Netanyahu keeps saving Israel's Left from the Right - opinion

Netanyahu has forever been a minority prime minister, repeatedly securing power more than popularity, long before he ran afoul of the law.

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu speaks after casting his vote in Jerusalem during the Knesset elections last week. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu speaks after casting his vote in Jerusalem during the Knesset elections last week.
 Dear Bibi,
We, the members of SIC, the Sane (but Stressed) Israeli Center, thank you. Your narcissism, your confusion between your needs and the state’s, saved Israel from a fanatic, ultra-religious, ultra-right coalition with a Kahanist tic that could have ruined the country’s delicate internal equilibrium. Your refusal to retire has alienated “droves” of right-wing voters and political leaders, exiling them from the Likud, their natural home.
If you, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, weren’t running, a credible right-wing prime ministerial candidate could have united Yamina’s, New Hope’s, and Yisrael Beytenu’s mandates with your supporters’, forging a powerhouse coalition of 72 in the 120-person Knesset. Some of Blue and White’s eight and Yesh Atid’s 17 seats would also have veered rightward.
So, consider just how personal your fourth electoral failure is. You’ve done amazing things this year. Millions of us feel liberated this Passover, thanks to the vaccinations you secured. And history will salute the Abraham Accords you negotiated. Yet, despite those two grand slams, and with 26% of the electorate so fanatically committed to you they voted for you in 2015, 2019 and 2020, you ended up with... the same 26%.
That means that the election pivoted on tribal identity, not historic achievements. And it emphasizes that you’ve forever been a minority prime minister, repeatedly securing power more than popularity, long before you ran afoul of the law.
We repeat my long-standing request that you and President Reuven Rivlin put us out of our misery. End the stalemate: take a pardon, retire from politics, and start making the money you and your family crave, to subsidize the imperial lifestyle that suits you, while covering your son’s many libel suits. But end this farce that somehow holding onto a quarter of the country reflects some popular mass desire for you to keep torturing us.
Every day you remain in office, you coarsen Israel’s soul. Too many honorable people justify your dishonorable acts, saying, “that’s politics,” or “that’s the Middle East.” That’s not the politics David Ben-Gurion or Menachem Begin played. And Israel has succeeded as the Mideast’s only functional democracy, as the Start-Up Nation, and now as Vacci-nation, by transcending and transforming its neighborhood, not replicating its worst vices.
For decades, you’ve often invoked Winston Churchill but rarely acted as grandly as him. Finally, the comparison works. Just as Britain’s voters refused to rehire Churchill in 1945 despite his triumph in World War II, Israel’s voters keep refusing to rehire you, despite your many triumphs.
We SICies thank you for producing yet another “left-wing” outcome – beyond boosting the anti-Bibi and anti-Kahanist and anti-haredi coalition from 23 (Labor + Meretz + Joint List + Ra’am) to 61. You unintentionally conjured up the most constructively revolutionary force in Israeli-Arab politics – the Ra’am-United Arab List pragmatic party.
FOR DECADES, Israeli-Arab politicians have abused the state – and their own people. By confusing the Knesset with the United Nations, they self-destructively used their platform to direct abuse against Israel for existing rather than to direct resources for helping all Israelis coexist.
Even the Joint List’s Ayman Odeh fell into the trap. When he first came on the scene, the smooth-talking Odeh charmed American Jews by invoking Martin Luther King and equal rights. Ultimately, he spent more time soothing the Joint List’s extremist anti-Zionists than advancing anything constructive.
And – trigger warning – any colonialist progressives who claim that Israeli-Arabs should be called “Palestinians” instead should stop telling Israeli-Arabs what they think. The 2020 Jewish People Policy Institute Pluralism Index found that “fewer than one in 10 non-Jews in Israel” called their primary identity “Palestinians,” while “nearly three out of four non-Jews in Israel defined themselves as ‘Israeli’ or ‘Arab-Israeli.’”
The United Arab List leader whom you’ve courted, Mansour Abbas, calls himself “Israeli.” A trained dentist, he wants to repair and build bridges, not destroy and denigrate. He wants Israeli politicians to deliver to his community – and they should: Fight crime. Create jobs. Clean streets. Improve education. And issue more building permits. We should make our Arab communities look more like Dubai and less like our Arab neighbors.
Both factions should bombard this Abbas – and the Israeli-Arab community – with goodies to secure his support. This is not about Left versus Right; it’s right versus wrong. We should recognize those “goodies” as good for all Israelis, not just Israeli-Arabs – and as a massive thank-you for the amazing work so many Israeli-Arabs did in fighting COVID.
Many Israelis this year became aware of how central Israeli-Arabs have become to Israel’s medical system – consisting of more than 40% of the pharmacists and approximately 20% of both the doctors and the nurses.
With your unintended help, Bibi, we may in the future celebrate this period as the turning point when we really started approaching genuine equality between Israeli-Arabs and Israeli Jews, which involves embracing one another more, not just equating “their” conditions with “ours.”
It’s tragic we cannot give you the send-off you’ve earned. Your leadership brought years of tremendous growth economically and impressive stability on many fronts. But that stability has become stasis. And the strong ego you needed to survive Israeli politics has become an overinflated ego unable to leave. As a result, rather than getting a gold watch and toasts, you’re risking a jail sentence and curses, negating the good you’ve done for so long because of all the havoc you’ve caused these last two years and four – maybe five? – elections.
The writer is a distinguished scholar of North American history at McGill University and the author of nine books on American history and three on Zionism. His book Never Alone: Prison, Politics and My People, coauthored with Natan Sharansky, was just published by PublicAffairs of Hachette.