In 1999, just before his defeat at the polls, Benjamin Netanyahu was overheard whispering in the ears of the kabbalist amulet-dispensing Rabbi Kaduri that “the left has forgotten what it means to be Jewish.” That whisper riled many people. The widespread response alarmed Netanyahu as if he were a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Up to recently it appeared that Netanyahu had learned a lesson from that incident.
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There is no word more commonly used by Netanyahu than “incitement” – the incitement of school students against us by the Palestinian Authority, incitement in Europe against Jews and synagogues. One shouldn’t dismiss these warnings, uttered by a reputable master of this trade who would get a diploma of excellence in any college of incitement.
Thus, the one whose chief desire was that the Labor party join his coalition, wishing to rid himself of the party of Naftali Bennett that was breathing down his neck, now claims that there is no room for collaboration with the Zionist Camp since it is an extreme leftist party. True leftists can only laugh at these words.
The worrisome combination of an inciter and someone who is uncomfortable with the truth, denying his past actions if they are incongruent with his present objectives, is a problem both for himself and for the public. The Zionist Camp, headed by Isaac Herzog, includes MKs Shelly Yacimovich, Eitan Cabel and Omer Bar-Lev, whom Netanyahu wanted to incorporate into his Zionist-Jewish government when he attempted to give it a more moderate look.
What has changed since then? Nothing. Most of that party’s representatives kept their places on the list, with a few additional names added on.
However, something else happened, not at all negligible. Netanyahu realized that he is a contentious candidate, a default candidate for many voters rather than a preferred leader. He has also understood that he and his party are going through a process of decline.
American and Israeli consultants got together, studied the situation and concluded that the only solution is to resort to the old, time-worn weapon that excels at scattering venom. Maybe that could stop the slide. Well aware of the fact that “the left” is a brand name detested by large sections of the public, these experts advised Netanyahu to start using terms such as “extreme left” and “anti-Zionist.”
Herzog is a wise man. He knew that by picking the moniker “Zionist Camp” he would rattle those Zionists who received their legitimacy from extremist rabbis Dov Lior and Shlomo Aviner, as well as from Netanyahu himself. Herzog foresaw where Netanyahu would direct his barbs and considered how to neutralize the non-truths emanating from his direction. Extreme left? The entire Zionist Camp supports the concept of a two-state solution, to which Netanyahu is committed but his party is openly opposed.
There is a left-wing party here that is more clear and determined, and that is Meretz. This courageous party is of no interest to Netanyahu since it doesn’t pose a real alternative to his waning strength. That is why he prefers to speak of the Palestinian identity mentioned by Arab Labor candidate Zouheir Bahloul. What does Netanyahu want? That all Arabs be excluded from Knesset lists? That 20 percent of this country’s citizens won’t be able to integrate into Israeli political parties?
When Netanyahu senses that incitement won’t suffice, he turns to other methods. For example, who will pick up that red phone? Who? I don’t know. What I do know is that I’d rather it not be Bennett or Netanyahu, Zionists in their own eyes, who are digging an abyss for this country.
Netanyahu’s incitement is aimed at dwarfing his opponents, and the red phone is meant to scare his citizens. He purports, despite being concerned throughout his entire term only with his own political survival, to be the only one worthy of picking up that phone.
Any government that is elected will require a trustworthy diplomatic technician who will need to repair the broken phone lines, internal and external, and know how to use them effectively.