The Zionist Argument Against Netanyahu

Consistently and methodically, albeit unintentionally, Mr. Security is undermining Israel's security.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the launch of Likud's election campaign, January 5, 2015.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the launch of Likud's election campaign, January 5, 2015.Credit: David Bachar
Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

The 2015 election is not a referendum about the empty bottles whose deposits the prime minister’s wife is accused of pocketing. The real question is: Who is the Zionist leader who will rejuvenate Zionism and rehabilitate the State of Israel?

Is the Likud of Benjamin Netanyahu, Miri Regev and Yariv Levin the guardian of the Jewish national movement? Is the Habayit Hayehudi of Naftali Bennett, Yinon Magal and Orit Strock the keeper of the seal of the Jewish and democratic state? Are the settlers 21st-century pioneers and the zealots the pillar of fire? The answers will determine the results of the election.

I’d like to say a few words in Netanyahu’s defense. Unlike others, I’m convinced he is a patriot. Netanyahu doesn’t appreciate, or even like, Israelis, but he is committed to the Jewish state. His family’s behavior patterns are scandalous, but they are not tainted with any proven criminal corruption.

Those who remained silent when Ehud Olmert occupied the prime minister’s residence and those who thought Avigdor Lieberman was a worthy statesman cannot complain about Sara Netanyahu’s empty bottles. Is it pathetic? It’s pathetic. Is it repulsive? It’s repulsive. Should it be investigated? It should be investigated.

But those politicians who argued that we shouldn’t be dealing with the Talansky or Holyland cases implicating Olmert cannot now claim that the sky has fallen. Our memories are not so short, and the public isn’t that stupid. The hypocrisy that characterizes this assault on Netanyahu plays in his favor; it makes the right stronger and the center-left weaker.

It’s time to get the discussion back on track, to deal with what’s truly important. Only a respectful and dignified debate on the substantive questions will salvage this ugly, dismal election campaign and restore a chance for change.

There is nothing dearer to Netanyahu’s heart than the Jewish state. But to serve the Jewish state, one must understand that it has to be democratic, have a Jewish majority and enjoy international legitimacy. Netanyahu has not internalized a single one of these fundamental truths. His settlement policy is post-Zionist. His nationalist legislation is anti-Zionist. His resounding diplomatic failure undermines Zionism.

Netanyahu’s most precious issue is national security. He tells himself that his historic task is to preserve Israeli security. But Israeli security is based on the strategic alliance with the United States, and Netanyahu has been gradually eroding this strategic alliance. Israel’s security is based on Israeli soldiers knowing that Israel fights wars only when there’s no other choice, and Netanyahu has been eating away at that knowledge. Israel’s security is based on its being a cohesive, durable and hopeful society — and Netanyahu is crumbling the country’s social cohesion, crushing the nation’s resilience and spreading despair.

Consistently and methodically, albeit unintentionally, Mr. Security is undermining our security.

The argument with the Likud’s leader must be conducted on his turf. Mudslinging will not bring change, nor will hypocrisy bring about an upset. The public must be presented with a serious and businesslike argument proving that Netanyahu has failed.

In recent years, the prime minister has not boosted the economy, invigorated our society, or advanced justice and equality. He has not offered Israelis faith, hope or vision. He has not enhanced the general good, has not given any meaning to our shared lives, and has not given the nation any sense of direction.

So the most stinging criticism of the man who lives on Balfour Street should not be leftist or purist, but Zionist. The man who still believes he is continuing the legacy of Theodor Herzl and Ze’ev Jabotinsky has dangerously weakened Israel and failed in his role as a Zionist leader.

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