Analysis |

Netanyahu’s New Government: Monty Python, the Purge and Goodfellas Combined

Israel's newly-appointed ministers have already delivered on their main pledge: Uniting Israelis, albeit in revulsion and disgust

Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev
Benny Gantz (L) and Benjamin Netanyahu bump elbows after their unity government was sworn in in the Knesset, Jerusalem, May 17, 2020.
Benny Gantz (L) and Benjamin Netanyahu bump elbows after their unity government was sworn in in the Knesset, Jerusalem, May 17, 2020.Credit: Alex Kolomoisky
Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev

Give credit where credit is due. Even before Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, together with their cronies and allies, were sworn in on Sunday in the Knesset, they achieved one of their new government’s central missions: They promised unity, and unity they have provided. The Israeli public was never so unanimous in sharing such a collective sense of disgust and revulsion.

Bibi swears in his colossal coalition and readies for a courtroom showdown

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Although Netanyahu’s fans are undoubtedly satisfied that their leader has retained his post, and while many of his frustrated and despondent opponents have convinced themselves that it’s the lesser of all evils, the public overwhelmingly views the new government as an abomination. It is a mutation inside a farce wrapped in travesty.

Netanyahu’s new government could not have been created were it not for a rare confluence of corruption and vanity, without legions of politicians chock full of ego but totally lacking in self-awareness and without a political environment that enables defilement of democracy, assault on good governance and the premeditated violation of the remnants of what used to be Israel’s guiding light - mamlachtiyut, the placing of the interests of the state above all else.

The new government’s establishment and makeup echo Monty Python’s fifty year old skit “The Ministry of Silly Walks,” a precursor to the ludicrously redundant portfolios concocted by Netanyahu and Gantz for their colleagues; The Purge series in which, in this case, the only survivors are Netanyahu’s sycophantic guard dogs; and, naturally, Godfather, Goodfellas, Scarface and others of the genre, given that the monstrous construction, like most everything else that has happened over the past year, is part and parcel of a salvage operation aimed at springing the don from his legal woes.

It’s not just the artificial inflation of the government, the empty trappings of power or the willful ignorance of the country’s true challenges, at a time when over a million Israelis are unemployed and thousands of small businesses are collapsing. To build their Frankensteinish monster, Netanyahu and his new groupie Gantz undermined the foundations of government by tearing ministries to pieces, artificially tearing away divisions and departments, spawning countless and costly ministerial bureaus, advisers and personal drivers and setting up myriad ministries in charge of nada, nothing and gurnischt combined - with no one blocking their way and nary a protest.

Half of the new cabinet is comprised of novice Kahol Lavan politicians who, despite their boasts of integrity and transparency, lustfully took half of the government’s portfolios despite providing only a quarter of the new coalition’s members; and from the Likud’s foremost kowtowers, chosen strictly for their flair for fawning and for their willingness to serve as Netanyahu’s Rottweilers in his assault on the rule of law. It is no coincidence that those Likudniks with a tad of integrity and lingering traces of a moral spine were humiliated, outcast and tossed aside.

Never have Israeli lawmakers seemed more detached from their voters or oblivious to their needs. Leading by example, with very rare exceptions, has been erased from their playbooks. The state’s coffers, as far as the new ministers are concerned, are their petty cash, meant to serve their needs, save their honor and fulfill their vain aspirations.

Small wonder that in addition to the spate of jokes, barbs and memes at the new cabinet’s expense, which have been running rampant in social media, the words of the Prophets are also enjoying a renaissance. “See how the faithful city has become a prostitute,” said Isaiah, “Your rulers are rebels, partners with thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts.”

The “art of the possible” they call it, in the hope that the passage of time and the need to tackle cardinal issues - including Netanyahu’s dangerous delusions of annexation - will make people forget the government’s repulsive inception, which former Israeli minister Yossi Beilin has dubbed “an orgy of irresponsibility.” They are wrong: It is an indelible stain, which will cast its dark shadow over the government for each and every day of its existence.

Benjamin Netanyahu followed by lawmakers Yariv Levin and Avi Nissenkorn, at the Knesset, May 17, 2020.
Benjamin Netanyahu followed by lawmakers Yariv Levin and Avi Nissenkorn, at the Knesset, May 17, 2020.Credit: Adina Waldman / Knesset Spokesperson's Office

If and when the day comes when historians are asked to explain the final destruction of Israeli democracy, they will have to include the chicanery and utter cynicism that enabled the establishment of a government with 34 ministers, 16 deputy ministers and a shame that will linger on in infamy.

After neutering the Knesset, threatening the courts, quashing the gatekeepers and deterring the media, Netanyahu and his cohorts are now sawing off the legs of government itself, as if it was their father’s bequest. They have abandoned all pretenses of logic, integrity or decency and have brought Israeli politics to the pits of public respect or appreciation. As any 20th century student can tell you, this, in a nutshell, is how dictatorships are born.

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