Israel’s New Freedom Fighters Are a Little Short on Freedom

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid in the Knesset in 2013.
Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid in the Knesset in 2013.Credit: Michal Fattal

There’s a new kind of hatred of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: enthusiastic support for right-wing candidates, elevating them to the status of courageous leaders, honest and worthy.

Because the camp for change has no change to offer but deposing Netanyahu, and there’s no worthy candidate to propose, it embellishes the right-wing candidates and bestows titles on them they never imagined themselves worthy of. Right-wing politicians, some of them cowards, some of them racists, are now the dream of the left. Anybody but Netanyahu.

My Haaretz colleague Ravit Hecht is impressed with New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar. She admits that his opinions terrify her, but that’s a secondary issue. The main thing is that he “doesn’t blink or flip-flop.” A leftist who is impressed with Gideon Sa’ar can only pray from morning to night that Sa’ar will flip-flop and blink as much as possible, as long as he doesn’t implement his terrifying views.

In fact, it’s true, Sa’ar doesn’t flip-flop – he’ll bring schoolchildren to “Jewish” Hebron, he’ll impose more restrictions on Shabbat, he’ll annex land and deport the asylum seekers. This is the guy who inspires admiration in a worthy leftist like Hecht. She also believes that Sa’ar is courageous.

Former Meretz leader Zehava Galon also thinks that Sa’ar acted courageously when he left Likud. But what choice did he have after Netanyahu humiliated him and kept him out of every position? Sa’ar isn’t courageous, at least not so far.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid is certainly not courageous. He’s a silent opposition leader, and there’s no such thing as a silent opposition. In all his years in the opposition, not just during the last campaign, he has been silent. He has always said what his camp expects him to say, and he hasn’t dared say anything controversial. He has been a weak opposition figure compared to predecessors like Menachem Begin and even Shimon Peres. They shouted, criticized, undermined things and were never silent. Lapid has been silent.

Courageous? So be it. But Lapid is certainly the hero of the left now, as seen in the op-eds of other Haaretz colleagues. Galon wrote that he has learned from his mistakes. Uri Misgav went even further; in a piece in Hebrew, what didn’t he write about this new freedom fighter? He talked about Lapid’s “expert reasoning and levelheadedness” that are a continuation of “his political excellence over the past two years.”

What exactly did Lapid excel at other than not joining the Netanyahu government? Did he propose anything interesting?

Opposition figure? Did he practice democracy in his party? Did he undermine the government in the Knesset? “He simply did everything right, time after time. That’s what political maturity looks like,” Misgav marveled. If that’s what political maturity looks like, maybe it would be better to wait for Lapid’s old age, and Misgav’s too. Maybe then they’ll grow up and learn what political maturity is, and especially what public courage is.

Nehemia Shtrasler is impressed by Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, another hero of the left, but only because of his hatred for the ultra-Orthodox, of course. “Lieberman 2021 is Tommy Lapid of 2003,” Shtrasler wrote about one of the most rotten, rude, cynical and racist politicians in Israeli history. No leftist can be impressed by anything Lieberman says or does. But we’ll forgive Lieberman everything, as long as he’s against Netanyahu. Shtrasler hoped that Lieberman would win 15 seats; luckily, he didn’t get half that number.

And Amnon Harari expressed the wish of many in his camp when he asked that Lapid give the mandate to form a government to Yamina leader Naftali Bennett. In the camp for change not only do they prefer the representative of the settlers, Bennett, over Netanyahu – that’s obvious – they would also prefer Viktor Orban, Jair Bolsonaro or Rodrigo Duterte over Netanyahu. On an especially bad day, they might even prefer far-rightist Itamar Ben-Gvir.

We can, and perhaps must, be against Netanyahu, but we also have to propose someone better. We have to propose an alternative. And that really doesn’t exist.

Click the alert icon to follow topics: