The Israeli Left's Hatred for Netanyahu Has Driven It Mad

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Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in March.

There’s nothing like the unbelievable fury that my op-ed (Haaretz, Nov. 11) about my encounter with Benjamin Netanyahu sparked to prove a long-standing claim: The Israeli left is ill. Very ill. Its hatred for Netanyahu has driven it mad. Comparisons were immediately made to meeting Hitler in the Eagle’s Nest. Others settled for Stalin, or at the very least the CEO of ExxonMobil.

The personal insults, including from friends, are forgivable, albeit not without asking: Where does all this rage come from, what are its sources and, above all, what is it covering up? Something is hiding here, without which the depth of these feelings is incomprehensible. No approbatory essay about a different Israeli politician, dead or living, would have provoked a similar dance of hatred. It’s doubtful that anything else would have, with the possible exception of a meeting with Ariel Sharon the day after the Sabra and Chatila massacre, and in any event Sharon was forgiven for everything.

People who have been silent about Israel’s apartheid for years, who yawn at news of the crimes of the occupation and turn a blind eye to them; who vote for Yesh Atid, the Labor Party and Meretz, say they oppose the occupation, worship the Israel Defense Forces, patronize the Palestinians and think themselves enlightened – yet their conscience is tortured by the impotence and the conceptual void to which they are subjected. Deep inside they know that they are no less proponents of Jewish supremacy than the right that they despise, and from which they struggle to differentiate themselves. They know that Israel’s left-center governments never did what they had to do in order to enable the Palestinians to exercise their rights. They know that at the end of the day, they themselves are the occupation’s greatest supporters and perpetrators, in their silence, their complacency, their disinterest and their inaction.

Netanyahu fell into their hands like a ripe fruit, manna from heaven, 12 years of uninterrupted pleasure. The gift that keeps on giving. Suddenly they have an ideology, their life has meaning. Suddenly they can differentiate themselves from the right, they are fearless political warriors, Che Guevara each and every one. “Anyone but Bibi” became not only a unifying slogan and battle cry, but also the definer of their lost political identity.

It’s verboten to play with the left’s new toy, or even to go near it. If this toy is taken from it, the left will once more sink into the void, into ennui and losing its way. It will mumble empty slogans and sing songs about peace and about tomorrow, and no one will see how it’s any different from the cruel and boorish right. Woe be it, then, to anyone who tries to cast doubt on the amount of hatred that Netanyahu deserves, the hatred that is now the left’s sole raison d’etre. Even when Netanyahu is no longer prime minister, he is the left’s only toy. The government of change is irrefutable proof of this: What has actually changed? Almost nothing, particularly in regard to the most important issue, from which the government flees as if from fire.

Netanyahu was what he was. On the most critical issue he was no worse than his predecessors or his successors. He was also no better. That drives the left insane. Anyone who attempts to cast doubt on Netanyahu’s monstrosity is stepping out of line, and his fate is sealed. It is treason to say that Netanyahu is more complex than he seems. To say that he has positive sides is trolling. “The elderly you puts the you of your youth to shame,” wrote many people who did not know me or my youth but who know that one good word for Netanyahu is enough to make that claim.

Had the same things been written about Naftali Bennett, Yair Lapid or Gideon Sa’ar, they wouldn’t have created even a small uproar. Benny Gantz, by the way, spilled much more blood than Netanyahu and is even proud of it. But it’s okay to write positive things about him without limits. The prohibition, and it is absolute, applies to just one person.

A political camp that is no less tyrannical, intolerant and aggressive than that of the right, whose actions support the continuation of the occupation no less than those of the right, is horrified by someone who dares to disturb that which it most cherishes, its hatred for Netanyahu. After all, if Netanyahu is not Satan, what will it have left?

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