Opinion

Netanyahu's Incitement Brings Back Memories of 1995

Netanyahu wants the right to look at Mendelblit’s signature on the indictment and see Rabin’s signature on the Oslo Accords, to look at the center-left camp and see Hamas

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he delivers a statement in Ramat Gan, Israel, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019.
Sebastian Scheiner,AP

Benjamin Netanyahu needs the Kahanists not just at the polling stations.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit is expected to announce his decision regarding an indictment before the election. Coalition chief David Amsalem has already warned of “a coup taking place in Israel,” urging followers to “assume the police and state prosecutors depose Netanyahu” and asserting “people won’t accept whoever is elected.”

With the police, the State Prosecutor’s Office and the media perceived as being in collusion with “the left” against Netanyahu, the prime minister needs soldiers of his own in order to oppose the IDF party, headed by three former chiefs of staff. Having portrayed the army as joining the center-left camp, Netanyahu has no choice but to recruit the hilltop rabble as his own true army.

Journalist and convicted terrorist Hagai Segal was the first one to volunteer for the recruitment mission. There’s a time for terrorism and a time for editing a newspaper. His paper Makor Rishon has been using his columns for this purpose for weeks.

To really understand Israel and the Middle East - subscribe to Haaretz

Netanyahu would not have succeeded to attain his goals without the persuasive efforts of Segal who, week after week, with the zeal of a true believer and the patience of a settler, anointed his electorate with a moral lubricant, ahead of the union between the extreme right-wing elements.

“We need to close ranks in facing the enemy” he wrote. “If Benny Begin ran with Gandhi [Rehavam Ze’evi] in ’99, after he’d already called him ‘political scum,’ Bezalel Smotrich can run for a Knesset seat together with [Kahanist activist] Itamar Ben-Gvir. If Benny Gantz and Ayman Odeh are forming a bloc to stop Netanyahu, Rabbi Rafi Peretz [Habayit Hayehudi] and [Otzma party and Kahanist activist] Michael Ben-Ari can run together.”

Segal wrote in another column that “the wasting of even one Knesset seat can cost the ‘Land of Israel faithful’ dearly.”

He reiterated that Otzma is a vociferous party that thrives on fighting the left, but that the electoral threshold is an existential threat to the enterprise Smotrich represents in the Knesset. “When there is doubt [regarding getting in], there is no doubt [regarding a union].”

Just like during the Oslo Accords era, Netanyahu has loosened all restraints, recruiting the same forces, needing the same energy in the streets. He wants the right to look at Mendelblit’s signature on the indictment and see Rabin’s signature on the Oslo Accords, to look at the center-left camp and see Hamas.

Netanyahu is readying himself for the battle of his life. He’s sprayed the fuel of hatred and incitement in all directions and recruited the extreme of the extreme – admirers of Kahane, Baruch Goldstein, Yigal Amir and the people who burn Arab babies – who are now waiting for Mendelblit to light the match. Netanyahu’s campaign is waiting for Mendelblit. He’s counting on Mendelblit.

His allies from 1995 are with him. Last week, Segal was interviewed by Kalman Liebskind and Erel Segal, after Makor Rishon decided to remove comments from its website, in order to “make our small contribution to cleansing the public sphere of the soot of hatred and incitement,” as he called it.

Liebskind and Segal challenged him with a theory that says that online comments may serve as an outlet for political aggression, thereby reducing physical aggression. Liebskind noted that there was a suggestion that if social media had been around in 1995 Yigal Amir may have made do with writing a post on Facebook.

If it were not for the fact that the editor of Makor Rishon was a member of the Jewish underground, who was convicted of causing grave injuries and of membership in a terrorist organization, and is now the architect of a union between Habayit Hayehudi and Kahanists, one could ignore the chilling logical conclusion that arises when linking the decision by Makor Rishon to Liebskind’s suggestion.

Is it possible that Segal is actually interested in releasing the political violence of the extreme right, which lies trapped in social media?