Opinion |

This Is How Netanyahu Will Go Down in History

Uzi Baram
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Sunglasses reflect people attending a rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside the Likud party headquarters in Tel Aviv on November 22, 2019.
Sunglasses reflect people attending a rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside the Likud party headquarters in Tel Aviv on November 22, 2019.Credit: AFP
Uzi Baram

The esteemed author Meir Shalev wrote in a recent article that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “won’t be remembered in any way. … People have to do something really major, for good or for evil, in order to merit a place in history.”

Shalev noted that Netanyahu did not bring about a solution to the conflict with the Palestinians while he did contribute to social and economic inequality in Israel, and was not a trailblazer.

But history is not a linear progression connecting trailblazing events. The historical perspective examines what happened between the stage when a leader assumed his position and the point when he departed.

Mussolini and Franco were declared dictators who fought their opponents in every way possible. Both were disciples of the fascist-totalitarian school and enjoyed broad popular support.

Mussolini, who brought his bitter end upon himself, did not remain a dead letter in Italian history. Franco, who was a violent despot but knew how to avoid getting entangled in wars, is not missing from the sequence of Spanish history.

Without making comparisons, Netanyahu will also be remembered for heading the government for many years. Many will give him credit for economic and security-related achievements. However, Netanyahu will not be remembered for them, but rather for the wounds he inflicted on Israel.

Netanyahu exacerbated the conflict with the Palestinians and placed the two nations on the brink of a potential disaster. With the support of messianic groups and believers in ruling by force, we are marching toward an inevitable clash.

Netanyahu has turned Israeli politics into a “legitimate” industry of lies. He lies and so do his aides and his ministers. He does it so well that among some parts of the public, even truth is seen as a lie.

Netanyahu deliberately incited various groups in the Israeli public against one another. That was the case, for example, in the affair of the soldier Elor Azaria, in which he chose to embrace the son who was under prosecution and turned his back on a law-abiding chief of staff.

Netanyahu managed to remove from the lexicon concepts such as “occupation,” “Palestinians,” and “two states,” and turned terms such as “leftist,” and “Israeli Arabs” into derogatory words. That is exactly how fascist countries related to words such as “Jew” or “communist.”

Netanyahu favored individual achievement over social solidarity, the value on which the state was founded. He bequeathed to Israelis the American right-wing concept of capitalism.

Netanyahu caused shame to disappear from our public lives. Once, when shame still existed, there were public figures who preferred to put an end to their lives when they were suspected of criminal activity. Today politicians who have been indicted are promoted.

Netanyahu is the first prime minister who openly challenged the rule of law and the law enforcement system. The fact that he stood behind the demonstration last week against the legal system and the media, and his call to his followers to attend it, were more that support for irresponsible statements such as “[Attorney General] Avichai Mendelblit and [State Prosecutor] Shai Nitzan are the two heads of the snake.” The demonstration was a historic milestone, just as the demonstration against German reparations and the demonstration in Zion Square have not been forgotten.

Benjamin Netanyahu will enter the history books if only because of his call to his supporters to shatter the rule of law, even if a dishonorable asterisk will appear next to his name.