What is the secret behind Benjamin Netanyahu’s power? After all, everyone is familiar with the criminal indictments he faces, the 6,000 COVID-19 victims, the 600,000 unemployed, the ravaged institutions of the legal system and his endless lying. And yet, he keeps rising in opinion polls, going from 28 seats to 29, then to 30.
On Monday, Netanyahu was supposed to appear at an election rally in Ashkelon. His supporters waited for two hours but he never showed up. Finally he appeared via Zoom, saying he couldn’t make it for reasons he could not disclose. The reason he wasn’t disclosing was a video clip released by Islamic Jihad, threatening to launch Qassam rockets at Ashkelon. The clip also showed Netanyahu fleeing Ashdod during a rocket attack that occurred during an rally a year and a half ago.
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If Gideon Sa’ar, Naftali Bennett or Yair Lapid were prime minister and fled Ashkelon like Bibi, you’d never hear the end of it. Netanyahu would organize a giant rally there, mount the podium and declare: “We have a cowardly prime minister who can’t even face a small threat by a miniscule organization such as the Islamic Jihad. Instead of hitting it, squashing it and using targeted assassinations against its leaders, thereby achieving quiet for border communities in the south, this coward flees. Let me take care of the terror organizations. I’ll hit them so hard they’ll never dare raise their head again.”
But what did we hear from Sa’ar, Bennett and Lapid? Nothing, total silence. They’re still asleep. They didn’t make use of this golden opportunity that fell into their laps. They didn’t even remind voters that Bibi promised to eliminate terror from Gaza in 2009, while in fact these organizations are growing stronger.
Another example: A month and a half ago, coronavirus mortality rates grew to 50 a day, and all the media outlets were talking about this frightening number. If Netanyahu were in the opposition, he would have taken a bus, filled it with 50 dummies, hung the names of the deceased on the bus, and cried out: “Where has the prime minister disappeared? Let him come here and see what it means to have 50 fatalities a day, including pregnant women, people who died due to personal and political considerations of the most incompetent prime minister in Israel’s history. Give me your votes and I’ll stop the angel of death.”
And what did the contenders to the throne do? They didn’t cry out or go crazy, they talked politely, using the third person to talk about the victims. They didn’t visit the homes of the deceased, they didn’t speak at funerals, they didn’t directly blame Netanyahu, whose trial-related calculations led to this huge number of fatalities. They kept on snoozing.
With Bibi it’s the opposite. He doesn’t rest for a moment. In every one of his appearances one can see his lust for power, how obsessive he is to lead the country. When they close the door, he comes in through the window. He’s a sycophant when facing Pfizer’s CEO, he runs to Vladimir Putin, he tries to fly to the United Arab Emirates. He even goes to the tomb of Shimon Bar Yochai in the north for electioneering purposes. He meets the head of the Histadrut Labor Federation, he gives interviews to all the radio stations and jumps on every TV studio, disseminating lies and slanders recklessly, employing psychological warfare (by implying that there are potential defectors in other parties).
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All this is happening while his rivals display no passion and no enthusiasm. They have no venom in their eyes and no lust for power. They have in their hands a long list of gigantic failures in the management of this pandemic and of the economy, but they don’t assail him with any gusto. It seems like they’re wary of him, as if they were saying, yes, we want to be prime minister but there’s no fire in our belly. Maybe for now we’ll make do with being tourism minister.
The public watches this and understands. It doesn’t want a leader who belongs in the UN. It wants someone who’s willing to die in the quest for power. That’s why Bibi is rising in the polls. That’s the secret of his power. These are the final days. Sa’ar, Bennett and Lapid need to wake up.