Netanyahu, 'Prince of the Tides': Some Israeli Voters Only See His Low Sides, Others Only the High

Israel election 2021: If Prime Minister Netanyahu's haters were to acknowledge his achievements, it would be easier to listen to them when they list the dangers he presents

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Netanyahu: Not everything he does is rotten
Netanyahu, this week: Not everything he does is rottenCredit: Hadas Parush
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

There’s been a terrific racket in recent months, stemming from two sources. One is Benjamin Netanyahu, who’s been clattering on for some 15 years. The other is the "anyone-but-Bibi" camp.

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To the members of a very specific camp, Netanyahu is creating an unendurable screech. They would prefer quiet; they always prefer quiet; without that, they don’t have much to offer. Yet their mortal enemy, Netanyahu, is not the devil they describe or even the demon of whom they warn. But neither is he the messiah of his admirers.

It is a tale of love and darkness. The loathing and love of Netanyahu are the sole driver of this election, which involves nothing beyond emotions, strong and blind. The hatred, the love have driven Israel out of its mind.

Netanyahu is the “prince of tides.” One camp sees only the high tide, the other only the low tide. Both are missing the truth.

Not everything Netanyahu has done was unacceptable, corrupt, rotten and foul. Not at all. He chalked up several achievements, and anyone who ignores them is a mindless hater. His opponents’ biggest mistake was to be struck blind at the sight of Netanyahu’s achievements. There’s good reason for this blindness – neither does it see the camp’s total vapidity. It lost its way years ago and in recent years lost its leadership too. It has nothing left. It is ideologically homeless. All this camp can think to do is forge itself a refuge by means of hatred for the other. That is a terrible refuge. One can’t take shelter in it.

While the Only-Netanyahu Can camp is focused and keen, the camp of not-Bibi realized that it has no real alternative to offer. All it could do is whip up a racket in order to distract from the emptiness. Hatred of Netanyahu established a camp, sparked an imaginary political awareness, sent people into the streets with a vain illusion of staging a political protest, brandished black flags and banged on drums on bridges. But it was hollow. Beneath the “Anyone but” facade lay a void.

Likud supporters in Jerusalem on SundayCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Instead of Netanyahu: what? Who? The camp had no answers. First bring down Netanyahu, then we’ll see. We’ll remove Netanyahu, then rest. Anyone who replaces him would be better.

But it isn’t true. There could be worse than Netanyahu. Even the present candidates include some more dangerous than he, and they’re all less talented.

Alongside his egregious failures, and leaving aside the criminal charges, which must now be left in the hands of the courts, Netanyahu has chalked up several impressive achievements. If the half of Israel that hates him were to acknowledge them, it would be easier to listen to them when they list the dangers he represents, even if some of them are egregiously overstated. Tyranny and the end of democracy, they shout at him, in a country where half the people exist under a tyranny that began well before him and will continue long after him too.

Netanyahu stands accused of destroying the legal system – in a country where there are two legal systems, based on national separation, and a country that has been violating practically every article of international law, with chutzpah, long before Netanyahu, and it will after him too.

What does Gideon Sa’ar have to offer, except to replace Netanyahu with someone less talented and more extreme than he? What does Naftali Bennett have? Even Yair Lapid hasn’t demonstrated that he is a worthy candidate, except in the consistency of his anti-Netanyahu position. But that’s not enough. That can’t be enough. Netanyahu will probably remain. That’s not the disaster that is being described here. Netanyahu may go. That won’t be the dream for which people here are longing. Anyone but Bibi? First offer something, someone else.

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