Opinion

With a Sword at His Throat, Third Election Is No Big Deal for Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu, Benny Gantz and President Reuven Rivlin at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, September 19, 2019.
Amos Ben Gershom / GPO

It’s not clear what’s so shocking about the third time, why analysts writhe in disgust when discussing the “danger of an election.” They don’t understand why politicians “can’t be flexible,” why they “can’t get over their ego.” What they mean is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz should renege on all their agreements with their partners and all their promises to voters. The TV journalists don’t have the patience for another election, they’ve run out of clichés and “special election formats.”

A third election is superfluous? Of course it is. Netanyahu’s visit to Ukraine in August was superfluous and the nation-state law is superfluous and the official plane is superfluous, but keeping a suspect out of court and out of prison takes money. When he’s the prime minister, it takes more. Over 2 million voters (“the bloc” and Avigdor Lieberman) voted for Bibi to remain in office. They hope it will happen now, and if not now, then next time. They’re told that each election day costs 5 billion shekels ($1.43 billion), and they reply, so what? After all, three submarines cost more and nobody makes a big deal of it.

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Haaretz Weekly Ep. 42Haaretz

The third is really no big deal, it’s actually the easiest. The third time around, they won’t try to tell us this one is “critical,” that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The third time around we’ll realize that even if there’s a fourth, fifth and sixth time, nothing will change. The right will beat the right. The right that doesn’t care about corruption, as long as we remain in the territories and expel blacks, versus the right that thinks that it’s possible to do that graciously, without corruption.

The third time around the law will lock on to the suspect the way a cat locks on to a mouse. The end is known, but not the timing. There’s nothing personal here. The law doesn’t hate the criminal, and the cat doesn’t hate the mouse. Everyone is doing their jobs. The cat is no longer agitated. It looks at the mouse with curiosity, like an outside observer. It’s curious to know what the mouse will do now, as it twitches between its paws.

The mouse is exhausted, it doesn’t look good. It’s scruffy, small beads of sweat align themselves above its upper lip, its voice sounds higher, almost screeching. All right, I lost, it says, but you won’t hear a “sorry” from me, devour me if it makes you happy, but be aware that an injustice was done to me, you have no idea what we’ve done for you, my wife and I.

There are also onlookers. They can’t remain indifferent, they aren’t fans of the mouse, but its lost cause touches their hearts. They cheer every crazy and surprising step. Look, they say, it’s jumping up! Next to the cat’s whiskers! Nothing will come of it, but it’s trying. “A futile jump,” the attorney general will call it, but in the bleachers they’re nodding in appreciation and discreetly asking what about a plea bargain and perhaps a pardon.

Desperate suspects don’t wait for a pardon. Their thoughts race. Having a sword put to your throat focuses your thoughts wonderfully, a famous local publisher once told an editor who found it difficult to make budget cuts. When there’s a sword at its throat the mouse makes lightning calculations, he weighs the election dates against the hearing dates, he counts the 28 days, subtracting holidays and sick days; Knesset members who can be hoodwinked, corrupted and tempted to betray pass before his eyes like a speeded-up film. He thinks about a surprising step that would disrupt everything – an important trip? Perhaps a war?

The onlooker who bends down to get a better look at what’s happening in the arena is also endangering himself. He, that is we, are likely to get a punch in the face. A trapped mouse is dangerous. A desperate mouse with its back to the wall is the most dangerous of all. It’s willing to do the craziest thing in the world. What does it have to lose?

In such a situation it’s foolish to come to him with demands for altruism and sacrifice “for the people.” A waste of millions will not deter him. Let’s see you going to prison only because you feel uncomfortable about wasting other people’s money. Now he has no more cards to play. And he’s playing for time. Perhaps something will happen during this time, perhaps an earthquake, missiles from Iran?

One can understand him. Anyone in his place would use the tools at his disposal, and the tools at his disposal are us and everything we have. He is grabbing onto us like a drowning man grabbing the shirt of someone who has come to help him, and drowns along with him.