Opinion

Bibi Loyalists Aren't Blind. They Simply Want Netanyahu

File photo: A laborer hangs up a Likud campaign banner depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, March 28, 2019.
Ammar Awad/Reuters

It’s actually the people who loathe Benjamin Netanyahu, the ones who feel tortured under his perpetual rule, who were furious about the complications Kahol Lavan’s campaign encountered over the last few days. After an excellent week of attacks over the submarine affair that appeared to have succeeded in putting Netanyahu under pressure – or in other words, after we felt we could finally glimpse a piece of the promised land – the rocket on the Wolf family’s home came along and stole the agenda, and with it, the generals’ crushing attack.

Haaretz Weekly Episode 20Haaretz

Kahol Lavan proved unable to respond to the security situation at the very moment when central Israel was being attacked and at least half of all Israelis were tensely staying close to their bomb shelters in case they’d have to run to them in the middle of the night with their sleeping children. Israel, which vanquished large armies on its own, is quivering in the face of a violent organization that is dictating its agenda – bizarre conduct that reached its peaked during the years of Netanyahu’s rule.

>> Read more: Seven issues that will decide the Israeli election | Analysis ■ If you're still voting Netanyahu after this rocket, you're thinking like Hamas | Opinion

In this field, the field of responding to attacks on Israel, no prime minister has ever been more leftist than Netanyahu. Try for a moment to imagine what would have happened had a missile been launched at Tel Aviv when David Ben-Gurion, Ehud Barak or Ehud Olmert were sitting in the Prime Minister’s Office. In the face of “this weakness” – which, being almost as much of a sworn pacifist as Netanyahu, I cling to with both hands – the ex-Mapai (precursor of the Labor Party) voters are going out of their minds.

What drives them craziest is that Netanyahu’s most zealous loyalists – the people who held violent demonstrations against terror attacks when a leftist government was in power, under the auspices of none other than militant opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu – have suddenly turned into doves who “accept the rockets with love,” as one resident of Sderot said on television as she confessed her deep love for Bibi.

On an evening when Hamas made a mockery of speculation about another cease-fire, another Sderot resident, whose house took a direct rocket hit, was interviewed. He said his middle son is being treated for anxiety attacks. When Channel 12 News reporter Tamir Steinman asked him what he thought should be done about the situation, he responded, “I leave that to Bibi. He knows what he’s doing. He’s sensible.”

Another entertaining video clip broadcast on the Kan 11 channel showed a Jerusalem vegetable seller whose performance may explain the whole story. When he didn’t know he was being filmed, he mocked Netanyahu’s imperial behavior and said that he, unlike Netanyahu’s son Yair, couldn’t afford to blow 5,000 shekels ($1,400) a night on strippers. But when the television crew told him “This is for television,” he smiled and said, “So Bibi, we love you, nothing will help them! You’ll be Israel’s next prime minister!”

The temptation for ex-Mapai voters to mock people like this and call them stupid is great. But the intensity of the cursing merely reflects the intensity of the frustration.

Even the reviled Bibi loyalists know who they are dealing with. They recognize his stinginess and his cowardice, the simple fact that the man isn’t capable of taking any action because he doesn’t want to risk paying for it – in both senses of the word. Moreover, they recognize his venom, his incitement, his descent into the sewers and his lying. Not only do these qualities not bother them, but in their heart of hearts, they rather admire them.

This is the syntax of guerilla politics, anarchism and victimhood. The slogan that was chosen for his campaign – “Davka Netanyahu,” a Hebrew word that can mean “just to spite” – is brilliant, because it reflects not only the contrarian act being performed by his voters, who haven’t been redeemed from their victimhood and defiance by 40 years in power, but also reflects their inner consciousness. So even though he’s a stingy Ashkenazi leftist and a coward, they want him, davka him.

You can’t blame the truly good people in Kahol Lavan. It’s not their campaign; it’s an undercurrent so deep and so instinctive that the ground above it – that is rational reality – is simply collapsing under its force. And it doesn’t matter how many Moroccan Jews the Labor Party appoints to its leadership.