Another Round of Israeli Elections Would Be a Waste of Money

Carolina Landsmann
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Netanyahu sings alongside Israeli star Eden Ben-Zaken, December 2020.
Carolina Landsmann

When Barack Obama became the first American president to visit Cuba after 90 years, many remembered the joke that the United States would resume relations with Cuba on the day the U.S. president would be Black and the pope would be Latin American. The joke became a fulfilled prophecy: the U.S. and Cuba resumed diplomatic relations when a Black president lived in the White House and Argentine Pope Francis was the sovereign of Vatican City.

What’s happening in Israel now also feels like a flashback of a tripping Shimon Peres after an ayahuasca ceremony he attended in the late ’80s. The blogger John Brown put it like this: “Tarantino is changing diapers in Tel Aviv, Mansour Abbas joins up with Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu], Beitar Jerusalem is Muslim-owned, everyone wears a mask outside because of a pandemic. A really weird season for a series.” He only forgot to mention all the galabiya-wearing rightists in the gulf and the pictures of Netanyahu holding a reception ceremony for vaccines as if they were Gilad Shalit. And we haven’t even seen the real winner of “The Maskless Singer” reality show yet: Mr. Prime Minister in the flesh, in an over-the-top duet with Israeli pop star Eden Ben Zaken, singing the Hapoel Jerusalem basketball club’s anthem in our faces. He’s got love and he will win.

Why Israel’s anti-Bibi left is so lost – and chasing yet another general as its Messiah. LISTEN

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Oh, that Bibi. What are we going to do with him? How does he pull it off time after time? The week we saw Gideon Sa’ar giving birth to himself with forceps and no epidural, and Lucy Aharish and Tzachi Halevy sang like nobody’s listening, danced like nobody’s watching and loved like they’d never been abused by Lehava and co. activists, while Netanyahu succeeded – again – to live like this place was heaven on earth. Cross your heart and hope to die, at this stage of the game you have to take your hat off to him. The man doesn’t give in, doesn’t bend, doesn’t get scratched, doesn’t even sneeze. What, hasn’t he heard that the Netanyahu era is over?

Yes, this isn’t a game and life isn’t a movie – no argument about that. And yet, there’s something in the love Netanyahu manages to generate in his supporters – that is heartwarming in itself. It’s hard to remain indifferent to it. Give me another politician in Israel who could take part in the video with Ben Zaken and come out in one piece. Go to YouTube and see the comments: It’s a love story. Never mind why they vote for him – why do they love him so much? Netanyahu has that ingredient that some people have. It can’t be imitated, so it’s futile to even try.

I watched Gideon Sa’ar’s performance and hid my face with shame. For him. Not because of what he said – what does it even matter, everyone says the same thing. He was simply so shrunken with effort to remember his body language choreography. Who was his instructor for standing in front of a camera, Hanoch Rosen? It’s not body language they taught you Gideon, it’s pantomime.

What persuaded Sa’ar into thinking that if he doesn’t fold his arms when he talks about the nation’s unity, we won’t get what he means, and that if he doesn’t beat his chest with his fist, we won’t think he’s speaking from the heart? Yes, it’s true, Netanyahu studied all these tricks in the United States. We heard. So what? He did it before we knew he was doing it. And when we understood, it was too late – he’s as fluent in body language as in his mother tongue.

The overall cost of another election campaign is estimated at 3.8 billion shekels. After the past week, I admit the thought crossed my mind that it’s a waste of money.

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