Opinion

Netanyahu's Corruption Isn't the Problem, It's His Ideology

There's something defeatist in this obsessive inquisition into Netanyahu's lifestyle, ostentatious as it may be; it proves, yet again, that the Israeli left doesn't really have anything to offer its voters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, August 6, 2017.
Emil Salman

The investigative reports about the corruption allegations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family are valuable and important, certainly after so many years of their reign, but they are also extremely dangerous. Not because they are liable to overthrow a man who ostensibly has no successor and throw us into a leadership vacuum, but because they are missing the main point. And the main point is the dangerous ideology the man has instilled here, etched in the brains of many Israelis, who are convinced that Netanyahu is an exalted economic prophet, a born statesman and most important – the chief model of contemporary Israel.

Thus, instead of arguing with him about his economic doctrine that killed off what remained of the welfare state, that privatized everything that moved and created levels of poverty and social gaps unlike what Israel has ever known, we are focusing on the pistachio ice cream scandal or the fact that his wife (allegedly, allegedly) threw shoes at one of her employees.

Instead of confronting his diplomatic doctrine, which hollowly declares the acceptance of the two-state solution but at the same time expands settlements to monstrous proportions, we are once again talking about the expensive cigars his friend gave him. Instead of talking about the delegitimizing of his Palestinian partners who live on either side of the Green Line, which allows them to be repeatedly crushed to the accompaniment of righteous eye-rolling and a false sense of persecution, we are talking about the generous hospitality that some millionaire gave one of his sons. And this is without even discussing his social doctrine, which while giving (bogus) expression to some of society’s excluded groups (Jews of Middle Eastern and North African origin and the ultra-Orthodox), has come at the price of divisiveness and pitting the tribes of Israel against one another.

The fact that replacing Netanyahu is dependent solely on his behavior or on his personal integrity, on the question of whether or not his son has to collect his dog’s poop, or even on how many and what kind of submarines must be purchased for the navy, whose role in the next war isn’t really clear, and who will benefit from that dubious deal – is making the political and ideological issues superfluous.

It also turns the political alternatives to Netanyahu – Yair Lapid, Avi Gabbay or Moshe Kahlon – into Netanyahu’s political twins.

Instead of breaking our heads to create an alternative, corrective, compassionate and peace-seeking ideology that will ignite some new fire on the scorched fields of Israeli indifference, his potential replacements are busy trying to emulate him and fit into his shoes. This creates the not-unfounded impression that in effect they have nothing new to offer, and worse – that they think Netanyahu’s flawed policies in every possible realm are the right policies for Israel.

Thus, instead of dealing with Netanyahu’s false data, or tendentious interpretations of the data (on poverty rates, for example); instead of arguing rationally and intelligently about the intolerable gaps between the center of the country and the outlying areas and between rich and poor, or even about the dramatic strengthening of the movements to boycott Israel – we are allowing the same destructive policy to continue to rule us, only with another face. We are saying it’s not the policies that are driving us crazy – it’s the person. All we have to do is replace him with some ideological twin with clean hands and all will be well.

If that’s the case, then Netanyahu is right to say that he shouldn’t be brought down for personal reasons and that in a democracy it’s proper for a leader or an ideology to be defeated at the polls. There’s something trivial and defeatist in this obsessive inquisition into his lifestyle, repulsive and ostentatious as it may be; it proves, yet again, that the Israeli left doesn’t really have anything to offer its voters in the economic, social or diplomatic realms.

If the left wants to reap any benefit from this storm and regain power, it must sit down and formulate a new, curative vision for Israeli society and open its heart to those segments that will now be trying to flee the sinking ship. The corruption of Netanyahu and his associates will be dealt with by the competent authorities, assuming any remain.