Opinion |

Eulogizing Bibi, Once Again

The center-left continually claims the end of the Netanyahu era. But a future cannot be built on desperate dreams, eulogies and efforts to be more right wing than the right wing

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister office in Jerusalem, Sunday, October 28, 2018.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister office in Jerusalem, Sunday, October 28, 2018.Credit: Oded Bality/AP

How touching the center-left camp is. In its despair it will grasp any statement made against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, building castles in the air. Be it MKs Tzipi Livni and Shelly Yacimovich at the Knesset's memorial ceremony for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, disgruntled Likud activist Orna Peretz from Kiryat Shmona, the president, the TV presenter scorned by the Netanyahus’ son – they all mark the end of the Netanyahu era. Supposedly.

For two decades now this camp is sitting in the bleachers and interpreting a reality that time after time turns out to be fabricated. So it was in 1996, and then again in 2015, when MK Isaac Herzog made a mistake in talking about a united Jerusalem and pledged "to keep Netanyahu united," and so it is now. Hopes and aspirations rely on political anecdotes from the past. Orna Peretz’s “Bibi, look me in the eye,” recalls former Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai in 1997. It seems that even the right wing has had enough of the divisive prime minister.

In fact, there isn't even the slightest connection between those days and today. The public atmosphere in which Netanyahu operated during his early years as prime minister is very different than today's. Likud of those days belongs to history; its past leaders are now considered leftist traitors. Except for a few Israel haters, the media mostly serves big money and government. Netanyahu has his own newspaper and TV channel, and social media is abuzz, and in his favor, with wild incitement that he “knows nothing about.”

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The massacre in the Pittsburgh synagogue and the election victory of fascist Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil show that the change that is underway is closely connected to events around the globe. In both cases, the connection to Israel is horrifying.

In the streets of Brazil people celebrated the rise of the new president – who in 1999 called for citizens to be massacred and told a congresswoman that he wouldn’t even bother raping her – with models of guns and Israeli flags.

In the United States, on CNBC, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer praised President Donald Trump for his love of Israel, and ignored the 57-percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents in America since the beginning of the term of this president, who is now boasting that he is a nationalist, and as we recall, also praised the “good people” of Charlottesville.

To top it off, Dermer accused campus activists who oppose the occupation of anti-Semitism, and thus put them on the same footing as the murderer in Pittsburgh, and evaded the question of whether what went on there had been an act of terror, when it is clear that had the murderer been a Muslim, Dermer would not have hesitated.

It is clear that Netanyahu is not alone. The world is now full of "friends of Israel” who are fascist, contentious and racist, who are crushing the liberal democracies that once existed here for a time. This is apparently the beginning of an era, not the end. Such regimes survive for many years with broad public support. One needn't go back and recall history; examples are not lacking today either.

And let’s say Netanyahu, his wife and his son do leave the scene. Who will we be left with? With former Likudnik Gideon Sa’ar, and Habayit Hayehudi’s Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked? And with the same nationalists, sanctification of the settlements, deepening of the occupation, crushing of social solidarity, widening of gaps and decimation of the justice system.

Netanyahu is not falling, and the same folks now organizing within the Labor Party will make him laugh just as Herzog himself did. On desperate dreams, eulogies and efforts to be more right wing than the right wing – a future is not built. People who care about this place should roll up their sleeves and stubbornly, one step at a time, build an alternative. In the end, after all, we’ll have to build a new home here on the ruins.

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