Why weren’t there kippot at Habima Square, organizers of Tuesday’s right-wing demonstration in Tel Aviv are asking themselves. How can it be that religious Zionists are not crying out with us in their thousands? How is it that after four months in power, the government of Naftali Bennett is not denounced within the community to a degree commensurate with the intensity of the protest against it?
The answer lies in the blatant, scorching and literally pyrotechnic volume of the protest. Perhaps there is a limit even to excess, and when it is exceeded it is less persuasive.
The clearest case is the story about the relations between the United Arab List and Hamas, exposed by Ayala Hasson on Channel 13 News. You don’t have to be Baruch Marzel to realize that something here is very problematic and to expect answers from the government.
But then posters go up claiming that “billions from the national budget will go to Hamas.” No less. And the campaign’s logo is a bloody handprint, in the style of the October 2000 lynching of two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah, and at Tuesday’s rally a Likud lawmakers claimed that “[United Arab List chairman] Mansour Abbas takes money and kills our soldiers.” That’s how you lose credibility.
And if the government funding the killing of soldiers were not bad enough, anyone who listened to the last episode of Yair Netanyahu’s podcast will realize that the future is many times darker: “If the schemes of the deep state [that is, the government] and the High Court of Justice succeed,” warned the elder son of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “the gates of the state will be opened to millions of Muslims. In 10 to 20 years we’ll be a minority in our own country. And what will happen? Will there be a High Court of Justice? Will there be B’Tselem? There will simply be a physical slaughter. I hate to say it, but there will be a second Holocaust,” he said, and fortunately did not continue.
Precisely because of this ludicrous and apocalyptic volume, the buses did not come down from Samaria and other right-wing strongholds. That explains the paucity of participants at the demonstration of the right and the absence of large numbers of religious Zionists – an explanation that was expressed best by Likud MK May Golan in her speech at the rally. “Bennett is realizing all the perverted and disgusting fantasies of the sick left,” she screamed.
Indeed, the stomach of the average right-winger turns upon observing the government’s conduct, even if they supported its creation. But when warned that the tummy ache is a violent cancer that will kill them within a day, they may wake up on the morrow and realize that somebody went way too far.
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And there lies Likud’s greatest missed opportunity, for there are more than a few right-wingers who voted for Bennett’s Yamina party and feel cheated. This is the most just group on the political map, full stop. But on its back ride PR agents and exaggerators, who hurled curses at Gideon Sa’ar and Bennett before the election too.
These purveyors of hyperbole are trying to serve as a loudspeaker to the genuine rage of Bennett’s disappointed voters, but with the volume turned up so loud that one can’t hear anything. When you’ve castigated settler leaders for welcoming the Evyatar agreement and attacked religious journalists who “kashered” the “unkosher” government, where is there left to go?
It’s not just a question of aesthetics and style. Just as Netanyahu’s haters in the media and culture circles became, at some point, an asset for him, here as well: The sickening demonstrations outside Zeev Elkin’s home only strengthened his resolve to form a government.
The “go-low” campaign against Sa’ar is yielding nothing. The repulsive language of media figures such as Avi Ratzon speaks to few on the right, and when Miri Regev calls the deputy chair of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee a hater of Israel, she incites the public against herself more than against him.
And perhaps the trolling is slowly losing force. Many Israelis woke up Friday morning and did not feel that the state has been sold to a terrorist organization. When you keep shouting that the sky is falling, there’s always a risk that people will look up and see that it’s still there.