Netanyahu Is Campaigning, and the Hell With the State

The prime minister willing to sacrifice vital Israeli interests to ensure his political survival.

Haaretz Editorial
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Netanyahu at the Ashdod Port, October 29, 2014.
Netanyahu at the Ashdod Port, October 29, 2014.Credit: Ilan Assayag
Haaretz Editorial

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s narrative can be summed up as follows: The Palestinians and Iran are threatening Israel’s Jewish citizens with a second Holocaust; Western countries are tainted with anti-Semitism and are increasing the likelihood of Israel’s annihilation by their support for a Palestinian state and their desire for an agreement with Iran; the proper Israeli response is to accelerate settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem; opponents of the settlements are traitors and collaborators with the enemy; and domestic problems, first and foremost the cost of living, are an annoying drone by his political rivals.

These claims don’t always stand up to the test of reality. The U.S. president, who is depicted by the prime minister and his mouthpieces as the spiritual heir of Neville Chamberlain, is supplying Israel with advanced weaponry, despite his criticism of its policies. Netanyahu opposed toppling the Hamas regime in Gaza, while the Shin Bet security service, which is subordinate to him, maintains close ties with the security services that answer to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whom the prime minister accused of “inciting the murder of Jews."

But the facts don’t keep Netanyahu from repeating his narrative over and over, and that is what he did again on Monday at the opening of the Knesset’s winter session. Netanyahu expects early elections to be called, and his speech heralded the start of his campaign for a fourth term in office. His political goal is clear: resuming the “natural partnership” between his Likud party, the extreme right-wing parties and the ultra-Orthodox.

To this end, he is willing to sacrifice the state’s vital interests – to undermine relations with the United States and Europe, destroy any chance of an agreement with the Palestinians, worsen tensions between Jews and Arabs, undermine freedom of expression and ignore the country’s economic distress. Even he couldn’t come up with a single example of a decision his government has made to reduce the cost of living; instead, he cited an example from the previous government. It’s no wonder talk of moving to Berlin has recently erupted in full force.

Netanyahu is entering the election campaign in a strong position. The public hasn’t identified any other candidate it considers capable of replacing him, and his narrative is accepted even by his political rivals. Finance Minister Yair Lapid spoke last week about “security fears of a second Holocaust,” as if Israel were truly on the brink of annihilation. And the Labor Party, ostensibly the chief opposition party, is acting as the right-wing government’s public diplomacy arm overseas.

This situation, in which the prime minister has no real rivals and everything he does is aimed at pleasing the settlers and the ultra-Orthodox, perpetuates a right-wing government and endangers Israel. Anyone who is concerned about the country’s future must strive to create a different national narrative and to build a political force that would enable this government to be replaced.

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