Netanyahu's Regime Has Turned Into a Massive Whale

This deep sea monster sometimes beaches itself in efforts against Washington, sometimes beats its tail in the Golan Heights. One thing is clear: Its democratic awareness has sunken to the bottom of the sea.

Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav
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'Jonah and the Whale,' Pieter Lastman, 1621.
'Jonah and the Whale,' Pieter Lastman, 1621.Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav

In September 1995, that “ill-omened autumn” as he called it, Haaretz columnist Doron Rosenblum described a dismal trip to Jerusalem, which seemed to him like a city of evil intentions. His great piece ended with a prophetic sentence: “The whale of Jerusalem rising from the depth of chaos, is making a special, spasmodic, insane effort to shake off Yitzhak Rabin — the first and perhaps last product of Israeliness, who is stuck in the city like a harpoon.”

Almost 20 years later it's the other way around. The whale is Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule. It too is rising from the depths of chaos and making a special, spasmodic, insane effort. Harpoons — sometimes dull, crooked, thin as slivers or missing the mark — are hurled at him from every direction.

But what is this effort? Actually, it's a totality of efforts, a whole greater than the sum of its parts. It combines moves that are both heroic and pathetic, rational and uncalculated, elegant and gauche, focused and distracted. One may say it’s less ideology and more atmosphere, less sense and more gut feeling, less hope and more yearning — to somehow stop the whale.

The whale is swimming, all right — nourished by the fat of his patron over the sea, wrapped in a slippery coat that insulates him from the world. As whales are wont to do, he'll sometimes beat his tail mightily – as in a fatal airstrike “attributed” to his government in the Syrian part of the Golan Heights.

Other times he’ll storm the shore with suicidal instinct — as in the planned farce of his Congress speech. Occasionally he’ll shoot water out of his blowhole, like all his campaign efforts that quickly dissipate. Most of the time he’ll maneuver around like a large mammal that has lost his friends and sense of direction and can’t stop eating.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Credit: AFP

He is certainly no longer acting like a prime minister. His conduct is far from anything resembling statesmanship. Democratic awareness has sunk to the bottom of the sea. Any attempt to confront him is seen as a putsch; anyone who stands against him is labeled a leftist.

It’s hard to figure out how he pictures the day after his victory if he wins. It’s more likely he’s totally immersed in the dread of the coming defeat.

His supporters are dwindling, becoming bizarre figures on the fringes of Israeli society, like interior designer Moshik Galamin and singer-songwriter Amir Benayoun. It’s hard to find a decent person who’ll speak up for him. Anyone who does appears forced to mouth embarrassing slogans and is suspected of insincerity.

For years he has clutched onto the prime minister’s residence with no vision or achievements, simply inertia. To many Israelis, this seems like black magic or a metaphysical blow of fate. Some see it as crime and punishment, a product of the gods’ wrath.

Others opt for self-flagellation (“we deserve him”). Only one thing is missing – some obsessive Captain Ahab to capture Moby-Dick, à la Melville, or an obstinate old man who won’t give in to the big fish, à la Hemingway. In the absence of such a father figure, they crowd on the deck, wet and exhausted. As best they can, they aim their small harpoons and shout hoarsely: Away already!

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