One Can Also Hate Netanyahu and Bennett, but Not So Blindly

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in a government meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday.
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

How ironic. The supporters of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Bibi-ists, are behaving exactly like the haters of the former prime minister, the Just Not Bibi camp. They’re using the same vocabulary, the same epithets, exhibiting the same blind, automatic hatred, the same focus on the personal, only the personal. Everything that was hated by the followers of Netanyahu is now used against Naftali Bennett (and Ayelet Shaked). We’ll soon see demonstrations outside the prime minister’s residence on Balfour Street, with the bandanas and inflatable dolls. The Satan Netanyahu has been replaced by the Satan Bennett. Other than that, all is well.

And yet, one cannot avoid being astounded by the extent of the hatred towards Bennett, Likud’s erstwhile partner. In truth, one should wish success on both sides. Such hatred between right-wing camps cannot be anything but satisfying. With that, one may wonder about the low level of Israeli politics.

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If Bennett were to eradicate the epidemic over the next few weeks, annex Area C, cause the annulment of the nuclear accord with Iran and the bombing of its nuclear facilities by the United States, build tens of thousands of housing units in the West Bank and solve Israel’s transportation woes, the right would continue to view him as a scoundrel, a thief, a corrupt individual, an extortionist, a leftist and a destroyer of this country.

Sound familiar? This is exactly how the Just Not Bibi camp dealt with Netanyahu when he was prime minister. Nothing he did or refrained from doing was recognized or appreciated, even when he deserved it. Everything he touched was automatically terrible and anyone who dared think otherwise was deemed a Bibi fan. Now Bennett is falling victim to the same blind political hatred. He’s building thousands of housing units for settlers, with a fig leaf in the form of a few hundred units for Palestinians – which may never be built – but nothing will placate other right-wingers.

One may be impressed that Netanyahu followers have not broken or folded, certainly not conceded, despite losing power. Some movements break up after such a failure. Not they. Those who believed Netanyahu’s move to the opposition would end his unbelievable cult of adoration were proven wrong. The camp remained strong even after the locks of its hero were shorn, at least for now. But those who saw the Just Not Bibi camp as a shallow, hollow one must now pay attention to the Just Not Bennett camp.

The new government is definitely not a cause for celebration. The dawn of a new day that was promised us with the toppling of the “tyrant” did not break, nor will it. What we have is another “retail” government focused on its survival, devoid of change or hope. But from here to blaming all of the Zionist enterprise’s failures on the Bennett government, after two months in office, stands a huge gap.

Bennett is certainly not a murderer, as he was called by powerful Haredi lawmaker Moshe Gafni, and he isn’t even responsible for the new outbreak of the coronavirus. He and his ministers are doing the best of their limited abilities in the face of the epidemic, when no one in the world knows what must be done to contend with it.

The vilification campaign against him and his government has nothing to stand on other than Army Radio commentator Yaakov Bardugo’s fabrications, whereby there are only 30,000 remaining vaccine doses in the country. The Bibi-ists are inflating the epidemic and its risks to existential dimensions only to whip up hatred for the Bennett government. Even the debate over the epidemic hews strictly to coalition-versus-opposition lines.

One is obviously entitled to hate, sometimes it’s justified, even vital. It’s permitted and justified, for example, to hate the settlers. People who abuse their neighbors in such a contemptible, evil manner, extorting and threatening the state while sowing fear in its army, robbing and plundering, sometimes even killing, are definitely the object of justified hatred. One can also hate Netanyahu and Bennett, but not so blindly. One can’t turn personal hatred into the be-all and end-all. In Israel there is nothing else: You hate this one or the other one. For just a moment, how about getting serious?

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