Analysis

Courting Kahanists, Netanyahu Takes Politics to the Gutter

The prime minister has again proved that there is no level to which he will not sink to preserve his power and avoid an indictment

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Leadership Mission to Israel, in Jerusalem, February 18, 2019.
REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Twenty-five hours before the Knesset gates close to all party representatives, a deal was concluded, certain to go down in the annals of infamy in Israeli politics. The disciple-thugs of Rabbi Meir Kahane, disseminators of hatred, racism and persecution of minorities, carrying the torch of homophobia and racial purity, won an entrance ticket into Israel’s legislature.

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The hands approving this disgrace belong to the central committee of Habayit Hayehudi, heir to the once-moderate National Religious Party. However, the instigator of this turn of events is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, as always, proves that there is no level to which he will not sink, no value too sacred to trash, a person with no morality or accountability when it comes to his political survival – in this case his personal well-being, too.

Netanyahu was careful not to taint his own hands with the slime known as “Otzma Yehudit.” He was careful enough to contact Kahane followers Ben-Ari, Ben-Gvir, Marzel and Gopstein using mediators. These were the leaders of Habayit Hayehudi, Rafi Peretz and MK Bezalel Smotrich. They were his emissaries in perpetrating this transgression.

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The turnaround of Rafi Peretz is no less astounding. Two weeks ago he expressed reservations about Smotrich. On Wednesday he gave an impassioned speech, with the characteristic upward-rolling of the eyes, in favor of Ben-Gvir. The path from educator to politician was never so short and successful.

It’s not that there’s a big difference between the Kahanists and Smotrich – the latter is just more refined, sophisticated and affable than they are. However, their basic views are the same. This person became a welcome guest at the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday. His father and mentor became the prime minister’s interlocutors, and the wooing knew no bounds.

The English say that the proof of the pudding is in the eating, not the making. In this test, Netanyahu scores top marks. The right, in all its hues, will arrive at the April 9 election in full formation. The number of votes it could potentially lose is now negligible. Uniting in a “technical bloc” – the decade’s biggest euphemism – almost guarantees that the Likud-rightist-Haredi bloc will vanquish the opposing bloc and decide the identity of the person forming the next government.

The media reported that Netanyahu was required to pay a “heavy price” to the extreme right to gain ratification of the merger. Don’t make us laugh. He didn’t bat an eyelid when promising to give Peretz and Smotrich two important portfolios in the next coalition. He didn’t blink or blush while promising a representative of Habayit Hayehudi, most likely Eli Ben-Dahan, the No. 28 spot on the Likud list, as compensation for being bumped after Habayit Hayehudi merged with Otzma Yehudit. After the election, Ben-Dahan can return to his natural home. It not only stinks, it may be illegal.

What does Netanyahu care? He has no problem bringing politics down to the level of prostitution. Who is there to oppose him? Likud members are silent, shamefully, and the minister of justice, with chilling composure, welcomed the union.

It was not just ensuring the size of the rightist bloc that led Netanyahu to cancel his anticipated meeting with Putin, one he’s been begging to hold for months. His personal fate played a role too. He will need a rigid right-wing coalition to pass the “French” law in its Israeli version, a law preventing the indictment of a sitting prime minister. He can definitely count on Ben-Ari and Ben-Gvir.