If you ask why Likud MKs remain loyal to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even though he gets hysterical and abuses them at every opportunity, the answer is simple: Until now Netanyahu has managed to give them jobs in government and provide them with social status and a livelihood, and until he starts failing at this there’s no point in abandoning him. (For the latest election polls – click here)
That’s also the case with most of the Labor MKs, who have generally remained silently behind Amir Peretz, even though his decisions pose a real threat to the party’s continued existence. There, too, the other options are very limited, and even though the Democratic Union would accept them happily, they prefer to hope for heavenly mercy rather than shake up their daily routine. The fact that they are risking three Knesset seats for the left that are liable to drop under the electoral threshold – or even worse, provide four seats that could save Netanyahu – is apparently not important enough to spur them to action. That in itself is a clear indication of decline.
If for most MKs, right or left, the most important thing is their imaginary careers, the motives of those who support Likud or Kahol Lavan are a lot more interesting. Likud voters, who for more than 40 years were members of the lower-middle class, improved their situation under the Likud regime and turned into a middle class capable of buying homes and cars and traveling abroad. From their perspective Likud has fulfilled its most important promises, and they have no reason to stop supporting the party.
Kahol Lavan voters, on the other hand, who were and remain middle class, have already passed the stage of being enthralled by the purchase of consumer goods considered basic in any democratic society; the Likud government only burdens them by leaving the Palestinian problem unresolved and by funneling huge budgets to the settlements and the ultra-Orthodox.
But even if they would try to somehow ignore those two annoying aspects, there’s one thing they will not agree to yield on. What is most important to them is certainty regarding the arrangements and procedures by which society is governed. The public behavior of deceit, falsehood and the constant undermining of the systems of law and order threaten their personal security and their ability to organize their lives much more than any external military threat, which they’ve learned to deal with relatively well.
This is the main reason for the broad rebellion against the Netanyahu regime. The indictments (subject to a hearing) and the revelations every day about Netanyahu and his people’s norms of conduct – norms that could, based on what’s being revealed about the submarine affair, lead to serious damage not just to the integrity of government but to Israelis’ physical security – are shocking to those who are no longer preoccupied merely with fulfilling their basic needs, but who are at the next stage of social development: They now need personal security that’s based on public honesty, law and order.
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It’s not diplomatic issues for which solutions still haven’t been found that are motivating Netanyahu’s opponents, and certainly not a philosophy of social equality that directly conflicts with the economic ambitions of most of the Israeli public. It’s the understanding that the behavior of Netanyahu and his associates, including his family, is leading to total social chaos in which Israeli citizens cannot be sure of their future – that is what is leading them to vigorously oppose the current government. We must hope that today there are also Likud voters, or those on the right in general, who understand the importance of criticism of Netanyahu and are prepared to support it.