Netanyahu Is More of a Symptom and Not the Problem Itself

Yair Assulin
Yair Assulin
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One of the weekly anti-Netanyahu protests occurring in Jerusalem since last summer
Yair Assulin
Yair Assulin

Now of all times, on the brink of a new government – a “government of change” – the most important thing to remember, through all the cries of joy and a certain sense of release, is that Netanyahu and his government are more of a symptom of deep issues in Israeli society than they are the problem itself; to remember that what made possible Netanyahu’s rule, his conduct as prime minister and the politics that he cultivated is the ground called Israeli society. It always begins there, and must return to there.

Any government that will be formed – certainly in these times, when by definition politics no longer shapes reality and liberal politics degenerates into totalitarianism – would be nothing more than a loose sewer cover under which the sewage bubbles. That is how it is with President Joe Biden in the United States and that is how it is here.

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Those who ignore this bubbling sewage, the deep pains, the comprehensive disintegration of the Israeli story as it was always told to us, will very quickly find themselves flooded with sewage. As has been written in these pages on more than one occasion, the truly important question for anyone who seeks to grow, for anyone who seeks to bring about genuine change, is not how to replace Netanyahu but rather what are the conditions that enabled Netanyahu throughout the years.

This must be remembered and must not be denied or repressed: The feelings that Netanyahu intensified and played with are at root genuine. Israel’s self-deception that is at the root of this story. The public’s long-stand distrust in the systems of the state and in many parts of the Israeli media scene is genuine and largely justified. Anyone who has missed this has missed everything. Netanyahu indeed used this, but by no means did he invent it.

In the same way, the disintegration of the authority of government systems is necessarily a by-product of the existential changes that we are undergoing, of technology, of access to information, of the creation of new living spaces and of awareness. By definition, these new types of living require a new social order to organize them. Such an order can only develop in civic spaces, in culture, in society. It will never develop in the corridors of the old order.

The joy over the replacement of Netanyahu’s rule must not be allowed to obscure these basic issues. We must not allow such joy to serve those who sought to replace Netanyahu only out of a desire to suspend time and to maintain their power and status. It must not obscure the most fundamental struggle being waged here beneath the surface, a struggle that will only continue to grow stronger, irrespective of which government has been formed – the struggle between those who seek to maintain their old power, the past and those who understand that the struggle for liberty is just beginning and that it will only be decided within society.

More than anything else, the new government might perhaps provide a few moments of quiet, a building residents’ committee in the best sense of the term. A government whose most exciting feature is that it is not exciting.

There will be plenty of time in the future to write at length about the substance of such a government, as a symbol par excellence of a major step in the process of the “end of the era of politics,” of the new shrinking place of politics in civic life and discourse. But that would be premature. At the moment, the most important thing is not to sink into glorification or demonization. At the moment, the most important thing is to look squarely at reality, rather than in any way being swept into the tempting sense that “we can sleep now.”

In large measure, now of all times is the era of the leaders of the young anti-Netanyahu protest movement, who understand that the road is much longer, that the real goal is to create a new order, one that is relevant and free. Now is the time for them to act with all their strength.

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