Netanyahu’s Neocon Mind

An admirer of Benjamin Netanyahu says the Israeli Prime Minister shares the American neocons’ stark view of the world that disdains diplomacy and compromise with adversaries, notes Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

Dan Illouz is an Israeli lawyer and a former legal adviser to both the Knesset’s leadership coalition and the Israeli Foreign Ministry. He is also a big fan of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On April 13, he wrote an opinion piece for the Jerusalem Post entitled, “A Fresh Perspective: Understanding Netanyahu’s Mind.”

Among the many synonyms of “fresh” offered by your average on-line dictionary are “unusual” and “undeveloped.” Though Illouz would certainly not agree that these terms fit his effort to explain the Prime Minister’s consciousness, it turns out that they actually do.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

For instance, there is his unusual claim that “Netanyahu is one of the deepest thinkers among world leaders.” At the same time Illouz emphasizes that Netanyahu comes from a “very ideological” background bequeathed to him by both his Revisionist Zionist father, Benzion Netanyahu, and the American neoconservative worldview. As we will see, both outlooks are undeveloped one-dimensional frames of reference.

It is true that our perceptions reflect a worldview structured by the aspects of family and society we choose to embrace, or rebel against. It could go either way. According to Illouz, Netanyahu has embraced the restricted worldview of a brand of Zionism that teaches that, if the Jews are to survive in the modern world, they must be militarily all powerful and remain unmoved by any and all calls for compromise with alleged enemies.

Also, according to Illouz, Netanyahu sees the world through the myopic lens of the American neoconservative movement, which preaches that both the United States and Israel are allies in a never-ending battle of good against evil. The unalterable consequences of compromise in such a struggle have been taught to us by the history of the 1938 Munich Agreement with Adolf Hitler. All such compromises in this imagined struggle must end up in catastrophe, especially for the Jews.

Deep Thinking’

The conclusions Illouz draws from this description of Netanyahu’s mindset are, to say the least, baffling. Not in the sense that Netanyahu is cemented into a worldview that itself is modeled on a narrow slice of history. This indeed seems to accurately describe him. But rather in the claim that by seeing the world this way, the Israeli prime minister shows himself to be a “deep thinker.”

What does it mean to be a “deep thinker”? It should entail some capacity to break free of the structural framework or the worldview we start out with. For example, a degree of independent thought that allows us to discern when the past serves as a useful guide to the present and when it does not. This all adds up to an ability to be original – to understand present circumstances in novel ways that lead to breakthrough solutions to problems, be they political, social or scientific.

That is what it takes to think deeply. Does Benjamin Netanyahu qualify? No, he does not. He is no more a “deep thinker” than George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld or John Bolton. Then why does Illouz say he does qualify? Because this Israeli lawyer, who is himself no “deep thinker,” mixes up profundity of thought with a skewed notion of “prudence” – which, in this case, he interprets as a “reluctance to embrace a utopian view of the world that progressives push forward.”

Pope Francis praying a separation wall in Palestine on May 25, 2014. (Photo credit: Pope Francis's Facebook page.).

Pope Francis praying a separation wall in Palestine on May 25, 2014. (Photo credit: Pope Francis’s Facebook page.).

Examples of such “utopian views” are peace agreements such as the Iran accord, and the notion of “unilateral withdrawals.” In other words, Benjamin Netanyahu is a “deep thinker” because, in the name of “prudence,” he shuts down all consideration of diplomatic compromise. For Illouz that also makes him one of the world’s leading “realists.”

In truth, Illouz’s assessment of his Prime Minister’s mind is itself a product of the same narrow, static worldview shared by neoconservatives and Likudniks alike. For instance, according to Illouz, Netanyahu’s refusal to withdraw from the Occupied Territories (O.T.) is stark realism motivated by a desire to “stop history from taking a wrong turn” – as it did in 1938.

The comparison of the Palestinian desire for an independent state in the O.T. and the Munich agreement of 1938 is so patently inane that I won’t waste words on it. But Israel’s absorption of the territories can be judged as the very opposite of realism – it is a utopian (actually dystopian) scheme that is in the process of doing untold damage to both Jews and Palestinians while isolating Israel from the rest of the world.

There is a contradiction between profundity of thought and the ideologically determined worldview. To be in a position to achieve the former, one must, at the very least, eschew the dogmatic aspects of the latter. Neither Benjamin Netanyahu nor Dan Illouz are capable of doing this.

Analyzing Illouz’s presentation is not hard. His mistaken take on “deep thinking,” the lessons of history, the notions of realism and utopianism are quite obvious. This being the case one might ask why the editors at the Jerusalem Post thought it proper to print such balderdash? Perhaps because they too see the world in the same one-dimensional fashion.

If we are to believe the reports coming out of Israel, the Jewish majority there is undergoing an unchecked withdrawal into itself. The “us against the world” attitude that has always characterized some of world Jewry has now taken command in Israel. And, except for a small portion of the population that has managed to break free of this warped worldview (and as a consequence is being labeled as traitors), the mass of Israeli Jews are following their Pied Piper leaders into dangerous isolation.

This state of detachment has led to a series of policy decisions that are anything but realistic. The continuing expansion of illegal settlements and destruction of Palestinian houses, the resulting ethnic cleansing, the utter barbarism of Israeli policy toward Gaza, and the labeling as terrorist behavior all reactions against these policies, mark an official, and internally popular, worldview that is increasing detached from reality.

Dan Illouz’s piece in the Jerusalem Post is a clumsy effort to rationalize this way of thinking and seeing.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.

17 comments for “Netanyahu’s Neocon Mind

  1. RocetStar
    April 26, 2016 at 21:59

    Why is this miscreant oxygen thief still breathing? It doesn’t speak well for the human race. It’s time for citizens of the world to unite into guerilla armies with accompanying search-and-destroy-teams that would eradicate puke like this!

  2. Curious
    April 23, 2016 at 12:10

    Bibi as a “deep thinker” is an offense to any thoughtful thinker, despite any depth one would portent as an eventual ‘happening’ by Israel. Having an undeclared nuclear arsenal to play chicken with the world, while not signed the NPT (since they don’t have any, of course) should be confirmed.

    If the “deep thought’ is to protect a state from Iran, it must be an over-reliance on the wind and sand conditions in the Middle East, as much of the damage and destruction would hurt Israel itself. and the land it hopes to gain while cheating on poker, would make much of it unusable for over 20,000 years. But maybe patience is a sign of a deep thinker too.

    If this is all a maneuvering to securing the Golan Heights (as a loving trade-off for its aggression), the world should step in and say a resounding “no” to Israel. Meanwhile the international community should collectively examine Israels’ chemical weapons, and nuclear capacities. It’s time the community step in and verify. What is good enough for Iran, is certainly good enough for Israel. If their ‘anti-moral army and soldiers are any reflection of the violence Israel can product in the name of “defense” a just and independent organization is needed right now, and not yesterday. And Israel will not, and should never get the Golan Heights. Have them give up the WMD. Please explain this to the deep thinker.

    If Israel stops ‘moving the lawn’ and creating euphemisms like ‘cast lead’, they may even have less enemies in the world as well.

    • J'hon Doe II
      April 23, 2016 at 12:18

      And Israel will not, and should never get the Golan Heights. Please explain this to the deep thinker.– Curious

      Israel has already seized control of the Golan Heights along w/ Soros, oil companies, and banks.

      ( DeBeers stole a fortune in diamonds and gold in South Africa using the forced labor of African Natives )

      • J'hon Doe II
        April 23, 2016 at 12:27
      • RocetStar
        April 26, 2016 at 22:03

        They can get away with these actions because citizens of the world allow it instead of organizing into guerilla armies and putting a stop to it!

  3. J'hon Doe II
    April 23, 2016 at 11:32

    The Past Haunts Oxford Debate Over Rhodes Statue
    By ALAN COWELLJAN. 21, 2016

    excerpt —

    A statue of the colonialist Cecil John Rhodes on the facade of Oriel College in Oxford, England. Credit Eddie Keogh/Reuters

    LONDON — High above a main thoroughfare in the city of Oxford, in an alcove framed by twirly columns, a statue of Cecil John Rhodes, the archimperialist who shaped Britain’s empire and the destiny of its far-flung subjects in Africa, peers down inscrutably on the people below. If you weren’t looking for it, you might miss it.

    In recent weeks, though, the statue has provoked an acrimonious debate about whether it should be removed, as was another monument to him last year, in South Africa, where he built his fortune and power before his death in 1902.

    But, as the debate has unfolded, it has sometimes been tempting to ask what it is all about — the unhealed wounds of Africa’s colonial heritage; or fears among Westerners that their version of history may be sacrificed on an altar of racially tinged revisionism, an echo of an equally fiery debate on some American campuses.

    Certainly, it seems beyond dispute that colonialism, along with the slave trade and the encroachment of foreign faiths in lands that had not requested them, burned an enduring scar on Africa’s self-regard and self-esteem.

    But, said Christopher Patten, the chancellor of Oxford University, who does not want the statue pulled down, “our history is not a blank page on which we can write our own version of what it should have been according to our contemporary views and prejudices.”

  4. J'hon Doe II
    April 23, 2016 at 11:18

    Zionism is living/breathing xenophobia
    closed in garments of imperial rule
    inspired by Arch-Neocon, Cecil Rhodes.

  5. Fergus Hashimoto
    April 22, 2016 at 22:55

    A modest hypothesis:
    Arab xenophobia – CAUSED – Expulsion of Conservative Sephardi Jews from Arab lands – SO THEN – Immigration of Conservative Sephardi Jews to Israel – SO THEN – Conservative Sephardi Jews in Israel elect Netanyahu – SO THEN – Netanyahu fosters neo-conservatism
    For details see

  6. J'hon Doe II
    April 22, 2016 at 17:06

    Misinformation Prevails!!!

    In the 50 years of separation – between Malcolm X and Coates – the false narrative has grown to such power as to allow Israel carte-blanche imperial subjugation and power of dominion over a native people.

    Coates’ misappropriation of history is informed by the controlling media and a failure to go back far enough.
    The Politics of News Media “INVENTING REALITY”-Michael Parenti
    or Chomsky’s “MEDIA CONTROL”-The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda.

    Israel’s controlling power over the People of Palestine is nothing less than colonialist apartheid.

  7. Peter Loeb
    April 22, 2016 at 06:37


    Professor Davidson’s analysis is perceptive. It fails to explore
    the roots of Zionism. That is, the “frame of mind” has never
    been Benjamin Netanyahu’s alone.

    I have recently written a reply to an article by Daniel Lazare
    in today’s Consortium in which I mistakenly refer to the
    new propaganda attack as “new”. It isn’t new at all.

    Norman G. Finkelstein’s analysis in IMAGE AND REALITY OF
    special note is the discussion of “Zionist Orientations:The Theory and
    Practice of Jewish Nationalism”. Chapter 1 and footnotes. This is
    related to colonialism in particular in Michael Prior’s THE BIBLE AND

    As I pointed out in my reply to D. Lazare, this is a preparation
    for the PR campaign we will witness in the next Administration.

    —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

  8. Dr. Ibrahim Soudy
    April 21, 2016 at 19:49

    No structure built on wrong foundation can stand……….it will always collapse under its own weight……………

    • J'hon Doe II
      April 23, 2016 at 11:48

      Netanyahu a ‘danger’ to Israel, say 200 security veterans

      A group of Israeli generals have launched an unprecedented attack on the prime minister as he prepares to address the US Congress
      Jonathan Cook
      Sunday 1 March 2015


      In an unprecedented move, 200 veterans of the Israeli security services accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday of being a “danger” to Israel.

      The new group, called Commanders for Israel’s Security, warned that Netanyahu was doing irreparable harm to the country’s relationship with Washington, just two days before he is due to address the US Congress.

      The Israeli prime minister is expected to use the speech to try to undermine negotiations currently taking place between major world powers and Iran. He has claimed that any agreement reached at the talks’ conclusion, later this month, will leave Iran a “nuclear threshold state” hellbent on destroying Israel.

      Half a dozen former generals spoke out