just ten days before the elec­tion that returned him to office. Like his 1997 book, Fight­ing Ter­ror­ism, and its 2009 sequel, A Durable Peace, Bibi dis­cuss­es the prin­ci­ples that have moti­vat­ed Netanyahu all his life — Jew­ish nation­al­ism, free-mar­ket eco­nom­ics, and peace through strength.

The book also offers an account of the events that shaped him, a per­son­al his­to­ry that con­tin­ues to inform his pol­i­tics. His mil­i­tary ser­vice in the Israel Defense Force’s most elite unit cru­cial­ly sharp­ened his instinct for mak­ing quick and bold deci­sions. And he devel­oped a par­tic­u­lar com­mit­ment to pro­tect­ing Jew­ish lives after the loss of his beloved old­er broth­er, Yonatan, in the dra­mat­ic res­cue of Jews at Entebbe in 1976.

Netanyahu’s fam­i­ly ground­ed him in Zion­ism. His great-grand­fa­ther, Abra­ham Mar­cus, moved to Pales­tine in 1896, where he formed a close bond with the Yemenite immi­grants in his town. Ben­jamin Segal, his grand­fa­ther, left Min­neapo­lis for Petach Tik­vah a few years lat­er. Netanyahu’s father, the his­to­ri­an Ben­zion Netanyahu, cam­paigned in Amer­i­ca in the 1940s for the estab­lish­ment of a Jew­ish home­land, work­ing close­ly with Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotin­sky. Jabotinsky’s Revi­sion­ist Zion­ism was to become the polit­i­cal ances­tor of Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Before he reached the sum­mit of Israel’s gov­ern­ment, Netanyahu spent a lot of time in the Unit­ed States. He attend­ed high school in Philadel­phia, grad­u­at­ed from MIT, and he worked for one of the country’s top-ranked con­sult­ing firms, the Boston Con­sult­ing Group. In the 1980s, at the age of thir­ty-five, he became Per­ma­nent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Israel to the Unit­ed Nations, which left him with prac­ti­cal knowl­edge of inter­na­tion­al diplo­ma­cy, a keen under­stand­ing of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, and a close famil­iar­i­ty with the impact of media on pub­lic opinion.

Each of us is the hero of our own sto­ry, and Netanyahu’s account is chock-full of his tri­umphs in debates, the ova­tions for his speech­es, and his ear­ly advo­ca­cy of high-tech indus­try. He is proud of his many break­throughs in talks with world lead­ers and the suc­cess of his eco­nom­ic reforms. He recalls times when his ideas pre­vailed despite ini­tial skep­ti­cism from oppo­nents and critics.

Netanyahu is also not shy about defend­ing him­self and his wife Sara against the char­ac­ter assas­si­na­tion, vil­i­fi­ca­tions, false­hoods, defama­tion and lies” to which the media has sub­ject­ed them. He set­tles scores with sev­er­al rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Clin­ton admin­is­tra­tion, whose pres­sures to make con­ces­sions to Pales­tini­ans were anath­e­ma to him. He rebuts recent accu­sa­tions of cor­rup­tion: “[N]o trea­sures were found,” he says, for the sim­ple rea­son that we didn’t take any. This was all kept from the pub­lic and by press and police alike.” 

Any­one inter­est­ed in Israel’s recent his­to­ry will find a wealth of fas­ci­nat­ing details in this insider’s nar­ra­tive of wars, con­tro­ver­sies, elec­tions, and polit­i­cal maneu­vers. Netanyahu relates his sto­ries with a panache that will delight his fans and prob­a­bly annoy his crit­ics. A spe­cial bonus: the book includes sev­en­ty pages of exten­sive notes and a thor­ough index, mak­ing it a great resource for researchers and for the sim­ply curi­ous. What­ev­er you may think of Bibi’s pol­i­tics, his auto­bi­og­ra­phy is a landmark.

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