Netanyahu in Swimwear

Joe Bedford

Nobody assumes that Netanyahu will hold out forever. Eventually, everybody goes. But nowadays, when elections come around, few of us bother to hang out our flags. Bibi’s re-election has become an inevitability; the ballot is a kind of bland, seasonal activity – a family ceremony, best ignored.

He’s been in office now for twenty-six consecutive terms. You’d assume there was a law that even miracles of modern medicine (Bibi turned 130 just yesterday) must be moved on after a century at most... We could, of course, vote him out. But Bibi is 130. It would, at the very least, be impolite.

The truth: Bibi still walks unaided into Parliament. He still commands the same fear and respect, and still directs all debate, no matter what the starting subject, to the borders. Since the West Bank settled cosily into free trade (and the less said about Gaza the better), Bibi looks to the East, to mystery warships floating down from barbarised Europe or to our old conspirators Egypt, Syria, Lebanon. Even the Jordanians get the brunt of it every couple of decades, though they haven’t fired a gun between them since the turn of the century. The war, it seems, will chug happily into eternity.

Everyone counter-Bibi stopped trying to oust him around ten terms into office. Attempts on his life ceased as if in awe of his superhuman age. At some point, Bibi stopped trying also. His election campaigns dimmed to the occasional billboard shrugging ‘Bibi – L’chaim!’ in plain lettering. He began to wear Hawaiian shorts – not just on the beach but in the Knesset and even, by the twenty-twenties, at the UN. Nobody in Israel seemed to mind; he was by now a part of us. The opposition leader (what little left of him) jumped on the swimwear bandwagon, but selected Speedos and was duly embarrassed on national television. Eventually, ‘Bibi – L’chaim!’ was replaced by a clipart image of Hawaiian shorts: an icon of the era.

When he passed the world record mark for old age, and became the oldest human being on the planet, we knew he was here to stay. No point in trying to explain it; physicists have tried and failed. The simple fact is that Benjamin Netanyahu is 130 years old and shows no signs of flagging. Whether its stem-cells or voodoo or yoga I cannot say. The zealots who re-branded him ‘Methuselah’ may not be far off. All I know is that he has made no funeral arrangements. (Naturally, there are controversies. It would be unreasonable, I think, to expect a man of 130 to still have it all upstairs, but then there are those who say that he had been a loon from the beginning. That’s about as far as any detraction of Bibi goes. Even the Hawaiians find it odd for a President to lead a NATO summit in Hawaiian shorts. But here, we have gotten used to being led by someone as clinically-insane as our Bibi.)

It doesn’t overly bother me that he is seen sometimes walking shirtless around the ski resort at Mount Hermon, or that in 2035 he commanded his bodyguards to follow him for a year dressed only in Dead Sea mud. The man is 130 years old. That’s what I expect to see. Nobody is surprised that his voice is all cracked now; his English still shines with a Presidential glean. Even if a good number of his speeches are now delivered in rhyme, or scored for full operatic orchestra, he is still received in reverence all across the country. Most attribute the tenacity of our borders (surviving against all odds) to Bibi’s firm hand. There’s no fanfare about this; we exist now as Bibi exists, comfortably and forever.

As for what the rest of the world think, how can I say? He’s done nothing for the sale of Hawaiian shorts; the surfboard youth that first disrobed in protest on a California beach are now old men. Occasionally I see burning flower-print shorts on the news: a staple image of shouty get-togethers in Arab countries. His books have been translated widely, though his last collection of stream-of-conscience poetry was both too racist and too erotic for the common market. ‘C’est la vie,’ he said, in French, at the last Knesset committee on the future of the war. The BBC call him a dictator, but he’s probably better thought of as a fluke of democracy. He has no need to murder his opponents; he simply outlives them. ‘C’est la vie.’ How else to respond to a 130-year old man in Hawaiian shorts?

It’s possible that he will never expire. The old dictum stands: we cannot know whether all men are strictly mortal until the last one dies. At this rate, Netanyahu may just be there to watch the sun go out.

And if not? They will bury him in his shorts, I suppose. I can picture the day, bare-kneed generals carrying the coffin, dignitaries and war heroes in a parade of flower-print – some sunny afternoon far into the future. Until then we can only watch dumbfounded as Bibi survives critic after critic. I could complain, since I’m currently fulfilling my civic duty down in Ein Gedi. They issued us with surf-shorts for a photo op.; we wore them obediently. He says constantly that he appreciates us, and it’s obvious he means it. I receive my three meals a day; my gun works and I get to write letters. So what does it matter to me that a lunatic in swimwear will keep sending young people like myself for a two-year march up and down the desert every single year till the end of time? The boredom is excruciating, but in a few months I’ll be finished, and then... East Asia? South America? I will travel the world, and when I’m good and tired I’ll come back to this nation of eternal Bibihood, and rest, and be happy. Maybe I will get to shake the President’s hand.