Israelis Don't Have the Luxury of Finding a Leader to Replace Netanyahu

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Protesters in costumes at an anti-Netanyahu rally, August 8, 2020.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Aluf Benn is right. After Benjamin Netanyahu, the right will remain in power. And Gideon Levy is right. The “anyone but Bibi” vision is not a platform for a worthy political alternative on the left. But these days, “anyone but Bibi” is essential for survival, because Israel is mired in an existential crisis that is the unique and direct product of Netanyahu’s rule.

It’s true that the entire world is dealing with the consequences of the almost-global decision to announce a coronavirus lockdown and to paralyze the economy – and this challenge is enough to create an atmosphere of crisis even in a healthy, relatively united and stable society. And the economic crisis would have taken place under any prime minister.

But now, Israelis wake up every morning to a shitstorm that is entirely Netanyahu’s doing, and any anxiety or depression is forgivable. Any possible vision of their lives as a nation has burst into flames, and they don’t know where the evil will come from and what will happen first.

They are threatened by another lockdown, the product of Netanyahu’s colossal failure of management. This lockdown will definitely cause the collapse of the economy. And once again they will be denied fundamental individual freedoms, including perhaps the right to demonstrate against Netanyahu. In addition, many of them are suffering from serious anxiety regarding unemployment expected to result from a new lockdown, or of a lethal cut in their salary.

Economic anxiety is the most terrible and existential of all the anxieties that a person can experience in a modern country that is not at war. The phobia renders people helpless, turning them into individuals who have nothing more to lose. And people who have nothing to lose are likely to become violent, lawbreaking and irresponsible.

All this is happening at a time when the rest of the Western world has put the discussion of a lockdown behind it. At the same time Israelis are also threatened by a war in the north, against Hezbollah and Iran. A war that includes horrifying scenarios of thousands of projectile weapons, including precision-guided missiles, that will land on their heads. Even in the face of this apocalypse Israelis remain helpless, without any ability to protect themselves or their children.

At the same time they are also threatened by annexation in the West Bank, a step that is almost certain to lead to bloodshed, chaos, instability and perhaps even a third intifada. And if all that were not enough, they are also threatened by another murder motivated by politics – mainly of demonstrators against Netanyahu – and they understand that such an assassination is expected to lead the country into additional extreme scenarios, first and foremost a civil war.

Those are not the only the swords dangling above the heads of Israel’s citizens. They are also threatened by another election, the fourth within two years. Another round at the polls would cost a lot of money that we don’t really have, and would even further undermine the sense of stability, normalcy and routine, as well as belief in the democratic system. After all, in any case Netanyahu is threatening Israel’s form of government.

A continuation of his rule, his repeated attacks against the legal system and his attempt to avoid prosecution are weakening and endangering the rule of law, which is a foundation of a democratic regime. His incitement against Arabs and leftists is dividing Israeli society, and is threatening democracy as well.

This insane situation is entirely the work of Netanyahu. At this time Netanyahu is Israel’s greatest enemy. Therefore, “anyone but Bibi” is a message of sanity on the part of people who hold life dear. The post-Netanyahu government will be right-wing and bad, but far better than Netanyahu’s rule. When your prime minister arises to destroy you, the ability to ask the question of who will replace him is a luxury.

Comments