The Netanyahus' Latest Show of Madness Is Just a Diversion

The prime ministerial couple captured the attention of the public on the Knesset floor and the airwaves in an unnecessary, coordinated attack on common sense

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Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu during election night in Tel Aviv, March 3, 2020.
Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu during election night in Tel Aviv, March 3, 2020.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Within the space of about three hours Wednesday afternoon, we got a double helping of the Netanyahus. In the Knesset, Benjamin conducted a sometimes fascinating verbal duel with opposition leader Yair Lapid. And on Channel 12 television, his wife Sara delivered an angry monologue that was frequently interrupted by presenter Ofer Hadad.

Neither of them had to be there. The prime minister volunteered to respond to Lapid on a bill that would have barred someone under indictment from forming a government. And Sara went to what the prime minister's entourage had often dubbed the “Al Jazeera propaganda station” to share the suffering that the demonstrations near the prime minister’s residence have caused her and her family.

The main idea behind both exhibitions was identical: To divert public attention away from the economic disaster that has befallen thousands of Israeli families and toward the persecution and harassment of the Netanyahu family by the forces of darkness. Those forces are trying to stymie him through “Iranian” legislation that contradicts the will of the people, or so he says. And the demonstrators are threatening to rape her and burn her home with her and her “precious” family inside it.

Who wasn’t insulted by this privileged, out-of-touch woman, who abused employees of the official residence? Battered women certainly were (when she asserted, “I’m a battered woman”). So were victims of sexual violence (ditto). So were battered children (when she applied this description to “my children,” men ages 29 and 25, while the screen showed photo montages of toddlers being kicked by sadistic caregivers). She assailed women’s organizations and female Knesset members for not coming to her defense.

The woman who defended sexual harasser Natan Eshel, who tried to falsely accuse far-right lawmakers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked of having an affair, and whose son degrades women sexually and offered to pimp his girlfriend for 400 shekels ($117), is wailing about rape and violence in an indescribable display of obtuseness. What she needs is a reality check.

Let’s return to the Knesset. The person who was supposed to respond to Lapid was Public Security Minister Amir Ohana. But he was shouldered aside by the prime minister, who discerned an opportunity to drag the public conversation someplace more convenient for him – “left versus right,” Lapid and head of the predominantly Arab Joint List Ayman Odeh, experience and education versus the mob, and of course, persecution and witch hunts.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid speaks at the Knesset, August 12, 2020.Credit: Adina Valman / Knesset

The ammunition Netanyahu brought to the Knesset was the objection raised by then-Justice Minister Tommy Lapid to a similar bill in 2004. “Bureaucrats must not fire a prime minister,” Netanyahu quoted Yair Lapid’s father as saying. The younger Lapid pulled out his own parental quote, from Benzion Netanyahu, who advised his son “not to touch money” as a public figure.

Both of them came out ahead. Lapid bolstered his status as a prime ministerial candidate; Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz wasn’t even mentioned. But this strategy made Netanyahu’s day. Lapid’s bill played into his hands.

Had the opposition leader instead proposed legislation to help business owners or increase funding for hospitals, guess who wouldn’t have rushed to appear in the Knesset.

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