The Left Is Good for Netanyahu

A Labor Party billboard in Tel Aviv, July 15, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

In light of the opinion polls, many people are asking themselves when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will rev up his engines and what his secret weapon will be – the strike that will decide the election. I can already answer the question: It’s the left. Netanyahu’s situation is not good. If MK Avigdor Lieberman continues his rebellion, Netanyahu will have no way to form a government. But don’t worry, in this campaign, like the one before it, the left helps and will continue to help Netanyahu in a variety of ways and with rare generosity.

For example, Labor Party chairman MK Amir Peretz’s recent megalomaniacal step. Orli Levi-Abekasis could have been a nice social-affairs-minded addition to the Labor Party, if we ignore the party from which she sprung and the laws she supported. But now, at the critical moment when unifying the left is a matter of survival, Peretz winks to the right and doesn’t firmly rule out entering a Netanyahu government. That’s not a mistake, that’s sabotage.

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This phenomenon, ruining an opportunity at the critical moment, fascinates some of my friends on the right, who ask me to explain the psychological and cultural mechanism at its foundation.

First of all, I tell them: irresponsibility. In our camp, the debate itself is more important than victory. As if we’re still sitting in the study hall and hair-splitting over a verse.

The definition “camp” is misleading of course. We’re talking about a collection of individuals. Snowflakes of a very special kind, coming together under a very broad ideological identity, but each wanting to express its individuality. The process of appointing the leader or initiating a political move is particularly exhausting. Efforts are invested in finding the faults in each one, and in the end no one is found whom the refined members of the camp consider perfect enough. Someone presents his or her candidacy, which immediately launches a depressing, cynical contest to see who delivers more blows, which finally extinguishes the enthusiasm in voters’ hearts

This could be seen in tweets that bade farewell to MK Shelly Yacimovich after she announced her retirement from politics. Many good things may be said, and have been said about her, and in retrospect one may understand her fleeing her party’s ship of fools, but those who cited her weaknesses were actually people from the left. Former MK Eitan Cabel, her party colleague and partner to many moves who fell short of making it into the Knesset in the April election, went so far as to say, stupidly, “A little more work, and Cabel is in.”

Leftists have a supernatural talent for ruining any momentum by creating momentum in the opposite direction. Opinion-makers on the right are wondering for the first time out loud whether Netanyahu might be a burden on Likud; something of the unity in their ranks is beginning to crumble. Yet on the left? The quarrels in Kahol Lavan, the refusal of the three parties to its left to do the obvious and unite, the citing of faults and (microscopic) differences. A lovely show of small-mindedness.

And the spin. How the left loves to give itself over to Netanyahu’s spin. When Nava Jacobs shared her hallucinations on Facebook about supposedly having been sexually harassed by Benny Gantz 40 years ago, even Culture Minister Miri Regev, who was responsible for that production, couldn’t believe her luck. Confused statements by a confused woman, with a battery of warning lights flashing over her, were met with a sweeping wave of “I believe her” from feminists on the left.

And when the British tabloid Daily Mail, which has lost a series of slander suits, recycles a three-year-old photo, this time from another angle, of Ehud Barak at the doorway of Jeffrey Epstein, the people who compete on social media with Yair Netanyahu, who is naturally celebrating the report, are of course leftists. They are fighting with each other over who can utter a more severe denouncement, otherwise their image will be hurt as the most serious critics of themselves.

At this point one can only decide that the left, with its many shades and representations in the Knesset, suffers from performance anxiety, and there is no quick cure for that.