Israel elections: Likud reaching new lows with Netanyahu in charge, shame - editorial

How did we get to a point where in a major party, the understanding is that to score points one needs to trash-talk and accept this type of behavior?

 Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset on June 30. (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset on June 30.
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)

It has started, the ugliest time of the year: the Likud Party’s primary season.

It’s the ugliest time because, in recent years, the most dominant tone in the Likud, expressed in the candidates’ approach to earn a top slot on the party list, is to bash the Left as much as it can.

Likud contenders believe that to receive the most votes, they need to show that they are the ones who are the best at sticking it to the Left.

Last week, former Likud minister Ayoub Kara gave the signal to start the race.

“God willing, we will crush them,” Kara said in rage, addressing an election campaign conference. “Crush, crush the Left. God will give his people strength. God will bless his people with peace.”

Yamina candidate Abir Kara attends preparations for the new Knesset on April 5.  (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)Yamina candidate Abir Kara attends preparations for the new Knesset on April 5. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

“Crush, crush the Left. God will give his people strength. God will bless his people with peace.”

Former Likud minister Ayoub Kara

Knesset members Galit Distal Atbaryan, Gadi Yevarkan and Avi Dichter (who is also a former director of the Shin Bet internal security agency) were sitting just a few feet away but didn’t say anything. Distal Atbaryan was seen covering her face in shame after hearing the inciting remarks, but after realizing that the crowd was applauding, she decided to clap her hands as well.

Another Likud activist who stands out is Rami Ben-Yehuda.

Ben-Yehuda is a well-known and vocal supporter of Benjamin Netanyahu who attends every Likud protest and rally. At those events, he doesn’t hesitate to use the most revolting language against the Left. In a protest against Yamina, Ben-Yehuda shouted: “The prostitute of the Palestinian rug [referring to Ra’am (United Arab List)] Ayelet Shaked. Traitors of the People of Israel, they deserve only one punishment: a death sentence.”

“The prostitute of the Palestinian rug [referring to Ra’am (United Arab List)] Ayelet Shaked. Traitors of the People of Israel, they deserve only one punishment: a death sentence.”

Likud activist Rami Ben-Yehuda

In another video that made the rounds, he is seen yelling at a Yamina supporter: “You are a piece of trash. Pretending to be right-wing... [Go] to the gas chambers, yalla.”

Social-media famous

Ben-Yehuda became a star, not only on social media but also on the ground. An N12 report showed that he constantly hosts party rallies at his house, which have been attended by senior Likud members including Miri Regev, Israel Katz, Ofir Akunis and Shlomo Karhi.

In a video posted on social media, these Likud representatives are seen hugging Ben-Yehuda and praising him for his hard work.

The most recent scandal occurred this week, when Ben-Yehuda held a discussion on Twitter in which another Likud member, Michael Ben-Shushan, shared his views against the prosecution, which Netanyahu supporters believe framed him. 

“My solution is a bit extreme, but quick, and completely solves the problem,” Ben-Shushan said. “We hold a showcase trial and take those with a lot of power, those who have used their power to corrupt. We paint a wall in white, line them up and execute them for betraying the state and its institutions. Then everyone will come and spill the details on what they did.”

This comes after calls by Netanyahu supporters to stop his trial, and after nonstop attacks on the courts, the prosecution and the police.

What has been Netanyahu's response? Silence

Netanyahu has said very little to denounce this vile behavior.

We all remember the famous image of him standing outside the Jerusalem courtroom with a crowd of silent Likud MKs and ministers surrounding him while he lashed out at the law enforcement authorities.

What happened to the Likud, the big and glorious party of Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin, who saw ethics and dignity as basic components of democracy and the foundations of Zionism?

How did we get to a point where in a major party, the understanding is that to score points one needs to trash-talk and accept this type of behavior?

How did the Likud become a home for candidates like the one who was convicted of taking part in kidnapping a foreign worker; and another who was convicted for breaking into an old woman’s house. There are others who face bribery charges or were suspected of similar crimes in the past.

Does it have anything to do with the person leading the party, who is now facing charges himself? 

Likud needs to clean house and it is hard to imagine it being able to do so as long as at the helm of the party sits a man who is on trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. It is an unfortunate legacy for a party that once stood for so much more.