The Likud Branch of Incitement

Zehava Galon
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Likud activist holds a sign reading 'leftists are traitors' in a protest last May
Likud activist holds a sign reading 'leftists are traitors' in a protest last MayCredit: Tomer Applebaum
Zehava Galon

David Amsalem apparently did not say that leftists should be locked: He was referring to judges and prosecutors. Leftists celebrated on Twitter and told jail jokes over the weekend.

But none of this is actually funny, because Amsalem said something much worse, and he has not recanted: If his Likud party returns to power, judges will be jailed, “to rule, we’ll delete the word ‘justice’” and Likud will bar [future] opposition lawmakers from the Knesset.

Amsalem represents a party, that in turn represents one-fourth of Israelis. And he’s calling for toppling our entire democratic system of government, with his bloc solidly behind him. It’s not just Likud MKs, from whom we no longer expect anything. The right-wing media also kept mum when Amsalem removed his mask.

“Bennett’s feel-good speeches to U.S. Jews won’t silence criticism of Israel’s policy on Palestine”

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As Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar said, referring to Amsalem and Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister and current head of the opposition, by their respective nicknames, “The voice is the voice of Dudi, but the hands are the hands of Bibi.” And that’s one reason why the other Likud MKs adamantly refused to disavow Amsalem and found extenuating circumstances for his remarks. One after another, they got on the air and defended him.

The first reason for this behavior is that Likud and the right are closing ranks around Netanyahu, his supporters and his loyalists. The second is that Amsalem faithfully represents a broad current on the right – the unholy alliance between Bibi’s followers and the Kahanists.

MK David Amsalem during a vote in the organizing committee in JulyCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg

To gain power, the right must ignore a majority of voters, not to mention a majority of the population under Israeli control. There are very few ways to gain power in this fashion, and the most common trick is through elections that are formally democratic but actually devoid of content. This is the direction Likud has been going in for the past decade or more.

Amsalem’s ability to say such things openly is very important. Once, as former prime minister Ehud Barak said scathingly, such things would have been whispered in secret. Today, they are said to the entire world.

Amsalem is publicly quoting the program of another party from a dark era in history – using democracy to destroy democracy. This is no longer subversion, but a direct attack on the foundations of democracy.

Once, in the innocent 1980s, members of the Labor Party and Meretz and even Likud could all boycott Meir Kahane and leave the Knesset plenum when he spoke. But those days are gone. Today, Likud is a pale copy of the outlawed Kahane Chai movement.

As Foreign Minister Yair Lapid aptly said at a Knesset session held in memory of the assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, the ideological heirs of his assassin, Yigal Amir, now sit in the Knesset, yet most Israelis prefer to look away. This is frightening, ugly and debilitating.

Likud Member David Amsalem (center) and other MKs during a disagreement in the Knesset in JuneCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg

An essay I wrote here about a month ago drew many responses. In it, I said that a significant portion of the Israeli right is not conservative, but revolutionary. It seeks to replace Israel’s democracy with a state for Jews only. I used strong language and stressed the need to stand up to our racists and fascists, call them out and make it clear to them that we’re not going anywhere.

My supporters were in favor of going on the offensive over our positions and principles. But the constant carpers in our bloc viewed me as having attacked the apple of their eye and whined that I was dirtying my hands.

My dear friends, pay attention – we’re talking about abolishing democracy. That’s their goal, and they have stated it publicly. This time, Amsalem said it; Bezalel Smotrich has talked about ethnic cleansing. And many voters support this.

We’re no longer in the 1980s. What’s falling on you isn’t rain, and you don’t enter a boxing ring in a tutu. There’s a battle being waged here, a battle for our soul. The arguments over etiquette can wait until after we’ve won.

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