David Amsalem's vile speeches should have us all concerned - editorial

If we become desensitized by this vile rhetoric, then David Amsalem and his patron – Benjamin Netanyahu – win, and we, Israelis, lose.

MK David Amsalem (Likud) at the Knesset Plenum, January 3, 2022. (photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESWOMAN - NOAM MOSKOWITZ)
MK David Amsalem (Likud) at the Knesset Plenum, January 3, 2022.
(photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESWOMAN - NOAM MOSKOWITZ)

Likud MK David ‘Dudi’ Amsalem is one of the more vocal and colorful characters in the Knesset, and his style of straight talk makes him a well-liked personality and a welcome guest on popular TV and radio talk shows. A few months ago, even Haaretz profiled him in glowing terms.

Straight talk is indeed an important trait within the political system, where too often politicians use subterfuge and deceit to make their point – and get their way.

On the other hand, Amsalem’s speech on Monday night against Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy needs to have all Israelis concerned. That a sitting MK and former minister feels it is okay to call the speaker of the Israeli parliament a “submissive servant,” the “village jester,” an “embarrassment to the Knesset” and more is the type of rhetoric that should never be tolerated.

“Who are you even, Mickey Levy?” said Amsalem. “You are a servant of [Foreign Minister Yair] Lapid and a trampled doorway. You behave worse than a dirty wash towel that cleans the floor.”

And why did Amsalem speak from the Knesset podium this way? Because Levy dared to condemn a comment the Likud MK made last week when he said that Supreme Court Justice David Mintz was a drunk, after he rejected a petition Amsalem had filed regarding the appointment of a permanent CEO at Israel Aerospace Industries.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Communications Minister David Amsalem at a Likud meeting after the election (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Communications Minister David Amsalem at a Likud meeting after the election (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Amsalem’s vile rhetoric is not surprising. We have gotten used to it. Nevertheless, we should not allow ourselves to become desensitized to it. If that happens, the Likud MK and his patron – Benjamin Netanyahu – win, and we, Israelis, lose.

Yes, Amsalem and his like-minded MKs have freedom of speech and the right to say what they want within and outside the Knesset. But that does not mean we the public should stand by and accept it.

There is no sugarcoating what is happening here. Amsalem is a mouthpiece for a movement that has set a goal for itself to demolish Israel’s delicate democracy, bit by bit. They want to break the courts, control the judges, take down the attorney-general, weaken the police, and undermine the media.

Any democratic watchdog is fair game.

Why? Because it helps advance their goal and objective of staying in power and being able to rule without transparency, supervision or restrictions, like the rule of law. That is what Netanyahu tried to do as well in his battle to evade an indictment and trial over the past three years. That is why he dragged Israel to four elections, all with the declared goal of stopping the wheels of justice from continuing to turn.

Amsalem and his fellow supporters believe that some people are above the law, and that when the law doesn’t fit, it can just be trampled, rejected, and thrown into the dustbin.

Amsalem explained this two months ago when he spoke in a recorded Twitter Space conversation about ministerial legal advisers.

“They are wolves who devour anything that moves, and if we don’t restrain them and put them in a pen, they will ultimately eat us again, and then our country will sink to the depths,” he said at the time. “There will not be a Jewish state.”

In that Twitter Space conversation that was recorded and shared widely on social media and in the Israeli media, he said “a crazy, Bolshevik, anti-Zionist gang has taken over the country,” and that “prime minister Netanyahu is an emissary from God. He is the most important Jewish leader in 100-150 years.”

While it is unquestionably within Amsalem’s right to speak this way and to say what he wants about Netanyahu, the rule of law, and attorneys-general, that does not make it the kind of talk that needs to be accepted.

Sadly, Amsalem’s vile rhetoric has become the norm within the Likud, a party that until Netanyahu once stood for liberal democratic values. Now it stands for what can only be described as a disgrace.

Heaven forbid that it becomes the norm in Israel. Israelis need to stay vigilant.