BIBI: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu
Nonfiction, Forthcoming, Basic Books, 2018
For many in Israel and elsewhere, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is an embarrassment, a threat to democracy, even a precursor to Donald Trump. Yet despite repeated scandals and missteps, he continues to dominate Israeli public life. How are we to account his rise, his hold on Israeli politics, and his outsized role on the world’s stage?
In Bibi, the Haaretz journalist Anshel Pfeffer argues that we must understand Netanyahu as representing the triumph of the underdogs in the Zionist enterprise. Born in 1949, one year after the state of Israel itself, Netanyahu came of age in a nation dominated by liberal, secular Zionists in the tradition of David Ben-Gurion. Yet from the start Netanyahu identified with the groups at the margins of Israeli society: the right-wing Revisionists, the orthodox, the Mizrahi Jews, the small-time professionals living in the new towns and cities dotting the Israeli landscape. With a vision integrating Jewish nationalism and religious traditionalism, Netanyahu cultivated each faction individually and then fused them into an often unstoppable coalition.
At the same time, Netanyahu is a child of America, where he spent many years as a young man, and where he learned the techniques of modern political campaigns as well as the necessity of controlling the media cycle. The product of the affluent East Coast Jewish community and the Reagan era, Netanyahu’s politics and worldview were formed as much by American Cold War conservatism as by his family’s hardline right-wing Zionism.
As Pfeffer demonstrates in this penetrating biography, Netanyahu’s Israel is a hybrid of ancient phobia and high-tech hope, tribalism and globalism—just like the man himself.
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Canada: McClealland & Stewart, Random House; Taiwan: Good Publishing; USA: Basic; UK: Hurst; Poland: Post Factum/Sonia Draga
“Pfeffer is one of the smartest and most prolific of Israel’s younger generation of journalists…..This book is a necessary contribution to understanding a high-profile and internationally contentious figure and the fractured country he has led for so long.” --Ian Black, New York Times
“Anshel Pfeffer’s riveting and passionately biography portrays him (Bibi) as a clone of Donald Trump and Racep Tayyip Erdogan…a must-read for everyone who is interested in the undercurrents of today’s Israeli society.” --Tom Segev, The Economist
"Anshel Pfeffer has succeeded in the impossible. This is a page-turning biography of Benjamin Netanyahu that is scrupulously fair to his formidable political strengths yet unsparing of his multitude of flaws. His book has revelations in every chapter — especially regarding the formative part played by his father, his American years and his membership of an elite army corps. Most of all, perhaps, it's a vivid portrait of Israeli politics over the seventy years of its existence — all it has been and everything it is now." --Simon Schama, author of Belonging: The Story of the Jews 1492–1900
Review in Sunday Times
Interview on SLATE