No One Cared When Bibi Bombed Gaza, but Now Everyone's Shocked About His Wine Budget

Netanyahu is burying the dream of a Hebrew state, and all people have against him is how much he spends on wine?

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Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu.
Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu.Credit: David Bachar

A story from the 1950s: A journalist came to interview President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi at his presidential hut one rainy night. In the entryway, a policeman was drinking tea. “Where’s the president?” the interviewer asked. The policeman pointed out the window at the president, who was sitting in a booth outside, in the cold, replacing the policeman until he had finished his tea.

A story from the 1960s: Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir, who was heading to Eilat to arbitrate a dispute, stopped at Kibbutz Yotvata and asked the members what the problem was with the new dairy. They told him it needed a certain sum of money. Sapir continued to Eilat to deal with the labor dispute at the port. When he returned he left the arbitrator’s fee, a sizable sum of money, at the dairy.

The 1970s? Let’s say, Prime Minister Menachem Begin and his modest apartment. Or here’s a more relevant story: Until the late 1980s, Knesset members representing the Communist Party would hand their salaries over to the party, which in return would pay them the average salary earned by an industrial worker.

What do all of these have in common? An ethos that has disappeared – completely. But it’s not out of nostalgia for this ethos that people are now attacking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his lifestyle. And it’s certainly not on behalf of this ethos that they’re spilling his wife’s blood in such a contemptible manner.

When Tzipi Livni attacks Netanyahu’s lifestyle in the name of the minimum wage earned by millions of Israelis, has she forgotten the frequent pay raises given MKs, or their scandalous retirement benefits, or her opposition within the cabinet, of which she was a member until not long ago, to raising the minimum wage? No.

The current mud-slinging battle is taking place on the electoral front lines. Here, the desire to be rid of Netanyahu is great, but the fear that the chances of doing so are small runs so deep that instead of campaigning on real issues – and there are plenty of things to disagree with the right about – they are conducting a mud-slinging campaign on marginal issues. These issues doubtless pain us (who wouldn’t want to drink fine wine like the Netanyahus do, if the price was right?), but this constant drumbeat by people whose lifestyles also reflect what political society permits itself – whether we’re talking about ordinary MKs or “third-generation political princes” (Isaac Herzog) or senior journalists who receive high salaries from subsidized television and radio stations – is part of the reigning hypocrisy.

But never mind the hypocrisy. It’s part of the political game, which includes a great deal of slime in the name of morality. Anyone who remembers the last presidential election surely recalls the tools available to political society to wage smear campaigns of Facebook dimensions.

What’s truly dangerous is the purism that accompanies those bottles. Netanyahu recently finished waging a brutal war in Gaza. It’s enough to see the pictures from there – the destroyed houses, the tens of thousands of people living through this winter without a home. But the only thing people have to say about his morality boils down to his house in Caesarea?

The vast majority of ordinary Israelis and pundits alike supported those terrible acts in Gaza when they took place. How many of them are now shocked by the bottles? A lot. Netanyahu is definitively burying the dream of a Hebrew state with his rejectionist policies, and all people have against him is how much he spends on wine?

Where does this petty bourgeois morality come from, if not from the need to be “righteous” while still supporting the real moral sleaze – the daily killing of an occupied people and the destruction of their national life, and to the accompaniment of “They want to destroy us” yet? What will people remember about former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert? The two insane wars he waged, which led to bereavement on our side and mass bereavement in Lebanon and Gaza? No. They’ll remember his plane tickets.

This is the ultimate expression of the culture of purism, which favors morality as a deodorant. It exploits our low wages and miserable pensions to leak gossip to us, then uses this gossip to launder the great crimes in which ordinary citizens are increasingly complicit. The best way to be righteous is to forget where you were standing when the blood flowed, and prate about bottles instead.

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