Analysis |

One Leaked Tape Gives Both Bennett and Netanyahu Political Wins

So many unfortunate Israeli citizens need the compassion and assistance of the state, but the politicians know full well where their electoral bread is buttered

Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht
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Likud lawmaker Miri Regev and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the Knesset, last year.
Likud lawmaker Miri Regev and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the Knesset, last year.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

Miri Regev’s house ought to have been filled with flowers Tuesday. The leak of the recording of her saying, “We have decided that we are a militant opposition and we want to bring down this government, so there are no stomach aches. There are no stomach aches for rape, no stomach aches for battered women and no stomach aches with soldiers. Everyone understands that this is the rationale” – serves many elements from across the political spectrum.

The first of these is, of course, the fragile coalition, which was just saved by the skin of its teeth from the Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi crisis and is reeling from successive blows that include the collapse of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s headquarters in the wake of the departures of his chief of staff, Tal Gan-Zvi, and political adviser, Shimrit Meir. Sources in the political establishment say it was actually the activism demonstrated by Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid to block the leakage from the left – the highlight being Rinawie Zoabi’s meeting with the head of Arab local governments – may have helped save the government temporarily, but also harmed Bennett.

Lapid, they say, dwarfed Bennett and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked. Regev’s blunt statement was not just a stray bird to which public attention can be diverted when the coalition is in acute crisis, but a giant ostrich running around in underpants.

Miri Regev last month.Credit: Emil Salman

The second beneficiary who owes Regev a giant favor is her revered leader, Benjamin Netanyahu. Were it not for Regev and her recorded terror attack, which was also felt strongly in Likud territory, the opposition chairman would have gone all the way and stopped the bill to fund college scholarships for former combat soldiers. Netanyahu, a political animal with murderous instincts, doesn’t disagree with Regev. In fact, she repeated his words, in her own inimitable style.

If what is needed to deny the opposition victory is to vote against Israeli soldiers, or to appoint Mahmoud Ahmadinejad head of Likud campaign headquarters, then so be it. Regev’s remarks got out and caused a stir, and Netanyahu, contrary to his authentic opinion, turned to a compromise by way of damage control. It was neither the first nor the last time that Regev draws fire for Netanyahu and pays for the sin of bluntness. This is presumably her historical role, as Netanyahu’s former office chief of staff Nathan Eshel put it years ago, in his characteristic refined style.

Thus, there is a certain unfairness in the uproar against Regev. Yuval Steinitz, ostensibly a decent and cultured Ashkenazi man, said similar things. (“Tomorrow it’ll be widows, orphans, the periphery, a million and one disabled people, the ill, the elderly and Holocaust survivors, everything.”) He wasn’t pilloried for it. Regev’s colleagues at the top of Likud – Yuli Edelstein, Nir Barkat, Yisrael Katz and her sworn enemy Gila Gamliel – can also easily be put on the list of people who are pleased with the leak of the recording. Every time Regev stands out in her bluntness, it makes them look purer and more statesmanlike.

One final takeaway from the incident – and it’s a disgrace that both camps, as well as the majority of Israeli Jews, have equal shares in it – is the sacred status, childish bordering on sick, enjoyed by Israeli soldiers. So many unfortunate citizens need the compassion and assistance of the state, so many good citizens who contribute to society deserve abatements and benefits, but the politicians know full well where their electoral bread is buttered. Journalist Thomas Friedman once wrote that Israel was becoming “Yad Vashem with an air force.” But the truth is that it is more an army that is at the disposal of a community of flatterers and political servants riding waves of infantile admiration.

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