Linking Up With Netanyahu Means Declaring Surrender

Netanyahu at an event in Atlit, May 15, 2019.
rami shllush

A discussion on the formation of a national unity government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the election is important and should be conducted in all seriousness – before it’s rejected out of hand. Times are tough and the situation will only get worse. Nobody is in doubt anymore about what Netanyahu is aiming for and the extent to which his personal fate will now define Israel’s policies.

Annexation and the imposition of Israeli sovereignty without full civil rights in part of the West Bank, in return for immunity from prosecution, will be the foundations of the coalition agreements. And as my Haaretz colleague Ravit Hecht predicted last week, the important positions will be held by far-rightists such as Orit Strock and Moti Yogev, the representatives of the outlaws of Hebron and the visionaries of the barren hills who derive meaning by vilely harassing the local Palestinians.

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So how do we prevent this inevitable deterioration? Hecht’s answer is simple but not easy to digest: You restrain yourself and join Netanyahu, thereby neutralizing the supporters of apartheid and not allowing him the tailor-made legislation that would prevent him from being tried in the corruption cases against him. This would be done in the name of sane pragmatism and in response to the will of the people, as reflected in the opinion polls.

Well, the two components of this proposal – joining Netanyahu and neutralizing right-wing extremism and corruption – are neither practical nor a reflection of anyone’s wishes. When there’s a clear divide between the blocs, and the two large parties on the right and the center-left, with their satellite parties, receive an equal number of Knesset seats, that doesn’t reflect a yearning for unity but a wide rift.

No one voting for right-wingers Ayelet Shaked and Bezalel Smotrich yearn for unity with left-wingers Nitzan Horowitz or Tamar Zandberg. Nor do Kahol Lavan voters – many them members of the social-democratic left who vote for the party’s right-wingers Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser in the name of pragmatism and hope for the best – want their vote taken one step further to form a national unity government with Likud’s Tzipi Hotovely and Yariv Levin.

Without dwelling on the simple fact that many Likud legislators don’t differ greatly in their opinions from members of the far right – they can sit comfortably alongside Smotrich or Rafi Peretz – it should be noted that Hecht’s proposal suffers from contradictions in logic.

As she noted, many people in the center-left have become addicted to Netanyahu-bashing and will be satisfied only with his downfall. However, canceling the tailor-made legislation in exchange for unity with Kahol Lavan isn’t practical; after all, the reason we’re having a second election is to extricate Netanyahu from his legal problems.

Therefore, if Netanyahu is praying for such a government, we can guess that under the table the feelers for finding ways of removing the legal obstacle, which would be convenient for both sides, will continue. And what takes place in the hidden depths is always more dangerous than what takes place on the exposed surface.

And another important point for discussion: Where do we place the ethical boundary? If, as Hecht claims, the boundary is immunity, why not move it a little and offer immunity in exchange for a diplomatic agreement with the Palestinians? It wouldn’t be the first time that the left was willing to turn a blind eye in exchange for a disengagement or a possible process with the Palestinians, as if there were a cosmic law that the really good things must be proposed by the dirtiest hands.

We can assume that we’ll soon hear this argument again because there are many indications that Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz plans to explain to his voters how his entry into the government would turn its neoliberal members into enthusiastic Marxists.

A national unity government headed by Netanyahu means only one thing: the raising of a white flag and a declaration of surrender to a smart leader with profound historical understanding who is conducting a no-holds-barred campaign to crush democratic institutions. And no, national unity won’t place obstacles in his way; on the contrary. It will gently kill the possibility of a victory for the spirit of resistance that still remains in this country.