Analysis |

As Knesset Dissolution Approaches, Netanyahu's Propaganda Machine Breaks Own Record

Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Ben Gurion Airport, August 17, 2020.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Ben Gurion Airport, August 17, 2020.Credit: Fresh life / GPO
Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter

Whether or not the Knesset will dissolve Monday night, it’s already hard to imagine Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign sinking much lower. The trailers alone set new records for mudslinging. Over the weekend we saw the sickeningly effective propaganda machine of the prime minister and his people in action. The first target for their poisoned arrows was Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, “who is dragging [Israel] into an election in order to oust [Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny] Gantz as the head of Kahol Lavan.” That folly lasted half a day before it expired – but not before Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel, who in Likud is considered “sane” (standards have dropped, we know), turned up at the TV studio of “Ofira & Berkovic” and, a glazed look in her eyes, recited the party line on the issue.

It wasn’t Gamliel’s only pearl of wisdom: When Eyal Berkovic challenged her, shouting, “People are dumpster-diving for food!” she replied, her face glowing, “So take care of them!” There’s something about that pair, for sure: They can get the worst out of people, and when it comes to politicians that’s a compliment. Each week their studio shows us anew the depths of the ruling party’s rottenness and moral corruption.

PODCAST: Inside Israel's no-change, no-cost peace deal with the UAE

-- : --

And so, “Ashkenazi’s putsch,” which may have been born in the mind of the head of Likud’s department of deception, Jonatan Urich, didn’t survive past Friday night dinner. Gantz’s partner, by the way, gave as good as he did. Ashkenazi went on the offensive as a guest on Israel’s “Meet the Press” Saturday evening, drawing the red line of any deal with Netanyahu: The defendant shall not appoint the gatekeepers. He later showed his claws on Twitter, with a fierce post on the siloing of himself and Gantz, with a reference to the submarines affair. As we wrote here Friday, Ashkenazi’s loathing for Netanyahu is a mirror image of his faith in the prime minister on the eve of the formation of the unity government.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi at the northern Israeli border, August 11, 2020.Credit: Gil Eliahu

In the meantime, the second course was being whipped up. The server this time was Erel Segal, one of the guitarists in the video recorded in Netanyahu's home in February that ran afoul of the public broadcasting corporation’s ethics guidelines. Segal, a clumsy propagandist, isn’t exactly an investigative journalist, but since the 2015's general election he has, amazingly, been the recipient of materials for various “investigations” – of the type that serve Netanyahu at critical junctures. At the shriek of a whistle, the pack of attack dogs turned on its heels and went after Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn. From the bottom of the barrel, the nonexistent “scandal” of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit’s “closure of the case” against him was pulled out. Army Radio commentator Jacob Bardugo and the rest of the Netanyahu amplifiers reached top volume, Yair Netanyahu put in overtime on Twitter and the lie took on gargantuan proportions.

Where did the spreaders and multipliers of lies who call themselves journalists go wrong? When they relied on the remarks of Shelly Yacimovich, Nissenkorn’s erstwhile bitter rival, whom he defeated in the Histadrut labor federation leadership election. Her supposed “proof text” turned against them. Yacimovich, with admirable dignity, did her homework, and in a Twitter thread she proved that the gang from Balfour Street had lied through its teeth. There was nothing because there is nothing, real-world version.

Once again, while the biased media was blasting out its filth, the mainstream media was falling into the former’s trap, that of false balance, also known as bothsidesism. The only ones who are responsible for the ugly escalation we saw this weekend are Netanyahu, his son Yair and their mass-circulation mouthpieces. Just as in every “crisis.” To the audiences of the current-events programs, this was not obvious.

Erel Segal on channel 20, February 25, 2016.Credit: Nadav Cohen Yonatan

Kahol Lavan is still waiting for Netanyahu to decide whether or not he wants another election now. It doesn’t matter how he climbs down. His only dilemma is between an election in November or in the first quarter of 2021. MK Zvi Hauser, who fears for his political future no less than he does for the future of the state, issued a proposal for compromise Saturday evening, the central platform of which is a postponement of everything (especially the predictable end). Kahol Lavan is willing to accept its main points, and Netanyahu's confidants said he will consider it. It appears that he wants this compromise, the only question still open is the decision of the Netanyahu tribe – in which, as we know, the prime minister has just one-third of the votes.