One shouldn’t fear a fifth election or be concerned about another round, if that becomes the default option. For two years, a war of attrition has been going on in Israel. This is a tough battle, waged by Benjamin Netanyahu and his supporters against the nation and the state. Netanyahu has failed four times in his attempts to form a stable and functioning government. Israel used to tout the fact that it was the only democracy in the Middle East. It may still be so, but it’s a dysfunctional democracy which has become the butt of ridicule around the world.
All of this is the result of Netanyahu and his family’s clinging to the horns of the altar. They aren’t relinquishing their hold and are unwilling to give up the power that comes with the leader’s job. Their conduct, backed by the unstinting support of the followers of the “Bibi cult” and the leaders of the ultra-Orthodox parties with their vested interests, does not stem from some worldview, idealism or ideals. This is only related to the matter of holding onto the reins of power.
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Any concession in the political struggle against Netanyahu “for the benefit of the state” is merely a surrender to extortion. We saw this when Netanyahu asked Benny Gantz “to shoulder the burden.” Gantz, out of innocence, folly or some combination of the two, stepped up to the plate but quickly realized that Netanyahu was missing and was only taking advantage of Gantz’s contribution, ordering everyone around while taking it easy himself, enjoying life during the nation’s arduous journey while gathering strength for the next leg.
If Netanyahu and his followers really cared about this country, especially in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, they would have adopted the words of John F. Kennedy in his inspiring inauguration speech delivered 60 years ago, in January 1961, in which he said: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
Netanyahu doesn’t care about this country, only about himself and his few close associates, mainly his wife and two sons. Underpinning this is his concern about his trial, which could end up with a prison sentence or at least with community service. If he really cared about this country’s citizens and the future of Israel, he would understand that he is the logjam stalling this country. If he were really a leader of the caliber of the character he claims to admire, Winston Churchill, he would have taken the right decision ages ago and left his official residence, retiring to his home in Caesarea.
However, the chance of Netanyahu doing so ranges from extremely unlikely to non-existent. He is a self-loving narcissist who has adopted royal trappings and a hedonistic lifestyle, convincing himself that he is the messiah, that only he can save Israel. He forgot a saying attributed to De Gaulle – that the graveyards are full of irreplaceable people.
Which is why his political rivals must not give up. Yair Lapid, Benny Gantz, Avigdor Lieberman, Gideon Sa’ar and Naftali Bennett must not join Netanyahu. They must form a government, any government. If necessary, with the Joint List or the United Arab List, or at least with their support. Even a minority government, as long as it can’t be toppled by a no-confidence vote in the Knesset. The sole objective is to make Netanyahu depart. All the rest is negligible. Mutatis mutandis. In 1936 Leon Blum set up his Popular Front government, a union of all political forces on the left, to block a greater threat looming over France. This needs to happen here and now. Netanyahu is dangerous to Israel’s democracy and future.
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I’m almost convinced that Lapid, Lieberman, Sa’ar and Gantz, who are familiar with Netanyahu’s tricks and shticks, are more determined than ever this time. Bennett is the weak link here. The bloc must place Lapid at its head.
For the sake of full disclosure, I must say that I see myself as a leftist, a social democrat, a patriot who believes that Israel must be strong in its ability to defend itself. I first voted in 1969, during my military service in Sinai. I cast a ballot for the left-winger Uri Avnery. Since then, I’ve always voted for Meretz or its main predecessor, Ratz, except once, in 1988, when the socialist Mapam ran for the last time as an independent party. Last week I voted for Yesh Atid.
Lapid, despite his weak points and drawbacks – no one is perfect, right? – has matured into his current role. He exhibited magnanimity and graciousness while yielding Kahol Lavan’s top spot to Gantz. He radiated resolve while refusing to join him in Netanyahu’s government. He demonstrated political wisdom and responsibility when he refrained from attacking Meretz, Labor and Kahol Lavan and siphoning off votes from these parties just before the recent election. He realized that the size of the bloc is no less important than that of his own party.
Forming the next government won’t be an easy task. Nerves of steel will be needed, as well as a spine and tenacity. Lapid has proved he has these qualities.
Since a war of attrition is being waged here by Netanyahu, one has to conduct oneself accordingly. In attrition as in attrition. One has to continue wearing Netanyahu down. One mustn’t be afraid of threats that Israel couldn’t bear another election campaign. Indeed, everything must be done to try and avoid another round, but only on condition that Netanyahu departs. If he can’t form a government, one mustn’t blink or be deterred by the possibility of a fifth election in two and a half years. It’s time Netanyahu and his supporters to be the ones to get worn down.