L’etat ce n’est pas toi

In a democracy, opposition isn’t only permitted, but it is necessary for the system to work, especially when faced with a prime minister who sees himself as irreplaceable.

By YAIR ZIVAN
May 13, 2019 10:51
4 minute read.
Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu . (photo credit: REUTERS)

In Friday’s Jerusalem Post, David Weinberg wrote a column calling to “halt the delegitimization of Netanyahu.” The column contained some unfortunate errors – some objective and others that we can debate – but his inaccuracies, while problematic, were not the major flaw. The column is part of a worrying trend that seeks to blur the lines between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel; between the man and the state.

Netanyahu won the election; he will form a government and continue serving as prime minister. But like all those who came before him, he is replaceable. If we survived the departure of David Ben-Gurion, the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the resignation of Menachem Begin, then our country is greater than any one leader.

It is worth taking a look at the factual errors, because distorted arguments often rest on a distorted reality. Here are just a few:

1) Weinberg states that Yair Lapid participated in the protests outside of the attorney-general’s home in Petah Tikva. A cursory search of Lapid’s Facebook page shows that he didn’t attend those protests, writing instead that, “it is inappropriate for public officials to demonstrate against law enforcement authorities.” Lapid then not only didn’t attend, he actively spoke out against the protests.

2) He claims that Netanyahu threatened to sue Gantz and Lapid for calling him “racist.” But that’s not what the prime minister did – he threatened to sue them for calling him a traitor. And he never followed through because, well, they never called him a traitor. In fact, Netanyahu doesn’t say the word “racist” in the entire video where he threatens to sue them. How strange.

3) He makes the case that “any and all reasonable legislation advanced by the Likud coalition becomes toxic” – although Yesh Atid voted with the coalition on a series of laws which the party felt were good for Israel. The party supported coalition plans to raise the minimum wage; to raise benefits for people with disabilities; supported the fair rental law; and worked with the coalition to end Palestinian payments to terrorists and their families.

4) He writes that “the hideous comparisons were extended to the entire Likud Party” – yet here is but one quote from Yair Lapid (in this case in the Post) during the election campaign, “The call to Likud will be the first call. Netanyahu will not stay if he loses. The Likud is an important Zionist party with important people.”

5) He argues against accusing Netanyahu of “divisive rhetoric,” despite the entire Likud campaign being focused on tarring any and all political opposition as “weak Left.” If there is one politician who can’t complain about the nature of political discourse in Israel, it is Netanyahu, whose campaigns are based on division, fear and incitement.

NONE OF these errors alone would warrant a response were it not for the underlying argument of the column.

Weinberg wrote: “With Netanyahu just reelected for a fifth time – fair and square – such brutish attacks must stop, or else Israel itself will be roundly delegitimized.” Beneath this seemingly innocuous statement, and the comparison to Sharansky’s definition of delegitimization of Israel which preceded it, lies part of a wider strategy from Netanyahu – and it is that which is worthy of rebuttal.

Political attacks by the opposition on Netanyahu will lead to the delegitimization of Israel, because an attack on Netanyahu is an attack on Israel. Netanyahu and Israel are one and the same.

“L’etat c’est moi” (I am the state), said Louis XIV. Netanyahu and his advocates seem to have adopted that mantra. If Netanyahu is the state, then offering an alternative strengthens our enemies, opposition to him is opposition to the country itself and, crucially, refusing to support his immunity from prosecution becomes an unpatriotic act. That is the paradigm Netanyahu’s advocates are seeking to create – and it is one we should oppose with all our might.

In a democracy, opposition isn’t only permitted, but it is necessary for the system to work, especially when faced with a prime minister who sees himself as irreplaceable; who sees his personal interests as being the same as those of the state.
If we want Israel’s democracy to thrive, then “L’etat c’est moi” must be rejected with a clear call of “L’etat ce n’est pas toi.”

Netanyahu, you are not the state. Not only are you not the state, you are not above the state. As this dangerous trend grows, every citizen of Israel will be faced with a choice – and it will be especially difficult for avid supporters of Netanyahu.

If, as expected after Netanyahu’s hearing, the attorney-general presses on with the indictment, then even fervent supporters of Netanyahu will have to accept that it is time for him to go, as every minister who has been indicted before him has been forced to do. If he refuses, then we will all have to choose between the man and the state: between Netanyahu and Israel.

The writer is an adviser to Yair Lapid.


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