Opinion |

Aren’t You Sick and Tired Yet of Netanyahu's Scare Tactics?

The prime minister launched a preemptive strike against both the submarine affair that threatened to drown him and against the firefighting failures that quickly surfaced.

Uri Misgav
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his way to survey fires, November 22, 2016.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his way to survey fires, November 22, 2016.Credit: Emil Salman
Uri Misgav

The recent wave of fires made it very clear: The Israel of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has become a place of despair for the thinking, humane democrat. It has become intolerable to live here with open eyes and an open heart. This time he didn’t even need the periodic war in order to incite and ignite. He and his courtiers rushed to attack the flames, armed with black windbreakers and causing a lot of commotion.

The State Comptroller’s report on the Carmel fires was neither implemented nor properly internalized. No Fire and Rescue Services commissioner has been appointed for the past six months. The Israeli firefighting squadron was established crookedly, based on another controversial acquisitions deal. Given these starting conditions, Netanyahu decided to land a preemptive strike. A double spin: both against the submarine-missile ships affair that threatened to drown him, and against the firefighting failures that quickly surfaced.

Like a one-trick pony, he turned to the only living space where he really feels comfortable. Based on unnamed sources in the security services, he dreamed up the concept of “arson terror.” Once again, the Arabs were arriving in droves. He was quickly joined by the public security minister, who is directly in charge of the Fire and Rescue Services, and of course by the education minister, a pyromaniac and cynic, in a series of demagogical tweets and posts that besmirched an entire population – as though his ministry was not also responsible for hundreds of thousands of Arab students and teachers.

Also making an appearance in the war room and at the scene of the action was Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, though it’s not clear whether on behalf of culture or of sports. The unbelievable result: While Jews and Arabs were fighting the fires throughout the country, including firefighters from the Palestinian Authority and equipment that streamed in from Egypt, Jordan and Turkey, an irresponsible government made sure to ignite the flames of racism and ultranationalism.

Then came the turn of the planes. Again the “phone call to my friend [Greek Prime Minister Alexis] Tsipras,” as though this was a private matter between emperors rather than necessary cooperation between sovereign governments. Once again, that supertanker from the Google search. So what if the plane has registered only a few operational forays in the world since the last time. So what if its operational instructions require landing and refueling in a large airport, while in narrow-waisted coastal countries like Israel it’s more logical to use planes that can draw water from the sea by themselves.

When the firefighters refused to use the unnecessary supertanker, the arm-twisting of Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich’s police force began, a force that is beginning to look like Netanyahu’s personal guard. It ended with two demonstration sorties for the purpose of public relations and in order to justify the waste of millions, while the rest of the time the plane circled Israel’s skies without serving any purpose.

In the evening “my wife Sara” was sent into the battle. A press release reported that she had “cleared her schedule” in order to thank the firefighters; she also participated in a Torah scroll ceremony at a synagogue opened in a fire station. Everything is kosher when it comes to another gesture designed for the target audience.

As the flames subsided, the farce came to a climax. Suddenly it turns out that although there were 1,300 fires on both sides of the Green Line, only a few suspects were detained for deliberate arson. Not a single indictment has been served as yet. When there is a need to back up the belligerent declarations about hostile behavior for the insurance companies and property taxes, terror remains an orphan. The police are unwilling to take responsibility for it. Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennet also disappeared and were struck dumb.

Just as in the story of Operation Protective Edge, which was declared an existential war until the moment it became necessary to bear the financial consequences of that declaration. Generations of local satirists, from Ephraim Kishon to Hanoch Levin and Uzi Weill, couldn’t have written it better.

All that remains is to turn to the Israelis, regardless of their political, religious and ethnic affiliation, and to ask in despair: Aren’t you sick and tired of the fact that this terrible man and his yes-men are deceiving you and leaving scorched earth behind them?

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