I, Benjamin Netanyahu, Hereby Declare...

Carolina Landsmann
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Har Homa neighborhood in Jerusalem, February 2020
Carolina Landsmann

Joint List lawmaker Ahmad Tibi doesn’t hide the enjoyment he’s deriving from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s courtship of the Arab community. “Netanyahu is capable of walking around in a galabiya and calling himself Haj Abu Yair and selling kanafeh,” a traditional Palestinian dessert, he told the Walla news website last week.

Tibi hasn’t forgotten Netanyahu’s years of incitement against the Arab community. “Now he’s starting to fall in love with them,” he teased.

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But after laughing at and doubting the sincerity of the rehabilitated racist’s intentions, he unintentionally formulated a test to see how serious this momentous courtship really is: “If this love is real, he should kindly repeal the nation-state law and the ‘Kaminitz Law’ [on illegal construction in Arab communities], which he was the driving force behind, and retract his inflammatory statements. And then we’ll see whether this is the same Netanyahu.”

Netanyahu himself seems to be enjoying every minute. He’s lost interest in his captive electorate and is challenging himself with new audiences.

This is understandable. How many years can one spend getting excited over more or less one Knesset seat’s worth of votes in Dimona or a coalition with his “natural partners”? After all, they’ll vote for him in any case. It’s not like during the early years of their relationship, when Netanyahu felt he had to exert himself to secure his voters.

Nothing compares to the pleasure of capturing hard-to-get new electorates. Recently, he’s been acting like someone who has returned to the electoral meat market. He’s always been strong on social media, and now he has even joined TikTok. Has anyone checked if he’s on Tinder?

Look at how the color has returned to his cheeks. Look at how he’s slimmed down. Look at his new black suits. The man has taken at least 10 years off his age – it’s a real makeover.

Netanyahu seems like someone who wants a change. “Just as I brought four peace agreements, and now you see Jews embracing Arabs in Dubai, why shouldn’t it happen here? Why shouldn’t they be part of the ruling party?” he asked members of his Likud party two weeks ago.

That’s what he wants – to hug and sing songs by Arik Einstein. “We have love and it will win,” as one of Einstein’s lyrics says. Love, Netanyahu thinks, is the whole story, and he’s full of nostalgia for the things that influenced him in his youth.

“I believe in Jabotinsky’s doctrine, that we need to give full rights to every citizen of Israel,” he said, referring to the rightist pre-state Zionist intellectual Ze’ev Jabotinsky. “We’re asking Arab citizens – this time, vote for us.”

There’s nothing like Jabotinsky at night. Where are the good old days, when we read Jabotinsky and hugged and the whole future lay ahead of us?

And really, why not? If you’re doing it, Bibi, then go all the way and say the following: “Citizens of Israel, I’ve recently visited Arab towns and encountered a wonderful community that’s eager to open a new era in relations with us. I’ve spoken with them. I’ve listened to their pain. I’ve felt their humiliation.

“We enacted the nation-state law to ensure the foundation of our existence – Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. But the result is that we undermined the sense of belonging of a fifth of the country’s citizens. This wasn’t the legislature’s intention.

“Therefore, we have to take a step back and work to repeal the law. Israel is self-confident enough to make do with its old identity card, the Declaration of Independence.”

Entre nous, few things give Netanyahu more pleasure than driving the center-left crazy. And what’s left for him after he’s driven us mad by emulating Shimon Peres in the Middle East?

Granted, he’ll always have Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz. He may yet reserve a spot for him on Likud’s ticket just for the fun of seeing Gantz’s former supporters go out of their minds with frustration.

But that’s just peanuts, a mere appetizer for the main course. Just imagine what would happen if he were the one to sign off on the repeal of the nation-state law.

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