The political battle in Israel has gone from the grotesque phase to the psychotic. It began with criminal suspicions against Benjamin Netanyahu and a lethargic center left that had lost its way, found a target to rage against and inflate to monstrous proportions – Netanyahu, yes or no? — and is continuing with the insane verbal violence of the pro-Bibi right. What the two sides have in common is wild exaggeration and a disconnect from reality. At first it was amusing, slightly less so as it continues.
There’s no difference between the apocalyptic prophecies of the two camps. If Netanyahu stops being prime minister, it’s the end of the world. If Netanyahu remains in office, it’s the end of civilization. Neither side will settle for anything less. The Holocaust even stars in both visions — Netanyahu the Nazi, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan the Nazi.
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There are verbal bullies on both sides, though the gutter language of the right is inferior and more threatening than that of the center left. “We beat the Germans and we’ll beat everyone who persecutes you” from the right; Netanyahu with a Hitler moustache and a swastika from the left. Turkey and North Korea have come to Israel, for both. Right-wing activist Ran Karmi Buzaglo threatens: “Don’t mess with us. You can’t handle it. Do yourself a favor.” For his part, Uri Misgav predicts: “It will end in a murder. Netanyahu and [Justice Minister Amir] Ohana are inciting a physical attack on Nitzan and [Deputy State Prosecutor for Financial Crimes] Liat Ben-Ari” (Haaretz Hebrew, November 27). Help! We’re on the verge of civil war. Troop deployment are beginning.
The reality is much more yawn-inducing. That’s how it is when there is an ideological vacuum in both camps. They put up strawmen to fight against and make them seem like an existential threat. Netanyahu on one side and the prosecutor’s office and media on the other, to each its enemy. And anyone who has been ridiculing the right-wing protests would do well to look at remarks countering them, which at times are no less ridiculous.
Reality goes like this: An indictment was filed against the prime minister. He’s not the most corrupt politician in the history of Israel, but it's still enough for him to resign immediately. The law enforcement system is doing its job the best it can. Netanyahu’s end will be coming soon. It won’t be followed by a new era. Reality is being distorted by both sides for its own ends. Netanyahu is a god for one, the devil for the other. But he’s actually neither.
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His corruption is less serious than it’s made out to be, and the prosecution is also not what the right accuses it of being. The danger to the only democracy in the Middle-East is less than what either side claims. In any event, the regime in Israel cannot be considered democratic, since one-third of its subjects live under a cruel military dictatorship.
Advocates of the rule of law, who are so concerned about the future of the judiciary, are obscuring that ongoing betrayal to its position. But even those who fear for the democracy that exists for Jews can calm down. The indictment against the prime minister has been issued. Netanyahu will be prosecuted. No attempt at incitement or diversion will change a thing.
And in the meantime, the only question Israel cares about is the future of its prime minister. Nothing else matters. That’s what a concerted public effort, a “woke” civil society, a crusading media, have to show for themselves.
And perhaps that’s the hidden agenda of the storm in which Israel finds itself. Instead of engaging with the issues that will shape the face and the future of the state, we’re engaging with Netanyahu. And exactly what will happen to Israel on the day after? The political center will jump in the fountain in the town square. The right will put on sackcloth and ashes. And then what? Will we be in a different state? Absolutely not.
This is what Uri Misgav wrote, in the typical understatement of the center left, about Netanyahu’s situation: “The election slogan needs to be ’We’re saving the country.’ It will be made clear in advance that we’re in an emergency situation… Stop being afraid and sowing despair and fear. There’s hunger and rage in the camp, and on the other side, there are signs that it has had enough and is tired, along with internal division and a loss of direction… Fear not, Israel.”
What a relief. The state has been saved. Democracy has survived. And the Messiah is on his way.