Bibistan vs. Israel

In Netanyahu's eyes, the media, the military and the courts are all in on the plot against him

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the naval base in Haifa, February 12, 2019.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the naval base in Haifa, February 12, 2019.Credit: Elad Gershgoren

A Yasur helicopter sits on the helipad, engines roaring, propellers whirling. Inside pilots, flight mechanics and security guards sit waiting. But Benjamin Netanyahu is busy filming a video for Twitter.

“I’m about to take off from here, from Jerusalem, to the naval base in Haifa and I would really like to take you with me inside the base, but they have this strange rule – you’re not allowed to be filmed with soldiers.” Who are “they”? “They” is the Central Election Committee which banned him from continuing to use IDF soldiers as props in his election campaign. “They” is the state.

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Netanyahu has declared war on the state. This is what the election is really about. It’s not Netanyahu versus Gantz and Lapid and Gabbay; it’s not right versus left, or right versus the soft right or the center-right. It’s Bibistan versus Israel. One side still refuses to see this; the other side is already two thousand steps ahead of it.

Netanyahu has launched an all-out war. To him, the end of his rule equals the end of the world, so the precept of “kill or be killed” applies. He now speaks about “Israel” and “the people of Israel” without the state. The state is excess, unwanted baggage. It has turned rotten and stabbed him in the back. The judicial system is controlled by the left, or at least – as in the case of the kippa-wearing Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, his former cabinet secretary – feebly surrenders to pressure from the left. The police department is sick (to quote his son from this past weekend) and likes to frame people. The media is part of the plot too, which is why Netanyahu established his own private television channel on which a paid court jester interviews volunteer court jesters. And he’s already bought a $200 million private jet.

Maybe soon Netanyahu will also found his own private police force or armed militia. For he doesn’t really like the IDF all that much, only “IDF soldiers” – because they’re the key to the Israeli electorate’s heart and soul. But he’s always felt rather alien among the army top brass. When he recently tried to pull his usual propaganda shtick on the new IDF chief of staff and offered, during a patrol for the cameras, to send jeeps with machine guns into the alleyways of the refugee camps, without missing a beat, Lieutenant General Kochavi knocked down the idea, on camera as well. The day is not far off when Netanyahu will have had it with all the generals too. Gantz was chief of staff under him, and Netanyahu’s already thrown him to the dogs, accusing him of having abandoned Madhat Yusuf to bleed to death at the outbreak of the second intifada.

Netanyahu is besotted with the American right’s theory of the “deep state.” He’s still beaming from Trump’s victory and his own victory in the last election, thanks to “the Arabs streaming to the polls.” It made him realize that anything goes, all methods are acceptable. His son whips up social media with appalling material and Ku Klux Klan-type jargon (“A pure Jewess was raped and murdered”), while he urges the right-wing parties to merge with Baruch Marzel and Benzi Gopstein so the Kahanist votes won’t go down the drain, and so they’ll be given due expression in the next Knesset and his next government.

Astonishingly, his collaborators are rising from the depths of the consensus. They see what he is doing but still declare from the start that they will bow to him. Not only Dery, the known criminal, but also the spineless Kahlon, and Bennett and Sa’ar.

One could easily be drawn into analyzing the roots of Netanyahu’s estrangement from the establishment that rejected his father, or into pondering whether it’s all due to weakness or narcissism or a persecution complex or just pure evil. That would be a fascinating academic discussion, but there’s no time for that now.

When you see a totally unrestrained man heading your way to wreak havoc, first you stop him and only later do you sit down and try to understand his motivations. If the State of Israel doesn’t wake up to fight for its life against Netanyahu, it will be wiped off the map.