Opinion

Iranian Centrifuges Meet Netanyahu’s Political Spin Cycle

Benjamin Netanyahu walks on the stage as he delivers a statement to the media on the Iranian nuclear issue, Jerusalem, September 9, 2019.
Kobi Gideon / GPO

It’s hard to decide what’s getting freakier faster, current events or the response to them. Israel at the end of the Benjamin Netanyahu era is like a contemporary dystopian series on Netflix or HBO. Israelis are caught in an endless spin cycle like some hapless doormat. Everything is crazy — and possible.

Over the weekend, in anticipation of the approval by the cabinet and the Knesset of a bill permitting the placement of cameras in polling stations, a rumor spread among senior figures associated with the left: The bill was meant to lead to the firing of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, who had said he would not defend the legislation if it were challenged in court. The aim was to stop Mendelblit from dealing with Netanyahu’s criminal cases so that they’d eventually somehow fade away.

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Other assessments I’d heard were that Netanyahu was planning to cancel next week’s election and/or to refuse to accept the results and declare some kind of war against them or anyone who attempted to enforce them. At first you just want to tell the former Shin Bet security service chief/retired general/former government official speaking to please make the acquaintance of whatever tranquilizer they can get their hands on — and not the mild kind that is sold over the counter, without a prescription.

>> Netanyahu's efforts to allow cameras at polling stations is a mere distraction | Analysis

On the other hand, after the removal of a hostile police commissioner, the farcical appointment of a civil service commissioner, the immunity balloon launched during the last coalition negotiations, the indecent assault on the state comptroller’s position and the general global populist climate – it could be that the defect is with anyone who observes all of this and still believes that Israel is a more or less properly run country.

Only God knows whether, buried within the camera bill, there was indeed another explosive charge, more powerful than Netanyahu’s usual ones. The foundations of Netanyahu’s campaign are pretty consistent: some enemy to unite against. Sometimes it’s the left, sometimes it’s a political rival, such as Avigdor Lieberman or Ayelet Shaked, and of course there are always the Arabs and the media. He’s like the hated Real Madrid; Netanyahu wins big when his back is to the wall. His noisy self-victimization is one of the most cynical, violent processes known to Israeli politics.

This time Netanyahu is beating even his own records. There isn’t a single moment of relative quiet (silence is too much to expect). As in Amos Oz’s air compressor allegory, one family has been battering the entire nation with its noise. For now, it’s still working. Bibi-ism is a large, powerful strong movement. Given the right-wing paradigm that Netanyahu has no substitute in the international arena, the announcement on the Iranian nukes, half a second after the camera bill fell, was so surprising that Lieberman and the center left hasn’t managed to respond with something cohesive and of appropriate gravity. This political stage looks more like a forced encounter of nice, concerned people than a place where anyone is really capable of fighting the wild phenomenon that is the Netanyahu regime.

But this won’t last forever. It can’t. Someday, and it’s not far off, even his supporters and fans will get fed up with this horrid noise.

One last thing. It’s true that since Lieberman finally decided to behead Netanyahu and join the opposition, some progress has been made. Those leftists who are putting their trust in the new player, who is indeed adept at trolling Netanyahu, are presumably due for a festive gift: At least one more Netanyahu term.