Something rotten has fallen over the Likud Party and some of its right-wing supporters.
There is no expectation that the party and its fallen leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, will sing the praise of the current government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, but it should also not incite against it.
What happened last Tuesday night, though, at a right-wing rally held at the Habima Square in Tel Aviv, was just that – incitement, hatred and venom – all aimed at Bennett and his coalition.
“This government is a terrorist government,” yelled Likud MK Miri Regev.
“Bennett the megalomaniac, liar and thief who took control of the country through fraud and deception,” continued the Likud’s Galit Distal Atbaryan.
“This government wants to bring down the Jewish rule in Israel,” MK May Golan said.
And if that was not enough, Gadi Yevarkan, also from the Likud, yelled, “These people will be remembered for generations as being worse than our enemies,” about the members of the current coalition.
These words of incitement came from members of a party that is led by a person currently on trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Yevarkan is the biggest hypocrite. He joined the Knesset in 2019 as part of Blue and White. When that didn’t work out, he jumped ship to the Likud. Ideology is clearly not what is pushing his agenda.
Itamar Ben-Gvir from the Religious Zionist Party was introduced at the rally as a “legend” and to the tune of Sarit Hadad’s “Ata Totach” (“You Are Awesome”).
He called MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint List) a terrorist and said he was proud that his party blocked the establishment of a government with the “Islamic Movement,” referring to Ra’am, and in contradiction to the Likud’s denial that it ever offered Ra’am a place in its coalition.
That was probably the sincerest comment at the rally. Netanyahu and the Likud have long denied that the party held negotiations with Ra’am to secure its support for the bloc that the former prime minister was trying to form to prevent Bennett and Yair Lapid from forming a coalition. Ben-Gvir actually told the hard truth – that Netanyahu had no problem negotiating with and making generous offers to Mansour Abbas, to whom his party members now refer as a member of Hamas.
What these people are doing is not only poisoning our political culture, it is also undermining the potential success of one of this nation’s greatest experiments. In their battle to delegitimize Bennett and his coalition, they are willing to do almost anything, including harming the healing needed between Jews and Arabs in this country.
If they were citizens who really cared about this country, they would vote against the budget but would still celebrate the allocation of billions of shekels for the Arab sector in this country. They would fight the government’s policies, but they would also understand that the decision by Abbas to join an Israeli coalition took guts and has the potential to change the Jewish-Muslim dynamic in this country forever.
But as they showed at the rally Tuesday night, their desire to oust Bennett and his coalition partners and regain the leadership of the country is way more important than an a possibility of progress in Jewish-Arab reconciliation. They don’t care that there are two million Arab citizens in this country who need the government’s help to combat crime, upgrade infrastructure and ensure a better future for them and their children. And they would never begrudgingly admit that the state finally having a budget after three and a half years is vital for the country’s stability.
While politicians like Regev, Yevarkan, Golan and others will not just stop in their campaign to delegitimize this government, it is up to regular citizens to explain that they will not let these MKs’ vile contempt for democracy influence us. These politicians can kick and scream as much as they want. Israel’s democracy is stronger.