If Only All Israelis Could Be Like the 'Salt of the Earth' Elite

For several decades, Israel has been taking orders from the likes of Lior Lotan and MK Ofer Shelah. What a country this would be if only all Israelis were like them.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Lior Lotan (right) faces the press following a meeting with the Mengistu family.
File photo: Lior Lotan (right) faces the press following a meeting with the Mengistu family. Credit: Ilan Assayag
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

The salt of the earth has been through combat service, possibly the paratroopers, preferably a commando unit and, of course, an aviation squadron. The salt of the earth has never been discharged from the Israel Defense Forces. The salt of the earth lives in a rural community, a suburb or moshav, somewhere in the central region. Usually he is married to a woman who is also salt of the earth. Usually he’s Ashkenazi. The salt of the earth is convinced he is a man of values. He votes for the center-left, with a preference for Yair Lapid, and he’s for two states (but not now).

Oh how he wishes all Israelis were like him. What a state we could have here – paradise! If the whole state was from an elite commando unit, everything would run like clockwork. It would be a state of ideals and courage – a variety of killing methods, resolve to accomplish the mission, and toughness in the face of the enemy.

The salt of the earth doesn’t rant and rave. He speaks softly and pleasantly, as befitting his status. He is neither a racist nor an ultranationalist. He is the embodiment of Zionism. The salt of the earth has a short Hebrew name, his head is shaven, he engages in some extreme sport, likes hiking in the countryside and oozes complacency. He is always a volunteer in some organization.

The salt of the earth is, for example, Lior Lotan and Ofer Shelah. One is from the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit and the Shin Bet security service; the other from the Paratroopers Brigade. One is from Hod Hasharon; the other from Ginaton. One is the prime minister’s coordinator for prisoners-of-war and missing persons; the other is a Knesset member. The two have been friends for years.

Lotan was recorded talking arrogantly and brashly to the family of Avera Mengistu, who is missing in the Gaza Strip. “My meetings aren’t written down,” he rebuked a family member, among other things. The “Ethiopian affair” immediately became the “Lotan affair.” The country adopted its shocked expression. The all-Israeli Lotan had spoken with Israel’s real voice – with threats, patronizing, racist and bullying – and the whole country was in uproar. Lotan is the salt of the earth.

Lotan immediately became the victim and Mengistu – missing in Gaza for 10 months – was almost forgotten. Lotan apologized afterward, noting, “What I said didn’t reflect my values.” His wife, Shlomit, wrote on Facebook he had been lynched. Playing the victim is also part of being salt of the earth.

She wrote a seminal text: “Anyone who knows Lior knows he’s not a racist, and the family also knows it. What people don’t know is that Lior is doing this job voluntarily he told me you don’t get paid for holy work. You’re just grateful for the possibility to save a life. Anyone who knows Lior knows that’s branded into his soul.”

Saving a life, elite commando unit, Shin Bet ... hmmm. Lotan even gave the military award he had received to the mother of a soldier who was wounded in the war in Gaza – what would you say to that?

“Nobody is farther from politics than he is,” said his friend Shelah. The salt of the earth doesn’t soil his hands with “politics.” He is above it. Shelah, who has been shamefully silent over his patron Lapid’s semi-fascist onslaught on the Breaking the Silence organization, is also seen as a politician with “values.” Shelah is always silent in response to Lapid’s utterances.

“The negotiator faces the enemy and must be as cruel and focused as he is,” he wrote in Lotan’s defense. Cruelty is also one of the salt of the earth’s sublime values.

It is attributed to the enemy and the methods of response required against the enemy. The cruel enemy understands only cruelty. The salt of the earth will always ignore the initial cruelty: the occupier’s. Holding Mengistu – that’s cruelty. Holding a hunger-striking detainee who’s about to die chained to his bed? That’s humanism. The salt of the earth doesn’t deal with such matters.

For several decades, Israel has been taking orders from this salt of the earth. When civilians like the Mengistus annoy him, the salt of the earth loses his cool. Stop disturbing the salt of the earth; let him carry out his mission.

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