United Against Netanyahu, Divided on Everything Else

Netanyahu's only concern is survival, which is why it's impossible to believe anything he says.

Uzi Baram
Uzi Baram
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Netanyahu delivers a speech after winning another term as leader of Likud. Tel Aviv, January 1, 2015
Netanyahu delivers a speech after winning another term as leader of Likud. Tel Aviv, January 1, 2015Credit: AFP
Uzi Baram
Uzi Baram

Once, people feared the right-wing extremism of former Likud MK Benny Begin. Next, people said it was inconceivable for a ruling party to embrace people like MKs Yariv Levin and Zeev Elkin, who are sick of Israeli democracy and its legal system and are also pulling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wagon into a ditch. And then, Baruch Marzel, who is continuing the legacy of Rabbi Meir Kahane, suddenly emerged from his lair.

It’s hard to believe that the death of Shas’ spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, will indirectly lead to Marzel entering the Knesset, thanks to the uncontrollable rage of former Shas chairman Eli Yishai. Yishai has chosen to join forces with people who represent a benighted Israel, one that declares, “Anyone who says there’s no contradiction between Judaism and democracy is lying.”

Now, we gaze with disappointment at Begin’s reentry into Likud. Begin, an untarnished democrat, is returning to the movement that vomited him out. Netanyahu spared no effort to return the “prodigal son.” After all, he wants to survive.

They all wanted to survive – from Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres to Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon. But in none of those prime ministers did the urge to survive dictate their every step. Only for Netanyahu is this true – and because survival is his only concern, it’s impossible to believe anything he says on any issue. Netanyahu is happy about the hook-up between Yishai and Marzel, because it’s a hook-up that might keep him in his job.

But the center and the Zionist left are still fighting the last war. Zionist Camp feels obliged to recall the sins of ex-Finance Minister Yair Lapid, while Lapid warns of a potential alliance between Zionist Camp’s leader, Isaac Herzog, and the ultra-Orthodox. In other words, like other purists, they’re fussing over the fact that someone who aspires to power doesn’t constitute a perfect alternative.

Are they too blind to see? In these elections, the public will end up with a team comprised of MKs Elkin, Uri Ariel and Moti Yogev. And Marzel – who has never hidden his intentions, methods and motives – intends to join them.

Netanyahu is fighting for his home against everyone who has risen up against his failed government. There will be security incidents; there will be an irresponsible address to both houses of Congress that will be aimed solely at us, the citizens of Israel. But the opposition to Netanyahu hasn’t grasped the importance of the hour or the weight of responsibility it bears for avoiding mutual smear campaigns among its members. The opposition is also indifferent to the inflammatory claim that the Israeli media have joined forces to dethrone Netanyahu.

The truth is the diametric opposite. The prime minister has a daily house organ with no restraints. Israel Hayom’s treatment of Naftali Bennett, Avigdor Lieberman, Haneen Zoabi and Herzog is identical: All are challenging the apple of its eye. This paper isn’t a Likud party organ, but that of Netanyahu himself.

I challenge political scientists to find a similar case in any other democratic country. An American billionaire – who, according to the campaign finance laws, is allowed to donate only a limited sum to Likud – is donating his money directly to campaign propaganda, day after day. And nobody says a word about it. Due to the principle of defending freedom of the press, protection has also been given to a paper put out on behalf of one man, the prime minister.

Many people want to put an end to Netanyahu’s government, but they don’t represent a single party. They are deeply divided in their political preferences, and therein lies the difference between the media world and that unique daily bulletin.

We must not paper over the truth. Before our very eyes, a right-wing, racist and benighted pyramid is being built, yet the opposing camp is working overtime to raise doubts about people like Herzog, Tzipi Livni, Zahava Gal-On and Lapid.

Will the Marzel syndrome finally open the eyes of all the people who have come down with the purism bug?

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