Media whiz, handsome, from Habayit Hayehudi. That’s how, with a wink, journalist Hanoch Daum introduced the party’s new assured-spot Knesset candidate, Yinon Magal, in a video clip that began in a light mood and ended in a serious one. As one might argue, in Israel it’s enough to be a 45-year-old Ashkenazi male who served in a combat unit and worked in media outlets companies to get elected to the Knesset.
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To be fair, Magal seems likable enough. After looking at the lobbyists’ scandal of Yisrael Beiteinu — that cynical gang that channels state funds to their own kind — Magal’s unsophisticated humility is a breath of fresh air.
He is known for declaring, as editor-in-chief of the Walla! news portal, that he was “first of all, Israeli.” But first-time voters and the young at heart will be able to identify with his having been to Goa, India and with his casual admission of having smoked light drugs and has no problem admitting it.
There is something attractive about that, but the important question is not what he smoked but rather why, in his coverage of the last war, he decided that the Israeli public did not need a critical perspective that would allow it to form an intelligent opinion about what was happening in the Gaza Strip.
Still, in the event that a poor Jew turns out to be more attractive to voters than a regular Jew, he says he is a self-made man who neither asked for nor received money from his parents. Yes, he is a good-looking guy, and nice too. But the game he’s playing now is greater than his 24 hours of fame as the latest acquisition of Team Naftali Bennett.
In contrast to Magal, who seems a little dazed by all the hoopla surrounding him, the head of his new party needs no advice on acting for the camera or how to put together a national team. Bennett learned from the media outlets themselves, from “youth leadership” models, perhaps even from the campaigns of Barack Obama, with whom he has no common denominator, but nonetheless copies like an ardent schoolboy. One handsome and conservative television star, An attractive package for first-time voters, who presumably will decide the election.
But more than all this, at the deepest structural level these people, the English-speaking Ashkenazis who are joining Habayit Hayehudi as candidates, represent a deeply-held thesis of Bennett’s that turns democracy on its head.
He says that when he chooses to decorate his party with them, they represent the privileged, comfortable majority, Israel’s “owners.” But by his lights, it is not the minority that needs protection but rather this majority, which views itself as deprived. That’s how Bennett and Habayit Hayehudi interpret democracy, and as a result their candidates represent Israel’s most privileged people.
At the same time, there’s a need to whine in order to justify the claim of persecution. Magal, like a real man, can also cry. He cries, does he ever, and without apology, for he is a J-e-w and everyone knows that Jews in Israel are discriminated against in every way, while the labor migrants, the local Arabs, the Palestinians and the poor children are just having a ball.
Elections are not decided by logic or by facts on the ground. Elections are won with scare tactics. Bennett learned from the best, from Benjamin Netanyahu, and now he has his own team of scary-nice blue-eyed people: MK Ayelet Shaked, the settler from Efrat Ronen Shoval and the former Channel 1 news anchor and former military correspondent Magal. The main thing is that they are oh so Jewish. What else do they bring to the table? Their princely qualities. These are the alternative Likud princes, the updated version of the Ashkenazi Likud elite. Bennett will ride their carriage to the Prime Minister’s Office.