No to polarization

In posters distributed by Netanyahu supporters during the Likud primaries, he is seen with the slogan, “They’re not persecuting only me, they’re persecuting all of us. I am just in their way.”

Likud members vote in the party elections, the choice is between MK Gideon Sa'ar [tent on the left] and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [tent on the right] Prime  (photo credit: EHUD AMITON/TPS)
Likud members vote in the party elections, the choice is between MK Gideon Sa'ar [tent on the left] and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [tent on the right] Prime
(photo credit: EHUD AMITON/TPS)
In recent weeks, social networks have become flooded with the term “Second Israel.”
Those talking about “Second Israel” claim it represents a group of mainly Mizrahi, traditional, right-wing Israelis, who live in the geographic periphery and come from a low-income class.
Channel 13 News commentator Avishai Ben-Haim even dedicated a three-episode series to the topic, arguing that the prosecution of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is basically another phase in the establishment’s discrimination of Mizrahi Israelis.
He claims that Netanyahu is a symbol, and although he is an Ashkenazi millionaire, he is the true representative of this “Second Israel,” and thus going after him is going after a underprivileged group in Israeli society.
These ideas were echoed in Netanyahu’s speeches after he was indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three different cases two months ago. They have also been present in his speeches for years before then.
In posters distributed by Netanyahu supporters during the Likud primaries, he is seen with the slogan, “They’re not persecuting only me, they’re persecuting all of us. I am just in their way.”
This was later revealed as an Israeli version of US President Donald Trump’s poster saying, “In reality, they’re not after me – they’re after you. I’m just in their way.”
Netanyahu, in his campaign, is trying to convince voters that the entire establishment – the legal system, the police, and especially the media – are all against them. In countless videos, Netanyahu blames the media for leading the assault. It seems that everywhere he goes and holds campaign rallies, the crowd starts chanting slogans against the media when he mentions the topic.
This is how this third election campaign is starting: Just more of the same hatred and division.
Are those who believe there is a “Second Israel” asking themselves what happened over the last 10 years, when Netanyahu – its representative – was in power? What did he do to close the gaps and promote their ideas and interests?
Are those who believe that the media is against Netanyahu, and that the legal system is corrupt, asking the same questions?
Or maybe these ideas, which are meant to inflame hatred, are just used to score political points?
We should demand more from our leaders. Aiming at the lowest common denominator to try and connect people might be easy, but it is distracting and potentially dangerous for our society.
In the recent two election campaigns, other political parties used the same practice. Blue and White, for example, said it was working to establish a “liberal secular coalition,” implying that ultra-Orthodox haredim and National-Religious parties are not a part.
Another example happened two weeks ago. When talking about a Yisrael Beytenu Party member, Shas leader and Interior Minister Arye Deri asked in an Army Radio interview: “Who is he? Can he even speak Hebrew? Who brought him here?”
Later in the interview, Deri tried to explain what he meant: that he, as the interior minister back in the 1990s, was the one who brought Russian Jews over to Israel. He added that they were absorbed much better than his ancestors who came from Morocco.
This type of rhetoric does little to advance Israel or Israelis. Instead, it sows division and divides between Russians and Mizrahim, Tel Avivians and residents of the periphery.
We, the Israeli people, should demand and expect more from our leaders. They should be speaking about ways to unite the people, not how to divide them.
Yes, there are still gaps – and the mistakes that were done in the past should be fixed. If there’s a problem with the legal system it should be fixed as well, but not only because Netanyahu is now under indictment and facing severe criminal charges.
But after two elections, following which our elected representatives failed to join hands and compromise, we should refuse to let them divide anymore. No to hate; no to polarization.
There is no “Second Israel” – we are one people with one future.


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