Netanyahu Must Curb His Incitement Against 'Traitors' - Before Israel Sees a Rabin Replay

The campaign Netanyahu is leading against Herzog and Livni is nothing short of calling them 'traitors.' Last time he did that, a prime minister was murdered.

Michal Fattal

What’s happening in Israel these days isn’t an election campaign. What’s happening is a campaign against democracy. And the person leading it is the prime minister.

Benjamin Netanyahu is once again claiming, in his own voice and as the main element of his campaign, that the party headed by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni — the party that is leading in the polls — is the “anti-Zionist” camp. Netanyahu was raised in the home of a history professor. Netanyahu lives off words. The word choice here is definitely no accident.

Netanyahu chose to curse them not as “post-Zionists,” “a-Zionists” or even “non-Zionists.” No. Netanyahu is once again hurling charges of “anti-Zionist” — a term that signifies anti-Israel, i.e., someone who wants to destroy Israel. An enemy of Israel.

Or in one word, a “traitor.” The incitement being led by the prime minister has only one meaning: “Livni is a traitor.” “Herzog is a traitor.”

The silence and apathy on the part of the public and the media is incomprehensible, particlularly since we were meant to have learned the lessons from standing on the sidelines two decades ago. Stav Shaffir, Merav Michaeli, Zouheir Bahloul, Prof. Yossi Yonah, who rushed to volunteer for the tank corps during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Mossad operative Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog, a major in the army’s elite Unit 8200, are not the first objects of incitement for Netanyahu, who is trying to turn patriotic rivals into “traitors.” Herzog, after all, was preceded by a major Zionist icon. And had it not been for the silence, there would be no need to explain further.

He was the commander of the pre-state Palmach militia’s Harel Brigade, which lost more than 400 of its 1,000 fighters and suffered almost 500 wounded, leaving less than 100 able-bodied combatants, yet he preserved a Jewish Jerusalem during the most difficult battles of the War of Independence. He was chief of staff during the 1967 Six-Day War, the liberation of the Western Wall and the unification of Jerusalem. But Prime Minister and Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin was slain in the wake of systematic incitement led and orchestrated by Netanyahu.

At the height of the incitement and under his direction, Netanyahu managed to turn a Zionist hero into a figure at which thousands and tens of thousands of people shouted “traitor,” with hoarse throats and leaps of hatred and ecstasy. And continued to the conclusion: “With blood and fire, we will oust Rabin.”

The three gunshots in a Tel Aviv square that followed should — even in a rickety democracy — have been the end of Netanyahu’s political career. He should have been incapable of being elected to even the residents’ committee of an apartment building. Had the mandate of the state commission of inquiry into Rabin’s murder not been scandalously narrowed to encompass the security failures alone — thereby avoiding any investigation into what led to the murder — it’s reasonable to assume that, aside from the public debate, there would have been a criminal probe, one that went beyond Netanyahu’s rabbinical collaborators and partners.

That would have been the likely result of, inter alia, the testimony of those who were sent every Friday to Leah and Yitzhak Rabin’s house to shout, “We’ll hang you like Ceausescu and Mussolini.” They said they were sent by Netanyahu’s right-hand man, the head of the Likud Party’s young guard. But even without an investigation, the public should have responded in the next election. When the opposite happened, and Netanyahu won, Israel became a country in which the fundamental cultural principle of “crime and punishment” was turned on its head.

President Reuven Rivlin and other public figures currently have no job more important. Silence is not an option in the face of the spread of the culture of suppressing “traitors.” What has been revealed by Netanyahu’s planned trip to America — a trip that, with a single blow, has destroyed the possibility of a bipartisan majority for sanctions against Iran, which Netanyahu claims is so important to him — is the simple truth: He has no problem sacrificing even the battle against Iran.

From his standpoint, Israeli patriotism means one thing only — support for his continued tenure as prime minister. And there’s only one sentence for anyone seen as interfering with this objective — to be crucified as a “traitor.” Now, Netanyahu is even inciting his party: “Be men, attack the media.”

In Israel’s government, the source of incitement isn’t a senator like Joseph McCarthy, but the prime minister himself. The question is who here will be the Ed Murrow who will put a halt to the McCarthyist hunt for “traitors,” which destroyed America. If all of Israel’s public figures don’t stand up to stop our national inciter, then Israel’s citizens will have to take on Murrow’s job themselves, on March 17, Election Day.