What can we learn from Netanyahu's recent remarks? - opinion

Netanyahu was the leader of the opposition from January 16, 2006, to April 6, 2009, when Kadima led the government and the Likud was in opposition.

 PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu holds a news conference in Tel Aviv, last Monday (photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu holds a news conference in Tel Aviv, last Monday
(photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared twice on TV. The first time was on Monday evening when he appeared before all the networks and even answered questions. Then on Thursday evening, he honored a special broadcast of Channel 14’s flagship program The Patriots, with his presence.

According to Netanyahu, Channel 14 is the only Israeli channel that presents the truth, while all the other channels are instigators of fake news. Channel 14 is certainly the only channel that avoids criticizing Netanyahu but at the same time, it is the least balanced and the least reliable among the various channels in terms of factual accuracy.

Netanyahu's first television appearance

The first appearance was primarily designed to announce the fact that Netanyahu had decided to remove his previous threat of firing Defense Minister Yoav Gallant but also to express his condemnation of sarvanut (the refusal to turn up for military service) and to place all the blame on the previous government for the current security threats on all fronts, as well as other problems facing the country.

Though the announcement concerning Gallant had been expected, there was no generosity demonstrated. Netanyahu went into a little more detail on Thursday but only to say that there had been some major differences of opinion between them, suggesting that the problem was not only the fact that Gallant had warned that the legal reform was in danger of causing havoc in the armed forces and the fact that he had made his statement while Netanyahu was on a visit abroad.

Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Unlike the picture that Netanyahu portrayed, the tension was not only between him and Gallant but between him and most of the top echelon of the military establishment and inter alia concerned the growing tension in the relations between Israel and the US administration.

The issue of sarvanut is one that Netanyahu mentions a lot these days. He is referring to the announcement of hundreds or more of reserve pilots and other vital military personnel, who come on an almost weekly basis for training on a voluntary basis.

These are men who participate in or contribute to most of the special missions that are performed by the IDF on a regular basis against targets outside the borders of Israel and their threats apply to a situation in which the legal reforms might lead to Israel turning into a dictatorship. Many maintain that to condemn the members of a group who have served above and beyond anyone else in the armed forces for refusing to turn up for voluntary reserve duty over matters of principle is unacceptable hypocrisy.

THIS IS especially true when there are 18 MKs, who are members of the coalition, most of whom are draft dodgers on principle, who object to any sort of alternative civilian service, as well, and whose parties are threatening to leave the coalition unless all the ultra-Orthodox will be exempt from military service by law.

Netanyahu’s position on this issue is also dodgy because his own personal record concerning military reserve service is not free of problems and at least on one occasion he is reported to have refused to participate in a mission as a reservist because he objected to the mission.

But the most annoying issue that Netanyahu raised is his claim that the previous government is to blame for all of Israel’s current security problems and problems in other spheres. As far as Netanyahu is concerned, there was nothing the previous government did right and while he had handed over to it a state in perfect condition, a year and a half later, he got back a state in shambles.

We remember that back in June 2021, Netanyahu and the opposition at large didn’t give Naftali Bennett’s government a single moment of grace and for a year and a half just kept badmouthing it and trying to bring it down. In fact, while no one claims that Bennett’s government and the short-lived government led by Yair Lapid were among Israel’s best governments, they were nowhere near the circus that is going on in the current Government.

It worked in much greater harmony than the current government is doing, it included no incompetent or embarrassing ministers and it included an Arab party as a coalition member, whose leader recognized Israel as a Jewish state.

It did not have a clown as housing and construction minister who denied that Israel has a housing problem, it did not have an environment minister who held a meeting with deniers of climate change, it did not have an information minister who understood nothing about information, a communications minister who sought to close down all public media outlets, a health minister who allowed the health system to go down the drain and a Diaspora minister who told the US administration to mind their own business when it expressed concern and disapproval about certain developments in Israel.

Furthermore, it did not have a national security minister who didn’t do a single day of military service and was indicted on various offenses related to terrorist activities and racism in the past.

WE DO not know how long Bennett’s government would have survived if the opposition hadn’t done its best to get the three weak links in Bennett’s party, Yamina, to defect. The acts performed against the three were evil and anything but democratic.

We do know from a survey broadcasted by TV Channel 12 last Friday, that 45% of the public believes that the former government functioned better than the current one, while only 35% believes the opposite.

Netanyahu's statements and interviews

However, as usual, the worst problem with Netanyahu’s statements and interviews is his extreme flimsiness with facts and the occasional outright lie. For example, both on Monday and on Thursday, Netanyahu referred to the conduct of the current opposition in its reaction to the legal reform to which it objects comparison to that of the Right at the time of the disengagement from Gush Katif and several settlements in northern Samaria, in 2005.

On channel 14, he repeated what he has said several times before, claiming that he had led the Opposition during the disengagement and it was he who had led the moderate and responsible reaction of the Right, in contrast to the anarchistic conduct of the Center/Left opposition today. However, there are problems: Netanyahu was not the leader of the opposition at the time of the disengagement (August 15-September 11, 2005). The Leader of the opposition at that time was Yosef (Tommy) Lapid, from the Shinui party, while Netanyahu was an ordinary backbencher after he had resigned from the government.

Netanyahu was the leader of the opposition from January 16, 2006, to April 6, 2009 – the term of the 17th Knesset – when Kadima led the government and the Likud was in opposition. In addition, it is a lie that the disengagement did not involve any acts of violence by the settlers against those who were engaged in the actual evacuation.

I guess one can add one positive comment regarding Netanyahu’s verbiage from last week and that was his insistence that he was not planning to place a deadline to halt the legislation to promote the legal reform, in order to give the talks between the government and the opposition, under the auspices of the President, a fair chance. Lu yehi (Let it be).

The writer worked in the Knesset for many years as a researcher and has extensively published both journalistic and academic articles on current affairs and Israeli politics. Her most recent book, Israel’s Knesset Members – A Comparative Study of an Undefined Job, is published by Routledge.