Opinion

When Netanyahu’s Culture Minister Shows Up

Actually it’s a whole group of legislators that uses her method: brutal attack from a position of victimhood

Miri Regev visits Israel's social justice protests on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard armed with a camera crew only to get booed away. July 15, 2011
\ Moti Kimche

A few days ago I was forced to listen to the wisdom of the culture minister. I didn’t really have a choice: the bus driver turned the radio on full blast. She ripped into all the arrests and leaks from the corruption investigations. As I heard her screaming to high heaven and blaming everyone for unfairly targeting “the king,” that very same Benjamin Netanyahu she sucks up to, I suddenly recalled an incident we were both involved in, Miri Regev and myself. At the time, it was everyone’s fault but her, a victim unfairly targeted.

It was July 15, 2011, on the second day of the social justice protests on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard. Regev was only a Knesset member. She thought, maybe due to her folksy public image, that she would be welcomed. To her surprise, the opposite took place.

I was there for almost a whole day since the action had started. I identified with the protest and felt part of it – maybe because I didn’t try to give a speech and didn’t come armed with cameras and microphones. Rather, I joined in the debates and sat together with everyone; maybe because of this the activists accepted me. It’s also clear that it had to do with my long-standing positions on social issues.

When I saw Regev arrive, followed by a television crew of course, I moved away. I didn’t want to take part in her charade, and I especially didn’t want to be identified with the type of politics she represents. I knew she would start a scene – that’s always her goal. Her provocations are intended to maximize her publicity. Regev is an expert on the media, which in turn eats out of her hand gleefully – whether when she was the army spokeswoman during the Second Lebanon War or then during the social justice protest.

In the boulevard a crowd immediately formed around her, with calls against social injustice and the government. “You’re not wanted here. You get money but don’t take care of our problems,” one of the activists told her.

Regev, as is her way, didn’t come to listen but to preach. “Ludicrous, anarchists,” she yelled at them. Someone called out: “You got your photo op, now leave.” Regev replied: “Are you stupid or what?” Eventually she left in embarrassment; someone also aimed some water at her from a bottle. 

Regev was quick to report to the nation. “They had dreadlocks,” she said in shock. The following day she put together a press conference. More than being upset by getting booed away, she was furious that I had stayed: “Nitzan Horowitz is received with bouquets, but when I show up I get called a fascist.”

She also announced that she was going to file a complaint against me for not intervening on her behalf against the demonstrators, and for not protecting her from the drops of water. Of course she didn’t miss a chance to toss some racism into the mix: “If it were an Arab MK instead of me, he would have run to embrace him!”

The incident provoked an onslaught of jokes online. The furious Regev didn’t know what to do with herself. “I am MK Miri Regev, an MK!” she yelled at Stav Shaffir on television. She didn’t skip any TV studio in her smear campaign against the protest. “They also reeked of alcohol,” she reported. “What they do in those tents is drink alcohol.”

And what happened with the complaint against me? The ethics committee rejected it entirely. The decision went to the Knesset and triggered lots of smiles there.

But Regev’s tactic succeeded; her star has only kept rising. She succeeded in the Likud primary, she was nominated to be a minister and is part of the prime minister’s close circle. Now her politics are used as a model for a whole group of MKs. They use the method she used to trash the social protest: brutal attack from a position of victimhood. The cry of the great Cossack. Anything to win the media’s attention, which they of course are quick to slander.

And the media? It plays along. So if someone assesses that one fine day Regev may become prime minister, no one will find it preposterous.