Israel Is Terrified of Netanyahu's Magic Wearing Off

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Netanyahu attends the swearing-in ceremony of the 22nd Knesset, in Jerusalem October 3, 2019.
Netanyahu attends the swearing-in ceremony of the 22nd Knesset, in Jerusalem October 3, 2019. Credit: \ Ronen Zvulun/ REUTERS

Israel is currently in a very strange situation. Like a rabbit trapped on a highway, with the headlights of an approaching truck blinding it and preventing it from jumping aside and saving its life.

The public is confused and still finding it hard to believe that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu really lost the election, and that the story of Israel spiralling down into the realms of craziness that began with the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is about to end.

After all, that’s the main reason why President Reuven Rivlin proposed to Kahol Lavan the unrealistic plan involving the period of incapacity, which accepts in advance and without question the permanent presence of Netanyahu as the only possible prime minister in Israel. That is also the reason why the bloc of religious-ultra-Orthodox parties has barricaded itself around a hologram in the guise of the premier, who no longer actually exists and is unable to really take them forward.

If we listen to the discussion in the media and social networks, it’s clear that many members of the public have yet to internalize the significance of the revolt of 2.5 million Israeli citizens against the despotic and frenetic rule of Netanyahu and his family, and continue to try to convince others of us that the outcome of the election is not significant and we can carry on from here as usual, as though nothing happened.

Moreover, they seem to grasp even less the dramatic transformation that has taken place in the attitude of local Arab leaders regarding their responsibility as part of Israeli society – and no less important: the emotional change occurring in the attitude of the country’s Jews toward the Arab community as a significant partner in the country as a whole, which is deserving of respect and wholehearted assistance.

The reasons for this strange, hypnotic state are quite clear: The habit of seeing Netanyahu filling every second of our lives with endless tricks has become ingrained in our basic existential experience, preventing any other possibility. The voters had to garner all their strength and all their faith on their own in order to bring about the marvel of an electoral victory. And yet the fear that is destroying all our social and moral fiber, and has become so deeply embedded in all aspects of our lives, is now leading to a situation in which the average Israeli cannot believe that the man who has been the absolute ruler for the past 13 years really has been ousted, or is in the process of being ousted, from the arena.

That is also why a significant part of the media, a good number of political pundits and mainly many of the politicians themselves are still afraid to admit Netanyahu’s defeat. They are afraid that the great magician will once again succeed in deceiving us and prove that they have been foolish. But it’s hard to believe that this primeval fear of the premier’s sleight of hand has any basis in reality. It’s more reasonable to assume that the leaders of the camp espousing a change will regain their composure in time and meet their commitment to change the Israeli narrative.

There is only one person, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, about whom we must continue to worry – in terms of him being unable to overcome a profound and irrational fear, which probably scares him, too, of the dissipation of Netanyahu. It is primarily Mendelblit who has to extricate himself heroically from the panicked paralysis and the loss of magic apparent these days on the playing field of the Israeli government. Fear of the disappearance of the eternal ruler must not scare him and motivate him to exercise leniency in the indictments against Netanyahu. We have to reassure the attorney general and tell him yet again: Don’t be upset, nothing has happened. We’re only replacing a prime minister here.

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