Benjamin Netanyahu's day of infamy - opinion

MIDDLE ISRAEL: On Monday, Netanyahu earned his place in history as the man who tore Israeli society and led it to civil war.

 THOUSANDS OF protesters rally in Tel Aviv against the judicial reform plans of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in February.  (photo credit: GILI YAARI/FLASH90)
THOUSANDS OF protesters rally in Tel Aviv against the judicial reform plans of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in February.
(photo credit: GILI YAARI/FLASH90)

On Monday, July 24, 2023 – a date that will live in infamy – the Zionist enterprise was attacked by enemies from within, led by an emperor of lies. 

At midday, Israel’s legislature fired a cannonball at the Jewish state’s Supreme Court. As civil wars often begin, it was actually a limited attack – a single shell with a lightweight payload. Even so, it was announced as a broad offensive’s prelude, and absorbed like a declaration of war. 

Yes, the original plan, a legislative blitzkrieg, was abandoned. It had to be abandoned because the war’s prospective victims – multitudes who gave the Zionist project their best years – took to the streets, shouted in anger, and shook their fists. 

That’s why the assault’s mastermind – the justice minister, of all people – was forced by his emperor to veer to blitzkrieg’s alternative, the strategy of indirect approach. The redesigned assault would target one outpost at a time, while the war’s victims were to be sedated by fake peace talks. 

For several months, the strategy worked. The victims really thought they prevented civil war and saved the court. But then came Monday’s cannonball, and the prime minister’s implied statement: My civil war is here. 

 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a speech with the visage of Golda Meir in the background.) (credit: NOAM REVKIN FENTON/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a speech with the visage of Golda Meir in the background.) (credit: NOAM REVKIN FENTON/FLASH90)

THE CIVIL war was sowed three years ago, when our prime minister emerged at the courthouse where his trial was set to begin, and publicly attacked the judiciary, libeling its prosecutors for having allegedly conspired with the press and the police to unseat him. 

That was the battle cry. Behind the scenes, a battle plan was being devised. The idea was to conquer the courts in a pincer movement: from one flank, the judges would be appointed directly by the ruling coalition’s politicians; and from the opposite flank, the courts’ wings were to be clipped. That’s how the judges would become subservient to the politicians.

When the pincer movement met the resistance that forced its perpetrators’ retreat, the new strategy was to leave the courts’ re-staffing for later, and focus for now on disempowering the court. The court’s saboteurs, meanwhile, would camouflage as peacemakers out not to destroy the system but to reform it, and not by imposition but by consensus. 

Like many war plans, it worked perfectly until the first shot was fired. 

Now, with Monday’s cannonball gone and its smoke blinding every citizen, the plan’s first assumption is already disproved: Piecemeal failed. No one was put to sleep, no one was fooled, and everyone is back on the same war footing where the war’s original announcement sent them.  

Netanyahu's legacy has been irreparably shattered

This says nothing about the war’s length or outcome. We are in for the long haul. However, one result is already visible through its first shot’s smoke: Benjamin Netanyahu’s hope, to salvage his legacy, has been shattered. On Monday, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister secured his place in history as an enemy of the Jewish state, and an antichrist of the Zionist idea. 

NETANYAHU’S damage to what has been built here over nearly 150 years is about what he did, why he did what he did, how he did it, who he did it with, and who he did it without. 

What he did was to undermine the justice system that has been our pride and other people’s envy. Worse, he did this while inventing conspiratorial charges, like Joe McCarthy, Joseph Stalin, and Queen Jezebel. Worst of all, he incited us Zionists to fight each other: knowingly, repeatedly, loudly, and as a strategic aim. 

These alone are crimes against the Zionist ideal that was, and remains, not only to gather the Jews in their ancestral land but to reprogram them, to unite them, to create New Jews – hardworking idealists who would collectively make Zion a place “filled with justice, where righteousness dwelt” (Isaiah 1:21). 

Even more damningly, Netanyahu did all this not to serve any idea, but to serve himself. The prime minister attacked the judges and pitted the people against each other so that a weakened court would be helpless while he would fire the attorney-general and replace her with a lackey who would retrieve his indictment. 

Even more disgracefully, he did all this while making dishonesty his hallmark, speaking deceitfully so frequently, brazenly, and nonchalantly that lying became for him a habit, a pattern, a fixture, in a steady diet of defamation, bravado, and blame.

That is how he could invent a conspiracy led by “the Left,” and at the same time claim it was spearheaded by former Israel Police chief Roni Alsheikh, a scion of the religious Right, a graduate of its flagship school Yeshivat Merkaz Harav, and an observant father of six who, unlike Netanyahu, actually lived in a West Bank settlement for years. 

Having lied this way this big and this loudly, Netanyahu may not even have noticed he was lying when he told the president of the United States that he will deliver judicial reform by consensus, or when he signed a rotation deal with Benny Gantz which he never fulfilled. 

Finally, and most catastrophically, Netanyahu went to his civil war while allied with the Zionist idea’s historic enemy – ultra-Orthodoxy – whose anti-Zionist agenda, to lead thousands away from national service, productive work, and modern education, he volunteered to serve.  

Even more tragically, while colluding with Zionism’s saboteurs, Netanyahu went to war with its heroes, those who not only serve, but serve voluntarily; those who not only work, but generate Israel’s wealth; and those who not only research and teach, but created the Start-Up Nation of which he is so proud. 

That, Bibi, is why no matter what you do or say from now until your long-overdue departure, yours will be a legacy of ruination, a record of self-destruction fueled by selfishness, animated by dishonesty, checkered with manipulation, and underscored by shame.

The writer, a Hartman Institute fellow, is the author of the bestselling Mitzad Ha’ivelet Ha’yehudi (The Jewish March of Folly, Yediot Sefarim, 2019), a revisionist history of the Jewish people’s political leadership.