Think about It: Troubled times

By calling Liberman a left-winger, Netanyahu merely demonstrated that as far as he is concerned, “left winger” is anyone who criticizes him.

By
June 2, 2019 22:05
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at the Knesset ahead of the vote

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at the Knesset ahead of the vote on whether it will disperse, May 29. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Last Tuesday evening, I was watching the Knesset Channel’s live broadcast of the meeting of the special Knesset committee set up to prepare the Knesset Dispersal Bill, chaired by MK Miki Zohar.

At the time, it was still generally believed that Netanyahu would manage to set up a new government. The Dispersal Bill was being prepared as a safety valve, to prevent the president of the state from approaching a Knesset member from the Likud other than Netanyahu, or Benny Gantz from Blue White to try to form a government, should Netanyahu inform Rivlin at midnight the following day that he had failed to do so.

At the meeting on Tuesday evening, Zohar was his usual arrogant, cocky self. At an earlier meeting of the committee, he was recorded saying in a mocking voice to MKs from Center/Left parties: “What will you do with Netanyahu in office for another 10 years and the High Court of Justice rendered useless? Ah, ah, ah?” At the Tuesday meeting, when MK Yael German (Blue and White) – a former mayor of Herzliya and former health minister of – presented her proposed amendments to the bill, Zohar treated her with total disrespect, “joking” with her that she would never again serve as health minister and totally ignoring her comments and proposals. German simply continued speaking in a calm and businesslike manner and didn’t appear to pay attention to Zohar’s inappropriate conduct.

A new MK from Blue and White (whose name I missed) was actually close to tears when number 35 on the Likud list – the blonde MK Osnat Mark, who makes MK Miri Regev look like a perfect lady – prevented her from completing a single sentence. Zohar did nothing to stop Mark, who kept yelling “I shall say whatever I want, whenever I want,” after several MKs protested.

Zohar seems to be the Likud’s main spokesman (besides Netanyahu himself) in recent weeks. He keeps saying that Netanyahu is the only worthy candidate for prime minister, and that Netanyahu has no personal interest in amending the Immunity Law, or in the Overrule Clause, which will neutralize the Supreme Court’s judicial review of the government and Knesset. He argues that it is MKs like himself from the Right who need these laws to defend themselves against the fabrication of legal proceedings against them by the law enforcement and judicial authorities because of their attempt to change the system.

Zohar is one of the symptoms of the malady of our current political reality. An intelligent, educated yet ill-mannered man, part of the emerging new political elites, who lack any respect for the opposition, are willing to bend the system in any direction necessary in order to keep the Likud in general – and Netanyahu in particular – in power. His master’s voice.

WHICH LEADS us to the master himself. Unlike Zohar, who has been playing his role with apparent full self-confidence, Netanyahu looks since Wednesday like someone haunted by demons. Comparing today’s Netanyahu with that of the 1990s, 2009 and even 2015, demonstrates just how bad he looks. It is not just the fact that he has aged, and his pallor is gray, but his reactions seem hysterical and pathetic.

His instinctive reaction to the fact that he failed to form a new government, despite the fact that 65 MKs recommended him to the president to form the next government, was to blame Avigdor Liberman, leader of Yisrael Beytenu.

True, it was Liberman who denied Netanyahu the majority he required in the Knesset. It is also clear that the law for the enlistment of haredim to the IDF – which is in fact a law for the exemption of haredim from military service – was not the real reason for Liberman’s move. Liberman has, in fact, lost all faith in Netanyahu and no longer believes a word the man says. Unlike others who believe that Netanyahu must go, he is a right-winger, who wants a secular right-wing government not dominated by the haredim. Liberman’s political base is still made up of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, most of them secular, and many of them halachicly non-Jewish.

By calling Liberman a left-winger, Netanyahu merely demonstrated that as far as he is concerned, “left winger” is not necessarily someone who holds left-wing or liberal views, but anyone who criticizes him or wishes to replace him.

The hallucinatory offer Netanyahu made at the last moment to the (still) leader of the Labor Party – Avi Gabai – is another example of this. It has been reported that Netanyahu was willing to give Gabai the Finance Ministry, make MK Tal Russo Deputy defense minister, Shelly Yachimovich social welfare minister, plus and Stav Shafir communications minister, in addition to all sorts of promises regarding the Immunity Law, the overrule clause, and other proposed legislation designed to weaken the courts and other pillars of the Israeli democracy. The Labor Party does not hide the fact that it is a security minded left-wing party, yet Netanyahu was willing to offer it almost anything it would ask for in return for its support. Whether he would have stuck to his promises to Gabai had the deal gone through is another question.

Netanyahu can blame no one but himself for his failure to form Israel’s 35th government (at least at this stage). In fact, the main reason for Netanyahu’s predicament is the fact that he faces indictments in three criminal cases, one of them involving bribery.
If it weren’t for his legal predicament, the price demanded by Netanyahu’s various “natural” coalition partners would have been much lower, since he could have formed an alternative coalition with Blue and  White. Furthermore, the mere fact that a combination of haredim, led by old conservative rabbis, Kahanist racists, messianic racists, the leader of Shas, who is facing indictment and a possible second prison sentence on criminal charges, and a central member in United Torah Judaism who is suspected of intervening with the authorities in favor of pedophiles, are viewed as “natural partners,” while three former chiefs of staff, a long list of retired IDF generals, and personalities from all walks of life, many of them with impressive records in activities advancing social issues and business ventures are viewed as weaklings with a treasonous potential, is a relatively recent perversion nurtured in the Likud by Netanyahu, for his own personal benefit.

As things look at the moment, Netanyahu’s political situation following the elections to the 22nd Knesset will be much more complicated than it is at the moment. First, it looks as though Liberman’s political power will grow as a result of the fact that he had the guts to stand up to Netanyahu. Second, the legal proceedings against him will advance in the next three and a half months, despite the attorney general’s inclination to stall. Third, the likelihood of various Likud personalities reaching the conclusion that Netanyahu is more of a burden on than a benefit to the Likud is likely to grow.


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