Opinion

Netanyahu Isn't Satan nor Sacrificial Lamb, but a Wounded Animal

Gideon Levy
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Benjamin Netanyahu, accompanied by members of his Likud party, delivers a statement before entering the Jerusalem District Court, May 24, 2020.Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Pool via AP
Gideon Levy

Benjamin Netanyahu is a wounded animal. This is how he should be related to from here on. He’s not a sacrificial lamb, as he imagines himself to be, and not Satan, intent on destroying this country, as people who hate him claim. He’s neither Dreyfuss nor a bulldozer. Between these two wild exaggerations, his is the more understandable. He’s a wounded animal. His rivals’ exaggerated epithets are risible.

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The prime minister is a maimed animal. This statement does not diminish from the egregiousness of his statements – the incitement, the attacks on the judicial system and the media, hurling accusations at all and sundry – but it explains his conduct and motives.

He’s a wounded animal, persecuted, aggressive, violent, bent on survival, with no qualms about using any available means, just like any animal that’s fighting for its life.

A sign comparing Netanyahu to a virus at a demonstration on the day of the opening of his trial, on May 24, 2020.Credit: Ohad Ziegenberg

One shouldn’t pity him − he’s responsible for his situation – but in view of the ferocious attacks on him one cannot but wonder: Really? To such an extent? Can everything be hurled at the bleeding bull, already pierced by swords embedded deep in its flesh?

Neither the indictments nor his conduct justify a hateful attack of these proportions. Never has there been a prime minister so hated by half the nation; it’s doubtful that the damage he’s wrought justifies this. This hatred reflects his character and conduct – he has rightfully earned much of it, but it also redounds on the people who hate him, whose intense fury has long been suspect.

His speech at the courthouse just before his trial opened, and the later interview to Channel 20 TV, showed a very riled up person, convinced of his innocence, believing that he’s a victim of the system whose members he himself appointed. Perhaps he even believes that the Holocaust survivor who was brought to his office to support him is proof of his just cause. This is a known phenomenon. Many accused people share these feelings. Only a few will admit to themselves that they’ve sinned or committed a crime.

It would have been better had Netanyahu not said what he did, certainly not as statements coming from a prime minister. It would have been best if he’d resigned long ago and devoted his campaign to his legal battle. Having said that, one must admit that anyone, even an indicted prime minister, can criticize the legal system. It’s not sacred and is not above any suspicion.

I, for one, believe that the military court system in the occupied territories is a rotten system, tainted and corrupt, ultra-nationalist and racist, inciting and a punisher of innocents, totally unrelated to justice and upholding the law. Is voicing such criticism prohibited? Would this be considered an attempted putsch? After all, this system is part and parcel of the Israeli court system.

The prime minister also has the right to criticize the court system, obviously without resorting to despicable incitement against it. But were his words “an attempted coup,” in the words of lawmaker Yair Lapid and his understated language? Of course not.

Mountains of warnings and descriptions of projected threats were voiced in recent months regarding what we could expect. Netanyahu wouldn’t show up for his trial, he’d use the army to embark on a war in order to cancel the trial, he’d go to a fourth election. This intimidation turned out to be as baseless as Netanyahu’s incitement against the courts. He showed up despite everything.

Netanyahu’s story, the one that’s not over yet, can be told in many different ways. One could say that he’s destroying the country and one could say that he’s fighting with all his might – which is unbelievable – for what he believes is his justice.

One could claim that his family is monstrous, avaricious and hate-ridden, and one could claim that it’s an involved, supportive and close-knit one. One could argue that his supporters are groveling sycophants and one could argue that they stand beside him in his difficult hour, with impressive solidarity.

In the end, Netanyahu is standing trial, and his fate will be decided there. There is no other way, despite all the warnings we’ve heard here for naught, from supporters and opponents. A wounded animal can be dangerous, but it can also evoke some sympathy.

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