Netanyahu’s Rivals Did a Job on Him Just Like in the Movies

Carolina Landsmann
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a Jerusalem high school, last week.
Carolina Landsmann

Like many others, I too received on WhatsApp the GIF of Likud defector Gideon Sa’ar winking behind Benjamin Netanyahu’s back. Such excitement that wink raised in the pro-change camp.

They broadcast it again and again on TV. There’s Netanyahu, the main protagonist of Israeli politics, sitting in the Knesset, his nose and mouth covered, his gaze weary, only his ears pricked up, but not enough to understand what was about to happen. For a moment you could actually feel new hope – the name of Sa’ar’s party – filling the camp’s air: First we’ll take the Knesset Arrangements Committee, then we’ll take the government.

But not only hope for political change pulsed among the camp’s members. The delight from viewing that moment stems from Netanyahu’s lack of knowledge. As Haaretz film critic Uri Klein once wrote, Alfred Hitchcock believed that suspense was created when the viewers knew more than the characters in the movie. So in most of his movies, Hitchcock revealed the mystery’s solution at the beginning or in the middle rather than at the end.

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But in movies and television series based on Agatha Christie’s books, the author knows more than the readers and expects them to try to solve the mystery if they’re reading the book, which is strewn with clues and red herrings. The wink behind the hero’s back tells the viewers something he or she doesn’t know, a plot woven without the protagonist’s knowledge. What suspense, how they stuck it to him!

Netanyahu, the man always a few steps ahead of everyone, didn’t know. That shows he’s weakening. The political chess master missed his rivals’ move. Who knows, maybe this has to do with the fact that he’s been playing for several weeks without his queen.

His lack of knowledge, the fact that someone outwitted him, points to his former intraparty rival, Sa’ar, as his possible successor. Here’s someone capable of giving Netanyahu a taste of his own medicine, something they always dreamed of doing in what was once the left camp, then became the peace camp, then the Anyone But Bibi camp and now is the pro-change camp.

All this is thrilling and entertaining. But are these political thoughts? This isn’t a cynical question. I really wonder: Is a coalition based on a joint desire to get rid of Netanyahu, regardless of political stances, one that unites people from right and left who seem to be deeply divided ideologically, a political organization? I’m not sure.

In recent weeks, the political events have been more reminiscent of the dynamics at elementary school or junior high. Watching them is like watching students in action, and analyzing them feels a little like listening to gossip. To respond to everything going on, you have to wallow in the infantile skulduggery of “public officials.”

There’s Sa’ar, the sly one who recently joined the clique and has now stuck it to Netanyahu. There’s the childish Naftali Bennett, who now has a bit of power and thinks he’s the king of the class. (Once I thought the TV satire “Eretz Nehederet” went too far with this portrayal of him.) And there’s Yair Lapid, the kid who was always a hunk but now is “the one who’s matured.”

In the background there’s Benny Gantz, a bit of a dunce but cute when all is said and done. And what about that Mansour Abbas? He’s no sucker, that guy; must have learned it from the Jews. And all the guys together have just showed Netanyahu what’s what.

Where’s all this heading? I have a feeling they don’t know either. Maybe all they really want is to be children a little. To kick out the maniac king of the class and his cronies, and instead of forming a government, form a class committee that represents them all equally.

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