Analysis

This Campaign by Netanyahu, His Last, Will Be a Summation of His Toxic Legacy

These elections will be particularly repugnant. Joining the Arabs, leftists and the media as targets for slander will be the rule of law’s defenders – police, state prosecutors and attorney general’s officials. Their sin is simply doing their job

An Israeli girl stands next to a placard with the photo of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the centre of Tel Aviv, Israel December 22, 2018
\ CORINNA KERN/ REUTERS

What has changed over the past month since Benjamin Netanyahu forcefully proclaimed, “In times like these, you do not overthrow a government,” and that the “security of the nation is beyond politics, and the security of the nation is also beyond personal concerns”?

The security situation hasn’t changed much, save perhaps for the awareness of residents of northern Israel, who learned about the tunnels being dug beneath them, and who realized that their lives had turned into a hell greater than that of their compatriots in the south. Israeli citizens are welcome to rediscover – unless they suffer from hopeless stupidity – how cynical their leaders are, how quickly they can exploit the wounds of loss and sacrifice. Perhaps the ultimate stupidity is to be amazed by this.

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What also changed were the state prosecutor’s recommendations, including bribery offenses in two of Netanyahu’s cases. The plethora of accounts running through the political scene, on top of Netanyahu’s paranoia and deviousness, make it hard to isolate the one reason causing Netanyahu to change his mind about the elections.

One idea flourishing among politicians is that there is a small window between indictment and Ramadan, through which Netanyahu can squeeze to get re-elected. This opportunity is doubly good, as Netanyahu enters the elections without an indictment and leaves as a prime minister elected by a large share of the people, which will cause the hand of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, who in any event is irresolute, to shake a little more if he needs to sign an indictment with the word “bribery” in it.

Netanyahu enters this campaign in poor shape. In the security realm, the war against Hamas ended with humiliating bribery and a fragile quiet, Hezbollah trains missiles on the north, the air space in Syria is restricted under the eyes of the Russians and their interests, which are shrouded in fog, and the West Bank showed it can also heat up quickly. Diplomatically, Netanyahu’s best friend in the world, who delivered the Jerusalem embassy and the withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear agreement, has been revealed as a disturbed, crude ignoramus who acts capriciously, without thinking.

Economically, the latest wave of price increases has angered part of the public, but this isn’t Netanyahu’s most substantial problem because the real problems that rise above all these issues are the family and the cases. And the elections, which will probably follow Israel’s most repulsive and violent election campaign, will revolve around these issues.

These elections, as far as anyone can forecast, will likely be Netanyahu’s last. Therefore, they will be particularly repugnant: a summation of his toxic legacy. Joining the Arabs, leftists and the media will be the rule of law’s defenders – police, state prosecutors and attorney general’s officials, including the right-wingers, kippa wearers and even Netanyahu voters among them. Their sin is simply doing their job, but that won’t spare them the mud that in the past was reserved for those turning out in droves. A hint at what’s coming could be seen in the prime minister’s disturbed tweet against journalist Ben Caspit, whom he defamed via an item about the reporter’s brother from the archives. That’s the tone. That’s the level.

And at the end of these elections, we will arise battered and filthy to another depressing morning of a Netanyahu victory. We can take solace in that this will likely be the last time. Let’s hope it will be possible to repair the damage done along the way.