Stop Kidding Yourselves, Israelis Want Netanyahu as Leader

Pundits are telling the Zionist Camp to take the battle to the prime minister more, but they're ignoring both history and the modern reality.

Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Likud event in Kiryat Gat, February 5, 2015.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Likud event in Kiryat Gat, February 5, 2015.Credit: Ilan Assayag
Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher

It’s very easy to oust Benjamin Netanyahu from the Prime Minister’s Office. All you need to do is vote for a party that aspires to replace him, or that has announced it will refuse to sit in a government with him. That’s it. That’s all. Very simple. And yet it won’t happen.

Our disappointed pundits have explanations. They believe that if Zionist Camp leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni would only wage a more aggressive campaign against Netanyahu, the public would be convinced of the necessity of getting rid of him. They identify weak spots and advise Netanyahu’s rivals to focus on them. To give it to him.

As if all the years Netanyahu has been in power weren’t enough for the public to have formed an opinion of him. As if the public were stupid, and its support for Netanyahu’s continuance in power were the result of ignorance, inferior ways of thinking and some kind of stubborn refusal to see the light shining forth from the opposition’s campaign. As if the voters live in some kind of dark cave and must be rescued.

Snap out of it! After the election, Netanyahu will be able to form a government comprised of the right and the ultra-Orthodox, because that’s what most of the public wants. This is Israel.

Netanyahu’s opponents are too blind to see this simple mathematical truth. Their intelligence has been clouded. In their despair, they offer mystical explanations for what they view as his inexplicable hold on power.

If it were only possible to boost socioeconomic issues to the top of the electoral agenda, Netanyahu would fall, the analysts say. They are being led astray by the “TheMarker-ization” of elite public discourse: There’s no reason to deal with the Palestinian issue, or Hezbollah, or Iran, or Islamic State; it’s pointless, because we have no power to influence the diplomatic-security realm. In the economic sphere, by contrast, it’s possible to carry out major structural reforms of the economy and improve living standards for most of the public.

According to this analysis, Netanyahu is tied to the oligarchs who control the economy and is barricading himself in his castle alongside them, and that is why it’s so hard to root him out of the government.

But what can you do when the public understands that the diplomatic-security realm is no less important than the socioeconomic one? What can you do when the public is interested in continuing the settlement enterprise, strengthening the state’s religious-Jewish identity and preventing an agreement with the Palestinians, even at the emerging price of a binational state that will include eight million Jews living under a democratic regime and eight million Palestinians subject to an apartheid regime? What can you do?

Why have socioeconomic issues been pushed to the sidelines? Who pushed them there? The public. It’s not Herzog’s fault. What do you want from Herzog? In fact, nobody is to blame for Netanyahu’s continued rule. There’s no issue of blame here, only one of responsibility. And the public is responsible for this. The public is getting what it wants.

Because the public worships the Israel Defense Forces. And the public worships the memory of the Holocaust. And day after day, the main media outlets it consumes feed the religion of a paranoid, victimhood-inducing Zionism, of which Netanyahu is the high priest.

The public knows how to distinguish the wheat from the chaff. It knows that if it’s interested in maintaining the supremacy of those values termed “national,” it must entrust the government to Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett, Miri Regev and Ayelet Shaked, Avigdor Lieberman and Moshe Kahlon, the rabbis of the ultra-Orthodox parties. Socioeconomics? It’s okay, Kahlon will be finance minister. The public understands.

Those who oppose the worldview Netanyahu represents must recognize the fact that they are a shrinking minority in Israel. Stop lying to yourselves. The public understands that Herzog doesn’t represent it. It’s that simple.

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