The investigation published Monday by Yedioth Ahronoth and The New York Times about the use of fake social media accounts to promote Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s candidacy will be forgotten by tomorrow. It won’t have any impact on the rest of the campaign or its results. The news cycle in our part of the world is swift and brutal.
Perhaps in the future, a police investigation will find a direct financial link between the Likud and the dozens of tweeters whose daily bread consists of glorifying Netanyahu and smearing his rivals with lies, curses and slander. That will be for the crime reporters to deal with.
The sick reality that has evolved here over the past few years gave rise to the following scene: The prime minister of Israel invites a man behind one of the purportedly fake accounts to a press conference in his official residence. This man's online nickname is Captain George. Netanyahu shakes his hand warmly, and proves through him that behind the racist tweets and gutter language stands a real person named Giora, a human being, flesh of his flesh. Thank God, you can relax.
He plies him with the type of affection he generally reserves for leaders of a very specific type from Eastern Europe, Africa, or South America (and U.S. President Donald Trump, of course). Thus, on a wintry Jerusalem evening, another icon has been added to the cultural heroes and the symbols of Likud’s 2019 campaign – Ronit, the Bibi-lover, Eliraz Sadeh and “the Captain.” All are his children, in addition to Yair.
Next to Giora sat MK Amir Ohana, proud and excited to be part of a press conference. Likud’s LGBT representative, who would not have been elected in 2015 if not for the community’s votes, exchanged smiles with the homophobe who called Benny Gantz a “pillow biter,” a homophobic slur. Ohana has disappointed his constituency many times during this Knesset term, always with the excuse that he was committed to coalition discipline. Now he will probably excuse his shame by claiming “a commitment to campaign discipline.”
The report about the fake accounts, which was based on an investigation conducted privately, didn’t prove that Likud or anyone on its behalf had paid the tweeters, even though they were accurately echoing the talking points coming from party headquarters and the prime minister’s official residence.
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It can be assumed that this phenomenon has not had any extraordinary effect on voters. The insightful comments that sprout from the keyboard of Netanyahu's new best friend – gems like “Yalla Gantz, go make pee pee” – do not sway votes. They are very low-level efforts to tarnish a rival.
Kahol Lavan hastened to call its own press conference. “Netanyahu is operating a network of psychological terror,” Gantz said. On Sunday, Channel 13 released yet another embarrassing recording of him, in which he contradicts things he has said publicly on almost every issue.
For some reason, the “Gantzists,” for whom the Times and Yedioth reports couldn’t have come at a better time, are heading into the last week of the campaign seeming less sure of themselves than the alleged culprit, Netanyahu.
The fact that Netanyahu is the No.1 campaigner is well known. There is no lemon that he cannot turn into lemonade; there is no garbage he cannot recycle into gold. With fake social media accounts or without them, polls show he is getting closer to a fifth term as prime minister. But all the Captains in the world won’t be able to save him from the complications he can expect during coalition negotiations.