Netanyahu Has Forgotten What It Means to Be Israeli

A certain dividing screen has always separated Netanyahu from the people who live and are being suffocated in this country.

It is not by chance that the tent dwellers' protest appears to be insufficiently "focused," at least in the eyes of those who like order, with complaints jumping from housing prices to public transportation to university tuition to the cost of cottage cheese and electricity.

It is also not by chance that most of those those leading the opposition to the protest come from the camp of the metaphysical "JewishPeople" - that is to say, the settlers and their supporters.

protset, tent city, jerusalem
Tomer Appelbaum

Nor is it by chance that the waves of protest and rage have broken out while the country is led by Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of "nothing for nothing," who merely wanted to serve one more term.

None of this is coincidental since the tent dwellers' protest is only the tip of the iceberg of a more general revolt that breaks out from time to time. This is the intifada of the other people in the Land of Israel that have been oppressed for years, the Israeli people, (contrary to the transcendental JewishPeople).

Housing, tuition and the cost of living are merely incidental expressions of the general existential oppression and neglect which that nation feels, hence why the grievances are not focused and are not always expressed fluently. That's why the political right and the settlers recoil almost instinctively from the struggle, which by its very nature is contradictory to their preference for the territories and their transcendental Messianic views. And there is also a reason why the rage and the revolt have broken out "precisely" during Netanyahu's second term of office.

In order to understand this, we must go back 14 years to the moment when the prime minister at that time, the same as today's, whispered in the ear of the aged kabbalist, Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri: "The people of the left have forgotten what it is to be Jewish."

Since then, during two half-terms, he has had the chance to show "what it is to be Jewish" according to his worldview, and by implication, "what it is to be the prime minister of the Jews."

"To be a Jew," according to Netanyahu, means to hold on to the religious and mystical "rocks of our existence," even at the price of tremendous diplomatic damage to the actual State of Israel. "To be a Jew" means to speak in the name of the abstract JewishPeople that has no borders and whose main existence is on the rhetorical plane - the kind that can be found also in the heart of a Republican senator.

"To be a Jew," according to Netanyahu's version, means to seek and find an anti-Semitic motive in every political act and expression, to sink into alarmed passivity and to inflame fears, just as in a pogrom-ravaged shtetl.

"To be a Jew" means to think of other world leaders as corrupt gentile noblemen who must be stood down no matter the price, like some rhetorical Rabbi Amnon of Mainz, who sacrificed his life rather than give in to a demand to convert to Christianity.

"To be a Jew," according to Netanyahu, means to say that "the conflict is insoluble," with that same shrug of the shoulders they used in the Diaspora when they said: "What can you do? That's the fate of a Jew."

It is superfluous to state that Netanyahu's version is only one version - an especially gloomy and archaic one - of the significance of "being a Jew." It is a version that purposefully clashes with the interests of the living Israeli people, who rebuff it and long to be a normal nation, to live well, to pursue their true interests including perhaps even peace in our day, Heaven forbid!

A certain dividing screen has always separated Netanyahu from the people who live and are being suffocated in this country. Even his past in the elite Sayeret Matkal unit and the way he uses various images of "carrying the stretcher" have always sounded somewhat affected and fake when they come from him, like the kind of fond memories of an American Jewish participant on the Taglit-Birthright Israel program.

But that is merely an external expression of something much deeper. It is not that someone has for gotten "what it is to be a Jew" - it is Netanyahu who has forgotten what it is to be an Israeli, and it is doubtful if he ever really knew.