Opinion

What Happens When Bibi Is Gone?

We’ve resigned ourselves to the idea that government is corrupt. Take a lesson from the settlement division. We’ll find ourselves facing the Bennetts, Shakeds and Regevs

Netanyahu will be gone, but are the others any better?
Eran Wolkowski

In the end, it appears that nothing will change, but until we reach that end, he’ll put us through the wringer. As with the election. The election caught us unprepared. There was a knock at the door on a wintry Saturday afternoon and we were roused from our post-cholent slumber, only to have this snap election thrust upon us.

We jumped in alarm. We looked in the closet and found that we had no agenda to put on aside from ousting Benjamin Netanyahu. With this we’ll go into the election all worried, but you’ll see, it’ll work in the end. Ultimately, he’ll go. He’ll go before the indictment or after the indictment or during the trial.

We like thinking about the moment when this will happen. It feels good. The sun will come out again and the flowers will bloom. The days will be beautiful and for a moment we’ll forget that he may have gone but the two Katzes – Likud ministers Yisrael Katz and Haim Katz – are still with us, as are Gideon Sa’ar, Miri Regev, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. Don’t forget that by now we’re fully acquainted with his sliminess, but not yet with theirs.

To really understand Israel and the Middle East - subscribe to Haaretz

Even after he goes we’ll keep on believing that the situation is “irreversible” and nothing can be done. Nothing can be done about anyone – the Arabs, the ultra-Orthodox, the poor. The top campaign slogans will be “We promise not to change anything” and “We promise continuity.”

We’ll have continuity after he goes, too. He’ll go and the Katzes will still be with us. They and Regev, Bennett, Shaked and Likud MK Nava Boker. None of them is going anywhere. Not because they have anything new to offer; nothing good will come of whatever proposals they have. Nor from Bibi, who’s always suggesting that we just forget the whole thing and say it was all a bad dream.

We knew it wasn’t a dream. We wanted change but we looked around and saw Sa’ar, Bennett, Shaked and Yair Lapid. Fine, we said, if that’s how it is, then we needn’t bother. We convinced ourselves that not only is there no one with whom to bring about change, maybe it’s not even worth it.

We resigned ourselves to the idea that government is corrupt. We surrendered. Go ahead, we said, be corrupt, but please, don’t make a show of it. Steal when we’re looking the other way. Take a lesson from the settlement division, steal only after a third vote in the Knesset, say that it’s all in accordance with the law but don’t forget to change it first.

We’ve seen changing laws. We’ve seen new judges, nationalist judges, obedient judges. Okay, we said, fine, but just be gentle about. Slip them in as with a colonoscopy – so it won’t hurt, so we won’t feel it, so we’ll just wake up one morning to find that radio journalist Yoram Sheftel is already in.

But wait until the last vapors of the “dramatic speech” have dissipated, wait until all the spin is finished. In the end, he’ll go. Wait and see what happens then to integrity, yes, to ordinary human integrity, the kind that everyone has but politicians less so. What an image boost it will get. Wait and see.

It will come in place of stupidity, ignorance and imperviousness. You wanted “integrity”? Here you go. We’ve got some upright generals for you. Not smart, not experienced and not very intellectual, but straight as they come. So straight that even if you turn them upside down and shake them, even if you press them and squeeze them, the most you’ll extract from them is a “No more extremism” or “No more violent discourse.”

The action will begin after he goes. Then we’ll find ourselves facing these folks. We’ll call it right versus left but we’ll know it’s really religious nationalists versus secular liberals. Poor versus bourgeois. It will be a collision, not a debate. A collision that will reveal what we’ve suppressed for years, the fact that it’s not differences of outlook that separate us, but a much deeper abyss.

We knew it wasn’t merely an ideological debate and we repressed this knowledge. We knew it but we repressed the fact that the clash between us has nothing to do with the occupation or the bill on drafting the ultra-Orthodox or the natural gas plan. We knew that it was a clash of hatred that has been simmering for 70 years and is now ready. We nurtured it, we sampled its variations. We practiced it in Facebook comments and on Twitter, and now we’re suffused with it, filled with it like a soccer hooligan is filled with beer.

We’ll stand facing each other barehanded, without any gibberish about worldviews and opinions. It will be a local, tattered version of the clash of civilizations, with the white tribe on one side and the people on the other side.

But it’s a lopsided setup from the start with no doubt about the outcome. The confrontation will be over before it begins. There’s no white tribe anymore. It’s done for. It has already come apart. It has already fled for Amsterdam, Berlin and New York. The tribal collective fell apart long ago, but it’s still running around like a headless chicken and will keep doing so until it collapses.