The well-deserved detriment of the anti-Bibi rioters

Caught between a coronavirus rock and an economic hard place, Netanyahu has been beseeching that people heed the health edicts.

Israelis protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, July 3, 2020 (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Israelis protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, July 3, 2020
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
The recent rallies in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem illustrate not only that the “anybody but Bibi” mantra is alive and well, despite the diverse camp’s three-time failure in the course of a year to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the ballot box.
They also reveal why the Left has been unable to garner sufficient backing from the so-called “center” to foment a real revolution in the Jewish state of the kind that is taking place in the United States.
There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated whatever societal malaise existed in Israel and the rest the world before the virus struck China and spread to other countries. There is nothing like health anxiety combined with money woes, after all, to cause a combination of hysteria and despair well beyond the norm.
Adding government-imposed isolation and separation from loved ones to the mix makes people feel as though they are living in a giant pressure-cooker with a minuscule steam-release valve. Under such circumstances, the smallest rise in temperature can ignite an explosion.
NETANYAHU’S REALIZATION of this in May, when the novel coronavirus curve appeared to have flattened, led him to reopen the economy, and not as gradually as health officials would have liked.
His one demand of the public – desperate to resume school, synagogue, work and play – was that it follow three simple directives, all of which had been in place for weeks: Wash hands, wear masks and practice social distancing.
Lo and behold, the very Israelis who had been pushing and screaming to be allowed to resume going about their business promptly threw caution to the wind and pounced on their newfound freedom by cutting corners on the rules.
Those who bothered with masks at all wore them on their wrists or around their necks, to be slipped on when a cop happened to be in the vicinity. Many caught in the act bemoaned the fines they incurred on the grounds that the pandemic had left them penniless.
Beach-goers who had been incensed by previous restrictions swarmed the coast by the thousands, covering the sand and one another like sardines. Ditto for bar-hoppers and celebrity bash-throwers. Teenagers hugged and kissed in school hallways.
Office staffs kept alcogel on their desks more for show than use.
Then there were the demonstrators. These are the justice-warriors who never ceased exercising their democratic right to assembly. So numerous and various have their grievances been that the chaos could be considered funny if it weren’t so exhausting and confusing.
Indeed, it is difficult to keep straight which issue is being hollered about at any given time and location. Even the banners at these happenings regularly make those waving them appear to have missed the memo.
IT IS THUS that MK Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon, from the “anybody but Bibi” Yesh Atid-Telem Party, can be excused for wandering into the wrong rally outside the Knesset on Monday.
His intention had been to take part in a demonstration of the social workers’ union, whose negotiations with the Finance Ministry for higher salaries and greater protection against violence ended in an impasse on Sunday night. Instead, he wound up at a gathering of deaf activists, who had to communicate his innocent blunder through a sign-language interpreter.
Rather than let slide the Twitter laughter that this faux pas elicited, Ya’alon’s office released a snarky statement attacking Netanyahu and his supporters.
“When there is nothing substantial, such as suspicion of bribery, fraud and breach of trust against him [Ya’alon], we understand the mockery of the ‘good souls’ who fiercely defend corruption, economic collapse and failures on a huge scale, and find it difficult to accept a technical human error that came from the desire to support and identify with those affected by this failed government in the serious crisis that befalls us,” the statement read.
Talk about corroborating evidence that all paths lead to Netanyahu, no matter what policy he implements.
When he imposed countrywide closures to prevent morbidity, his political foes blamed him for killing the economy. When he reversed course, he was faulted for the spike in morbidity rates. Now he is under assault for deciding to deposit money in the bank accounts of all citizens, since this includes the more affluent members of society.
Never mind that determining distribution on the basis of need would slow down the whole process, as it did a few weeks ago, when the Treasury was giving grants to small businesses. If Bibi is behind it, it must be tainted.
CAUGHT BETWEEN a coronavirus rock and an economic hard place, Netanyahu has been beseeching that people heed the health edicts. Apparently, this is too much to ask of nanny-state champions, however.
You know, that peculiar group of leftists who rail against the government, yet believe it should be responsible for wiping their noses.
This is not, of course, how they articulated their malaise during the protests in Tel Aviv last Saturday night or the riots, overtaken by anarchists, in Jerusalem on Tuesday. No, they chanted slogans calling on Netanyahu to resign for a host of reasons, all jumbled together like Scrabble tiles in a bag, waiting to be plucked out and lined up on players’ racks.
These included everything from his sovereignty plan for Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria – as part of US President Donald Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” vision – to Netanyahu’s imminent corruption trial, which his detractors claim he is exploiting the coronavirus crisis to avoid.
Some went as far as to assert that he manufactured the second wave in order to shut down the courts.
One girl, taking a break from protesting at Jerusalem’s Paris Square to be interviewed by Channel 12’s Yigal Mosko, rattled off an incoherent list of the above.
“My goal is not to feel that my country is disintegrating,” she said. “And to feel that I have a place to live; that there’s something to strive for; that I can trust the people who are supposed to take care of me. Instead of dealing with day-to-day issues, they’re occupied with annexation and a lot of other sh*t. They’re going after judges and who knows who else. Everything is screwed up at its foundation. I hope one day we will be able to wake up in the morning and feel that things are happening for our benefit – the benefit of the citizens, the people – and not for the benefit of one person [Netanyahu] with a party of yes-men… and that police officers won’t beat up people on the street; that they’ll speak to them nicely.”
When Mosko suggested that her aims sounded a bit scattered, she explained tearfully: “It all hurts.”
Naturally, social distancing was far from a priority among the thousands of protesters, each of whom seemed to imagine that clashing with police and journalists guarantees immunity from disease.
WHEN ASKED three months ago about why he did not put a stop to mass demonstrations when all other crowding was prohibited, Netanyahu said that if he had made the slightest move to prevent such rallies, he would have been accused of silencing his critics.
That’s for sure. Not that it matters to the very loud eulogizers of Israeli democracy, who refer to Netanyahu as the “crime minister.”
The current situation certainly is dire. But here’s the rub for the aforementioned protesters: Though Netanyahu’s popularity is plummeting; the seats that his Likud Party would lose if an election were held today would go to the right-wing Yamina Party, headed by former defense minister Naftali Bennett – amd not to the Left.
The explanation for this is two-fold. On the one hand, Bennett is viewed as someone who – in his last government role – was excellent at procuring COVID-19 medical supplies. On the other, he decried the postponement of sovereignty, and opposes the part of Trump’s plan that foresees the establishment of a Palestinian state.
In other words, even if the “anybody but Bibi” moaners succeed in their quest, it will be to their own – well-deserved – detriment.