The War on Reality

A Russian-language pro-Netanyahu poster in Jerusalem, December 4, 2019
Emil Salman

In a column this week in Haaretz’s Hebrew edition, Raviv Drucker suggested that Kahol Lavan’s Yair Lapid give in and agree to have his party enter a Netanyahu-led government, a government that Drucker himself described as“crazy.” If we want to avoid a third round of Knesset elections, Drucker writes, that is the pragmatic option.

Here we arrive at the very depths of the bizarre, confused state that Israel currently is in. A leading political commentator is recommending that a politician violate his promise to the public and enter a government headed by a prime minister charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust. In a crazy world, pragmatism is also becoming a stronghold of insanity.

It’s not Netanyahu who is being told he should back down. Drucker didn’t think to suggest that Netanyahu agree to have Kahol Lavan’s Benny Gantz serve first as prime minister in a rotation agreement with Likud, as would be fitting given that Kahol Lavan garnered more seats than Likud, and given the three indictments that Netanyahu has garnered for himself.

Drucker didn’t bother suggesting that opportunists in Likud stop bending over backwards in support of a third round of elections that will cost about 1.5 billion shekels ($432 million). Instead, he turned to the people who won the election and asked them to compromise their principles, to eliminate what’s left of the public’s trust in them and crawl into a government headed by an indicted suspect. Netanyahu will break up any government that Gantz enters and drag us into elections in any event. Then Gantz won’t even have his promises left.

There is nothing pragmatic about this proposal. It is simple surrender. But the purportedly acceptable trend, whereby serious, level-headed commentators begin suggesting that politicians forgo their principles and adopt a rotten compromise plan because the boy in the Prime Minister’s Residence refuses to move out, is why Netanyahu is still prime minister.

In this parallel world, Netanyahu doesn’t actually have to explain why he should be first in a rotation with Gantz. They’re not asking Netanyahu to explain why he had called on then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to resign when police investigations were opened against him, while Netanyahu can remain in office as prime minister with three severe indictments pending against him.

No one is asking Netanyahu, of whom no one even demands that he sit for an interview, to explain. Indictment after indictment, the media are simply accepting that the prime minister is refusing to answer questions.

It is the job of journalists and commentators to mediate reality for us, not to accept Israel’s bold leap into madness with a shrug. The obligation to defend reality is in their hands. Granted that they can’t prevent Netanyahu and his band of opportunists from dragging Israeli democracy into the sewer, but they absolutely can point out who is to blame for the stench. Instead, serious people are pretending that everything’s fine. If you stand right at the edge and there’s a little wind, you don’t smell a thing.

Supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend a rally held under the banner 'protesting the coup' in Tel Aviv, on November 26, 2019.

The time has come to exact a price for this madness, not only from Netanyahu, but also from his colleagues. They have been given the choice of being Bibi acolytes or Israelis. And they have opted for Netanyahu. They need to know that the public is watching and will remind them of this disgrace for a long time.

We’re in a war over reality, and the prime minister is on the other side in this battle. There’s no balance here, and any pretense of balance means that we are giving in to organized psychosis.

Lapid did what he should have in this case. He stood up for his principles. It is not he who should face criticism. It is those who from the outset didn’t stand up for principle.