The Netanyahus vs. Israeli Democracy

It seems everybody is on Bibi and Sara’s blacklist: left-wing organizations, the media, the poor – and that's just a start.

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The Netanyahus. He also has grandchildren.
Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu. Credit: Moti Milrod
Iris Leal
Iris Leal

It may be key to understanding two things: the strength of the tie between the prime minister and his wife, and the nature of the Netanyahus’ relationship with their employees and the members of the Likud party and the cabinet. The Netanyahus seem to be united in a certain emotional experience that's expressed in every aspect of their lives: Both feel alienation – maybe even loathing – for the country and its people.

More accurately, Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife are united in their uncompromising battle against everything. That’s why they like inciting everybody to attack everybody.

Nothing brings two hearts closer than fighting a common enemy, it is said. Unfortunately, that enemy is us, and that everybody means everybody without exception.

The old elites are maligned and the “rabble” is scorned. The Arab citizens are expected to show their loyalty, but when they exercise their right to vote there’s an outcry. The top brass is also anathema for seeking to preserve the army’s values; so are the “anti-Zionist” critics of our wonderful army, from both within and without.

Everybody’s on the Netanyahus’ blacklist – democracy, left-wing organizations, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, the media, the poor, the tottering middle class, the staff at the prime minister’s residence, the house itself, the judge, the prosecution and the state comptroller’s office. Even their dog Kaiya joins the spirit and bites visitors.

Sara Netanyahu’s passion for hygiene and her husband’s love for diplomatic stagnation are now being answered by chaos: labor court hearings into complaints against her and the attorney general’s order to look into the latest suspicions against him. All this reinforces their sense that everybody’s against them. Meanwhile, the coalition keeps teetering, creating the impression that nothing is safe anymore.

The interesting question is whether any good for the country can possibly come from this special constellation, these extreme circumstances. Can we take heart from the thought that the Netanyahus detest their political allies as much as they detest their rivals and scorn Europe’s powerful leaders at least as much as they scorn the president of the United States?

We probably can. When there are no rules, when ideology is no more than a reflex of opposition to everything and when that is the strategy too anything can happen. Even good things.

It’s true that the chances aren’t great, but those same mysterious motives that pushed Netanyahu two years ago to launch another round of bloody fighting in Gaza could push him now toward peace. Maybe he’d even seriously consider the Saudi peace initiative (if only to spite Bennett).

Netanyahu could even make an offer to Zionist Union it couldn’t refuse, if only to shake up Avigdor Lieberman’s excessive self-confidence and for the satisfaction Netanyahu would feel by taking the justice portfolio away from Shaked. Could we find ourselves rescued from the dark that has descended on our lives by a moderate, socially conscious government? That depends on the direction the Netanyahus’ hatred is aimed at the moment.

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