On Tuesday morning, members of the Darkenu movement for civil society placed a coffin in Habima Square in Tel Aviv, plastered with the slogan: “Stopping the incitement, preventing the next assassination.” The purpose, they explained, was to “remind” those in the demonstration planned for that evening that “one prime minster was already assassinated due to political incitement, and it is our duty to do everything to ensure another political assassination doesn’t happen.”
Not surprisingly, the demonstrators and their leaders were not swayed by this: The statements and slogans that were heard that evening echoed those that featured so prominently in Israel in 1995, and were sometimes even more extreme.
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Back then, the Rabin government was called a “Vichy government.” On Tuesday, Miri Regev proclaimed Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition a “terror government … the first Palestinian government.” A quarter of a century ago, Benjamin Netanyahu berated Rabin, saying that “your government is more removed from Jewish values than any government we’ve ever had.” On Tuesday, Dr. Shlomo Karhi told the cheering crowd that the present government is “anti-Jewish” and aims “to sever the Jewish people’s connection with its heritage.” Rabin was denounced for “not having a mandate” because he didn’t have a “Jewish majority.” The same goes for Bennett, and even worse: Rabin may have talked with the PLO, but Bennett is a Hamas collaborator.
The parallels are all the more intriguing because the policies of the Rabin government in the 1990s and the current government couldn’t be more different.
Rabin signed an agreement with Yasser Arafat to divide the land – a groundbreaking move that half the country viewed as the road to hell. Under the circumstances, it was understandable why passions on the right were inflamed. The Bennett-Lapid government, on the other hand, is a government of diplomatic paralysis – no withdrawal of any kind is on the agenda and there isn’t the slightest possibility of a peace agreement being reached with the Palestinians. For God’s sake, there aren’t even any negotiations underway with them.
So why are we hearing Bennett’s opponents say that he is dividing Jerusalem, turning Israel into “a state of all its citizens” and putting the state budget in the service of Yahya Sinwar? What made an ostensibly intelligent politician like Galit Distal Atbaryan shout from the podium that “the Jewish state is slipping through our fingers for the benefit of Hamas”?
Apparently, Netanyahu and his henchmen in Likud and the media have concluded that whatever legitimate complaints they have aren’t sufficient to stir up a mass protest that will topple the government, which is their chief aim right now. Therefore, rather than stick to stating the truth (Bennett tricked his voters when he joined forces with United Arab List), they fabricate sensational lies (Bennett is transferring our tax money to Hamas via the UAL).
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There are lots of people who love and revere Netanyahu, and believe his stories about being framed. Even so, there’s a limit to how many people will take to the streets in protest because of holes in Ilan Yeshua’s testimony. Thus, with all due respect to the banner “Framers of Case 4000 to Justice!” carried by one demonstrator and making the move from Habima Square and filling Rabin Square, more messages along the lines of “Oslo Criminals to Justice!” are needed. That is why Distal Atbaryan insisted that “it’s not Netanyahu under attack, but rather Zionism and Jewish identity.”
The truth, of course, is that Netanyahu is under attack, but things are pretty boring as far as Zionism and Jewish identity are concerned.
At Tuesday’s demonstration, it was distressing to see people who had toiled over handwritten signs with patently false messages, such as “Disaster Government Giving Our Money to Terror” or “Abbas-Hamas Government Funding Terrorists” fervently waving them even after the politicians and journalists who put this lie in their heads have recanted them.
And just as Regev declared, “We are the people of the light, they are the people of darkness,” I noticed at the edge of the square a sign identical to one I’d once seen at the left-wing anti-Netanyahu protests outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem. Taken from an Arik Einstein song, the line is apparently one of the few things about which there is still a consensus in Israel, a line that roughly translates: “O, my homeland, you’re going down the tubes.”