Opinion

The Last Refuge of the Man From Balfour Street

Uzi Baram
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Demonstrators wear masks as Netanyahu and Defense Minister and coalition partner Benny Gantz during a protest in Jerusalem, Israel, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020.
Demonstrators wear masks as Netanyahu and Defense Minister and coalition partner Benny Gantz during a protest in Jerusalem, Israel, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020.Credit: Ariel Schalit,AP
Uzi Baram

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a brazen letter to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, asking him to protect him from potential attackers and murderers. Netanyahu knows that Yigal Amir, Yona Avrushmi and Ami Popper grew among the ranks of the right, as did Yaakov Tytell, who wanted to murder Zeev Sternhell, of blessed memory. He, who incites and inflames, and who has for years sanctioned the spilling of the blood of his opponents – dares to say such things to Mendelblit, who is threatened more than he is. After inciting parts of the public against him, he now puts his life at risk. He shows no restraint, turns every critic and opponent into the enemy. It seems the protests are weighing on him and this makes clear how important and right they are.

Netanyahu calls the protesters “anarchists” who are worth a quarter of Knesset seat, but he is wrong. The protest is supported by a great many people. Whoever demonstrates at intersections and experiences the honking in support understands that something has change in Israel. Netanyahu does not know how to shake off the protest, and thinks that an election campaign will bring out hidden supporters into the streets. He knows the huge establishment of government companies and their wholesale jobs will bring them to his side, because his troubles are their troubles.

This time many young people have abandoned their usual lack of political involvement. They have experienced the government’s powerlessness in its populist handling of the pandemic and its “economic plan” of providing grants from the government’s cash register. These young people are not automatically the allies of Yair Lapid or Benny Gantz. Every in-depth poll proves that among the young people, up to age 30, the support for the right is firm. But once they have to define themselves politically, I would not be surprised if they found a protest party to express the economic and social frustration so many of them have.

From Netanyahu’s point of view, he has no other choice, he must bring about an election soon. There are those who are cultivating unrealistic delusions concerning his next steps, but someone who has no moral inhibitions to violate a signed political agreement also has no moral restraints to keep him from favoring his own personal interests over the general good. No importance should be attributed to his actions, such as his support for the proposal of MK Zvi Hauser to postpone the deadline for passing the budget. It is only another ploy meant to confuse the public so it will not understand the significance of his actions. Netanyahu conducts, without any shame, the politics of permanent fraud – to which there is no appropriate response – because there are no other politicians to be found who think like him.

So I have almost no doubt that the election will be moved up, unless deserters can be found to fill out the ranks. There is no real possibility for legislation against Netanyahu personally at a time when the Knesset Speaker is Yariv Levin, who has so many ways to postpone a debate. Netanyahu is taking a risk, because an election at such a time could very well lead to his political demise, rather then recovery. He could make a mistake because we cannot predict the scope of the coronavirus outbreak or the damage of the economic crisis. All these will fan the public protests, which will grow stronger in spite of the show of violence that can be anticipated against it.

The personal and crazy decision to call an election will make the campaign a bitter one, but the sweeping desire to bring about a change in government does not come this time from old and longtime rivalries. It is the fruit of new and promising initiatives of those who see the ruling evil, the lies celebrated in the streets – and they want it to stop.

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