Another election round now appears a most likely scenario, but even that won’t extract Israel from the political dead end it’s in. What neither side succeeded in doing three times is not likely to be achieved on the fourth.
The center-left has no leader who can stand up as a worthy opponent to Benjamin Netanyahu. Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi took a grenade blast, as far as they’re concerned, to save the country. Yair Lapid, who is doing a good job as opposition leader, has a rigid glass ceiling above his head. Netanyahu has a clear interest in positioning him as a rival, as the mutual fathers’ exhumation in the confrontation between them in the Knesset has shown.
If any votes leak from Netanyahu, they will mostly flow to Yamina. However, even a considerable surge in Naftali Bennett’s power, and even an Oedipal dispatch of Netanyahu – that is, recommending someone else, even himself, to form a government, despite the wishes of some of his voters who still see Netanyahu as the right’s leader – won’t do the job.
Netanyahu shouldn’t be envied either. An election in the midst of an unexpected storm like the coronavirus pandemic, together with a bloodthirsty feud on the right in the form of Bennett, are not the most coveted lottery cards in the kiosk.
A fourth election round will very likely lead to exactly the same place – and that’s what’s so disheartening. The feeling of being stuck.
But when it comes to the political crisis in Israel, which has been going on for a year and a half, the feeling of being stuck is only the skin on the surface – because things aren’t frozen or suspended in a vacuum. Under this heavy swamp, under the tired despair of repeated elections, under the exhausting coalition negotiations and the lies and swindling of the Netanyahu family, lurks in submissive silence the anticipation of the next murder.
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Netanyahu’s supporters are inundated with venom and inconceivable hatred for the rule of law, for the state prosecution, for the attorney general and for the judges. Their hatred’s intensity is reminiscent of the murderous hostility that the Gush Emunim settlers and their partners harbored during the Oslo Accords against Yitzhak Rabin, who didn’t evacuate a single Jew from his home. But he dared to recognize the Palestinian people and even negotiated with the Palestinians on future concessions of parts of the homeland.
The right was never crazy about the legal system, which it always saw as an elitist leftist bastion that brazenly prevents the majority from doing whatever it wants. But what has been going on since the Netanyahu cases came into the world cannot be explained except as a toxic insanity, which will very likely end in disaster.
A large part of the public, perhaps it can be estimated at about half, has been convinced beyond all doubt that the law enforcement agencies are framing Netanyahu for no reason but to politically assassinate their leaders.
The deep state mania imported from Trumpist America has received violent local nuances. Senior officials like Avichai Mendelblit and Liat Ben Ari have become targets of tangible threats, to which no normal person can remain indifferent. Their families are subjected to harassment, threats and disturbances. This is an insufferable situation of violence as a way of life, as a legitimate operating system.
It’s no coincidence that Netanyahu has targeted the legal system, since it is the one that can end his rule. He eats his political rivals for breakfast but he cannot bewitch the law, if it’s proved that he has violated it. So he is personifying the legal system, giving it names and faces and almost forcibly turning it – that is, its officials – into another political rival, which he can crush.
Netanyahu’s crimes of incitement against the public servants who dared to indict him are worse than those detailed in the cases against him. This time we cannot stand idly by.