Not Only Netanyahu Must Go - His Likud Party Must Be Shelved Too

Likud has defiled, corrupted and destroyed any semblance of proper government in Israel

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Tzipi Hotovely, front left, Benjamin Netanyahu and David Bitan at a Likud party meeting, February 2017.
Tzipi Hotovely, front left, Benjamin Netanyahu and David Bitan at a Likud party meeting, February 2017.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Guy Ronen

Here they come, promising us hope and quiet ahead. All of a sudden, it will be over. One last effort, one small unnoticed step, a political one of course, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be turned into just another former controversial leader.

Unfortunately, this theory ignores one minor detail. It’s true that Israeli prime ministers are almost never ousted at the ballot box, but whoever replaces the current prime minister will have to pass the hurdle of elections. And the political camp now arising in opposition to the government is totally unprepared for that.

From the public’s standpoint, at least for the time being, it’s hard to ignore the sense that, other than standing for “anyone but Bibi,” the opposition doesn’t really have anything to offer. Especially not if Bibi gradually becomes a burden on his Likud party.

Those who still pay attention to opinion polls surely noticed over the weekend that former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar would hand his party five or six more Knesset seats than Netanyahu would at Likud’s helm.

It’s also reasonable to assume that the position of the other stars in the current nightmarish government is safe (Likudniks usually value loyalty. Long knives are usually more the stuff of the left).

Anyone who didn’t want Miri Regev as industry minister and has suffered her as culture minister might end up with her at the foreign or defense ministry – if she’s not prime minister.

The message needs to be crystal clear. It’s not Netanyahu. It’s Likud. Just like all the Labor Party leaders had to go when power went to some of their heads, the same holds for Likud, which can’t be reformed by a mere change of personnel.

It’s Likud that has widened economic disparities from its first leader, and it continues to do so (and even now is trying to win support by marketing an ostensibly improved index of economic disparities). It’s Likud – unlike Beyit Yehudi, which has at least proposed a plan of sorts to annex the West Bank – that has for decades refused to present even a hint of its direction regarding the 2.5 million Palestinians between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.

As a result, the same holds true regarding its policy for the Jews in the region. It’s Likud that has conferred such power to ultra-Orthodox extortion, even though the ultra-Orthodox parties had no other potential partners with which to form a coalition government. It’s also Likud that engaged in incitement and backed every thug whether on social media or on the ground.

It’s Likud that has put aside whatever remained of its honor in the face of such leadership, transforming itself into a party of “no one but Bibi.” It’s Likud that has defiled, corrupted and destroyed any semblance of proper government. It’s Likud that has trampled on every democratic regulatory body and every trace of statesmanship, from minimal respect for men in uniform to disdain for the parents of those who can no longer wear a uniform.

This may not seem very polite and may inadvertently insult someone (or “exclude” them, as they say these days). It’s not pleasant to mention – not at a memorial rally for Yitzhak Rabin and not in front of the attorney general’s home – that we’re still somewhat political. That in contrast to the social-justice protests, this time we aren’t only talking about what isn’t; we’re bringing in a whole plan of action for the day after.

On the other hand, it’s worth recalling who doesn’t let such considerations of “unity” stop him. Who always makes sure to sign his real name on petitions and appear at demonstrations against the government he’s a member of and against the policy he raised his hand for. It’s worth recalling who’s less likely to hide lest he reduce the number of marchers and in the end will take the credit all the way to the ballot box.

The cherry on top of the protests in Petah Tikva is the handful of right-wingers there; this photographs well and does the job. Those who argue that given the collapse Netanyahu is dragging us through – and of course all the investigations against him and his efforts to silence them – don’t have to be on the left to demand that he go.

But his departure is merely a necessary condition – necessary but insufficient – for healing. Until we shout it out, until we fill the streets with exactly this message, we may part from Bibi, but not from Likud.

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