“Unity now!” shout the tattered remnants of the left, waving the banner of democracy. If Likud and Kahol Lavan don’t form a unity government, they warn, Bezalel Smotrich will become education minister and Yariv Levin will become justice minister, the Supreme Court will be reduced to a pile of Jerusalem stones and our schools will become fascist propaganda machines.
They furiously denounce anyone who fails to comprehend the terrible danger as they see it. Utter fools, complete idiots – this is what they call anyone who fails to grasp the huge difference between Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawbreaking and vile behavior, and what really matters – saving Israeli democracy from the cups of poison that Smotrich and Levin will pour into it.
They fuel their thundering arguments with powerful ammunition: Since Kahol Lavan will be far too antsy to sit in the opposition for long, and given the vast disparity in principles and values between the ruling party and the second-largest party, and especially given Kahol Lavan’s failure to seize control of the fortress on Balfour Street, the best its people can do would be to gather up their blasted body parts and offer themselves to Bibi as if they were the ZAKA of Israeli democracy. Why shouldn’t Kahol Lavan take on this worthy moral mission – whose success is assured, by the way, since Netanyahu is only waiting for someone to extract him from the pincers of the far right, from dependence on Levin and Smotrich and their ilk, they reason.
It’s so tempting to fall for this fantasy in which Netanyahu is the brave boy who will stick his finger in the dam to prevent the big flood. The stingy charlatan, robber of the public coffers, the man who now awaits indictment on very serious charges and would gladly have the public pay for his legal defense – this same man is now being painted as Joan of Arc in those liberal circles that say they are fighting for the life of Israel’s democracy.
These devoutly wishful thinkers are ready to forgive and forget everything. As if we weren’t talking about the same prime minister who gave his full backing to the nation-state law, that icon of governmental racial discrimination; who appointed Miri Regev as the culture minister of the People of the Book; who took great pleasure in the obscene acts perpetrated on the justice system by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. As if we weren’t talking about the same guy who appears eager to transfer Israeli Arabs to a closed ward, who heaps praise on anti-Semitic leaders around the world, who is ripping American Jewry to shreds and has defined anyone not on the right as an enemy of the state.
The grave blow to democracy and equality, and the persecution of the media, came from Netanyahu himself, unrelated to the anticipated indictments and Byzantine intrigues in his close circle. The desire to oust him is not some whim of the Movement for Quality Government in Israel. It’s a central part of the fight over Israel’s democracy, the same democracy for which certain desperate folks on the left are willing to give Netanyahu support.
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But the offenses of which he is suspected are not “a separate issue” that has no bearing on the value of preserving Israel’s democracy and defending it from the likes of Levin and Smotrich. His alleged offenses are not the cause but the consequence of a tyrannical outlook in which the law is there to serve the leader, not to restrict him; in which the court is nothing but a pawn; and the police are not doing their job properly if they investigate a prime minister.
Those who call for unity in order to save the country from Smotrich and Levin, in the belief that another party will give Netanyahu the freedom to display his supposed latent liberalism, a trait that’s just waiting to burst out, can no longer call for his removal from power, or for him to face trial, or to strengthen the chance that the opposition will ever win. It’s either Netanyahu forever – or Smotrich and Levin. In the Israeli cuckoo’s nest, even this equation can be considered a democratic concept.