Analysis

Netanyahu Makes Rare Campaign Blunder – in the Heart of Likud Country

Netanyahu picked on a ‘Likud from birth’ catcaller, who complained about the closing of an emergency room in her town, which he continued to harp on even after

Prime Minister Netanyahu speaking in Kiryat Shmona
Haim Zach/GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is generally a model of self-control and campaign discipline and who never loses his composure even during the stormiest Knesset debates, lost it yesterday in the worst possible place for him – in the “periphery,” which he thinks belongs to him and his party. He lost it in a city that’s more Likud than Likud, and in front of a sworn supporter. Not a sourpuss, not a leftist, and not from the grand salons and high towers of north Tel Aviv.

One moment of carelessness, arrogance and recklessness became a political fire that ignited the social networks. Less than 24 hours after a pretty successful day in the Knesset, Netanyahu kicked over the pail twice; once at the event in Kiryat Shmona, and afterward, when he failed to douse the fire he’d lit by attacking social activist Orna Peretz, “A Likudnik from birth,” in her words, after she heckled him at a ceremony marking the opening of a 24-hour regional medical service.

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“You’re boring … you simply don’t interest us,” he said to her, mockingly, when she complained at the lack of an emergency room in the city. It was an aggressive, sarcastic retort that was taken well by his supporters and by almost anyone except the Kiryat Shmona resident who was complaining about an ongoing failure (part of that well-remembered “amazing decade”) that threatens her health and that of other residents.

There are those who will see Netanyahu’s verbal assault on the woman as a possible crack in his emotional strength, perhaps as a result of the police investigations. He preferred to attribute it to his deep sorrow over the death the previous night of his lawyer, Jacob Weinroth, from cancer.

One might even understand him. The Talmud states, “Don’t judge a person in his hour of sorrow.” The Prime Minister’s Office could have easily gotten out of the mess. All it had to do was send out a press statement saying that Netanyahu was upset by the death of his close friend and didn’t mean to insult the activist.

Netanyahu tells woman who interrupted him: "You're not interesting. You're boring us." (Hebrew)

But instead of doing this, the PMO, presumably on the instructions of its leader, continued to lash out at Peretz. “[She] crossed all moral and human norms when she chose to interrupt while he was talking about Weinroth’s death.”

All moral and human norms? Aren’t we getting carried away? She didn’t wave Balad posters or open a bottle of champagne over the deceased’s grave. To paraphrase the famous theoretician known as the father of modern warfare, Carl von Clausewitz, who said, “War is the continuation of politics by other means,” Netanyahu continued his war against Mrs. Peretz by other means.

>> Read more: Netanyahu Lashes Out at Heckler: 'You're Boring Us'

He should have calmed down, counted to 10, and understood that this incident had the potential to do real damage to him and to Likud. This, by the way, attests to the level of the personnel in Netanyahu’s office. A good, authoritative adviser would never have let that subsequent statement see the light of day.

Avi Gabbay and Tzipi Livni, the heads of Zionist Union, couldn’t have asked for a better gift during the week that the fifth and last session of the 20th Knesset began. Gabbay called Peretz and heard from her that she and Likud were finished. In the end, even Gabbay, the knight of negative karma, can find a bit of luck.

Livni was quick to upload a video to her Twitter account in which she played the gender card with the story: There’s Netanyahu in the loop, repeating: You’re boring, boring, boring us, interspersed with captions: Single mother, victims of sexual assault, and so on. It was cruel, vicious, a bullet between the eyes, but vital. Zionist Union, in its near-terminal state, doesn’t have the luxury of moderation.