Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declares victory at a Likud party rally early on April 10, 2019.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Comments made by former Mossad head Shabtai Shavit – that people who vote for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are “ignorant” – set off a firestorm of condemnation from the political Right, including from Netanyahu himself.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication Maariv, Shavit said his main issue in the running of the country was with Likud and Netanyahu, and unleashed a barrage of invectives against Likud voters.
“His voters are ignorant, and have no understanding,” Shavit declared. “His political base is people whose normative threshold is at the level of grass.”
In response, Netanyahu accused Shavit and the political Left as a whole of a condescending and patronizing attitude to right-wing and traditional voters.
“They have called us ‘chakhchakim,’ the kissers of amulets, bots – and now ignorant,” said Netanyahu, referencing other political storms that have blown up after disparaging comments against Sephardi, religiously traditional and right-wing voters.
“There are no limits to the condescension of the Left to Likud voters,” the prime minister added.
“Chakhchakim,” a derogatory term for Sephardi Jews, was the word infamously used in 1981 by actor Dudu Topaz at a Labor Party rally three days before the general election that year to describe Likud voters.
It led to a response from prime minister Menachem Begin in which he lauded the Sephardi community.
In 2015, artist Yair Garbuz described religious and traditional right-wing voters at a left-wing election rally as “amulet kissers, idol worshipers and those who prostrate themselves at the graves of holy men.”
And during the general election campaign earlier this year, Netanyahu accused the Blue and White Party of viewing right-wing voters as internet bots after allegations were made that pro-Netanyahu Twitter accounts were fraudulent.
Criticism of Shavit’s comments came from the Blue and White Party as well, with one of its four prominent leaders – former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi – saying that such comments were unacceptable.
“There is no place to disparage citizens who placed their vote in the polling booth,” Ashkenazi tweeted.
“Such comments are unfitting and have no place in [public] dialogue, even if there are political disputes.”
And outgoing Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay said that such comments only helped strengthen Likud’s hold on political power.
“Shabtai Shavit and other arrogant people like him are the ones who build the government of Likud and their strongest supporters,” tweeted Gabbay, who is himself Sephardi.
Last week, Benny Ziffer, a journalist for Haaretz, said on a radio interview supporter of the prime minister, said that “the right wing, without Netanyahu, is like a pile of trash.”
Several prominent public figures questioned on social media the lack of condemnation of Ziffer’s comments compared to the firestorm aroused by Shavit’s on Thursday.
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