No, Gideon Levy, We Won’t Miss Netanyahu

Once and for all we must get rid of the notion that there’s no alternative to Israel's sitting prime minister. Saying there’s no alternative to him is the same as supporting him.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, May 22, 2016.
Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

“Netanyahu is here to stay,” Gideon Levy concluded his summary (August 18) of Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting this week with Haaretz’ editorial staff. “Given the current proposed alternatives, we may still, God forbid, come to miss him.”

In so doing Levy took upon himself the task Netanyahu seemed to have intended for Haaretz, because nobody can eliminate political alternatives like the left can. On the face of it, Levy slams Netanyahu mercilessly, but he does it with such admiration for his power, that his descriptions tell us more about Levy than about Netanyahu.

Levy also provides an explanation for this: “I prefer rigid ideologues to hollow cynics.” Rigid ideologues like whom, for example? Stalin? Mao? Hitler?

This sick logic has been worn to excess – you expand the circle of responsibility further and further, just to let the real guilty ones off the hook. Finally you say the criminals are all those millions who kept quiet and didn’t do anything.

Without even the slightest hint of a comparison, Hitler at least believed in what he did. The Jews were in awe of Hitler (albeit an awe combined with fear and hatred). The scorn is directed at the ordinary people who “enabled Hitler.” This is the essence of the hate story between Levy and the “center.” This is why in Israel the extremes meet, saluting each other’s ideology. Most of the people are trapped in between them, together with the chance for a normal future.

The more “ideology” Levy detects in Netanyahu, the more scorn he feels for the centrist candidates to replace him. What does Levy care that in contrast to the rigid ideologues who did exactly what they meant to do, the ordinary people could just as well become part of a constructive diplomatic move?

The “off the record” meeting between Netanyahu and Haaretz was a false display of intimacy, as though more was said in it than Netanyahu usually says, as though he said anything different from what anyone who keeps tabs on the prime minister knows. In fact, the best kept secret in the meeting was that Netanyahu didn’t say anything. So Levy’s statements are all the more surprising. There wasn’t even an iota of ideology in what Netanyahu said, unless Levy sees Jewish chauvinism as ideology.

Once and for all we must get rid of the notion that there’s no alternative to Netanyahu. Saying there’s no alternative to Netanyahu is the same as supporting him. Netanyahu wants us to believe that Israel has no alternative than himself, and the fact that there’s no potential alternative to his leadership at the moment also serves to demonstrate the lack of political choice vis-à-vis the Palestinians.

But this is a lie. It’s not by chance that there’s no alternative. Suffice it to remember the fate that befell one who tried to lead Israel on an alternative strategic track in the Oslo Accords. The alternative was murdered with Yitzhak Rabin. We must remember Oslo. Yes, there were very serious terrorist attacks. But more important, real hope swept through the Middle East. The Israelis and Palestinians started a reconciliation process. The Palestinians gained independence for the first time, the borders opened to tourism.

Anyone who doesn’t see an alternative to Bibi is saying yes to Bibi. And inadvertently accepts barring Rabin retroactively as an alternative.

Netanyahu describes Israel as a country in waiting for processes of evolution to ripen in the Arab world. He of course denies Israel’s role in the radicalization he sees in the Palestinians and Israel’s part in Hamas’ strengthening (to weaken the PLO) and the potential danger of pushing Hamas into ISIS’ hands.

In the same breath he also ignores the fact that this is exactly what he has forced on Israeli society – the lack of political-strategic oxygen has brought it to violence, despair and spiritual poverty. Netanyahu must look at his nation and be ashamed. Economic growth is not a metaphor for national growth and cyber is no alternative to justice.

Gideon Levy is wrong. Netanyahu is not a “biblical or Shakespearean tragic figure,” no “king” or “caesar,” but simply a coward. And to say no to Netanyahu is to insist there is an alternative.