Analysis

Netanyahu May Have Just Kicked Off His New Election Campaign

Victimizing, demonizing and throwing shots at protesters and the media, Netanyahu looks more than ever ready to get back on the campaign trail - and not to answer questions about his actual job

Yossi Verter
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a special meeting of the Knesset, Jerusalem, August 5, 2020.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a special meeting of the Knesset, Jerusalem, August 5, 2020.Credit: Adina Waldman / Knesset Spokesperson's Office
Yossi Verter

As if Israel was one giant focus group, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu floated campaign slogans during a Knesset special meeting on Wednesday. “While we’re fighting a disease, the left is fighting the government.” Or, this more arcane one: “Yair Lapid, you were a reporter for [IDF magazine] Bamahane. Now you’re the tweeter of the camp [mahane in Hebrew].”

He also continued to refine his web of lies and distortions against the determined and growing number of protesters asking for his resignation. He described the authentic rage building up outside his home on Jerusalem’s Balfour Street as “’spontaneous’ demonstrations organized in hotels and luxury high-rises.” And of course, let’s not omit the whining and victimization; these are starting to break records of narcissism, even given the fact that Netanyahu and his family are know for always only seeing themselves.

He and his son Yair go on endlessly about the “calls to murder” the prime minister. Similarly, the repeated comments about “the shameful sexual displays against my wife,” as his advisers disseminated the picture of three penis-shaped balloons bearing Sara’s name (indeed, a display of bad taste that only serves the national crybaby).

If we find ourselves facing a fourth election after the August 24 deadline for passing a state budget goes unmet, Netanyahu’s address in the Knesset Wednesday will go down as the campaign’s opening volley. The obtuseness and the disconnectedness of the man who will be responsible for this crime against the people and the country – and there is no other word for it – couldn’t be clearer.

Talking to sympathetic journalists on television in the last few days, Netanyahu has complained about the offenses to his wife (who knows one of two things about being offensive, it turns out, according to the courts). He repeatedly asked us to identify with his distress, with his family’s difficulties. Blind, as usual, to the millions of people who are being crushed and choked by the coronavirus crisis.

We didn’t hear a word about the women who are truly suffering, single mothers who can’t buy their children food, owners of small businesses that have failed, the hundreds of thousands of unemployed people, living hand-to-mouth with no guarantee of getting back to work anytime soon. It’s his wife who needs protection from some pink balloons.

If he’s counting on sympathy for his hedonistic, irritating family as hisprimary message, he’s likely to discover that this time the public will have a hard time identifying with the crying and whining.

A placard showing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife Sara during demonstration asking for his resignation, Jerusalem, August 2, 2020.
A placard showing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife Sara during demonstration asking for his resignation, Jerusalem, August 2, 2020. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Netanyahu did not respond to the painful address by Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett, who detailed the government’s failures in dealing with the coronavirus. He felt more comfortable diverting the debate against Yesh Atid Chairman Lapid, the left and the media.

But while the entire Knesset seemed to broadcast “early election,” the two main coalition partners appeared to have dispelled the tension between them. Both Kahol Lavan and Likud foiled bills that were aimed at embarrassing the other, from the right and the left. The former was the High Court of Justice override bill; the latter, a proposal for a parliamentary inquiry commission on the controversial submarine procurements.

Some might see that as encouraging. But one could also interpret it as ploy by Netanyahu to drag things out until August 24.

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