Netanyahu Is Panicking. Isn't Democracy Beautiful?

Regardless of who's heading the government, when they've been doing it for so long, they must be replaced. The public knows that, and Netanyahu is feeling that as well.

Nehemia Shtrasler
Nehemia Shtrasler
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A giant campaign billboard rotates showing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog in Tel Aviv, March 10, 2015.
A giant campaign billboard rotates showing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog in Tel Aviv, March 10, 2015.Credit: AFP
Nehemia Shtrasler
Nehemia Shtrasler

The people want change. The wisdom of the crowd recognizes that it’s intolerable for one man to be in power here for nine years, six of them in a row, and then four more after that.

It makes no difference what his opinions or policies are. The mere fact of heading the government for so long necessarily causes stagnation, corruption, inaction and the triumph of evil over good. The moral corruption that any leader would fall into after so many years at the top. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

After all, what distinguishes democracy from dictatorship? The possibility of change. In democracy, the leader is replaced every few years. In many democracies, the head of state cannot serve more than two consecutive terms, thereby permitting new blood, with new programs in every area, to come to power. That cannot happen in a dictatorship. That is why dictatorship — where the government changes only when there’s a revolution — leads to corruption and poverty.

So, even setting aside the yawning gap between Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu and Isaac Herzog of Zionist Union on socioeconomic issues and the peace process, the mere fact of change is extremely important.

Likud campaign officials sense the government is falling through their fingers. There is no enthusiasm “in the field,” the party workers are tired, voters are not filling the convention halls — and they are panicking. That has triggered a series of bad mistakes, the worst of which was an online video in which state employees — a port worker and an employee of the Israel Broadcasting Authority — are compared with a Hamas terrorist. It’s inconceivable, scandalous, bald incitement against an entire category of workers. The port laborer is depicted as working just three hours a week, distributing tea, for a monthly salary of 50,000 shekels to 60,000 shekels ($12,470 to $15,000). The IBA employee is portrayed as a robber, for collecting the license fee from the public.

Even people who favor reform in these organizations should see these people not as terrorists, but rather as deserving of sympathy because of the painful downsizing in their places of employment. It is therefore shocking that Netanyahu, who knows these workers are the hard core of his voter base, dares to inflict critical injuries on them.

This is panic, being at wit’s end. An attempt to grab attention and scream Oy Gevalt! They’re stealing the government from us. Panic is a very poor counselor.

Pinhas Idan, the shop steward of the Israel Airports Authority union and No. 36 on Likud’s Knesset slate, threatened that the workers would not vote for Likud and even demanded an apology from Bibi. Netanyahu invited Idan to a meeting — and he apologized. He was sure that Idan would issue a statement calling on the workers to vote Likud, as in the past, but Idan refused. He senses that the king is weak.

Then there was Netanyahu’s bizarre visit to Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market in. Once, the Likud candidate would arrive with bells and whistles, together with a phalanx of reporters and photographers. This time, journalists were not informed of the visit, for fear that Netanyahu would be met with shouts and obscenities. He did, however, take MK Miri Regev — Netanyahu scorns her, but he’s willing to use her as a human shield when the need arises.

Netanyahu’s panic also takes the form of promises to several pressure groups. He promised the ultra-Orthodox to amend the military conscription law in their favor, he promised to abolish the value-added tax on staple food items and he told the Dead Sea Bromine Compounds workers that he would look into plant layoffs personally. He thinks we are all stupid, that we believe these empty promises that stand in stark contrast to his socioeconomic philosophy.

Now, in the home stretch, everyone scents the fear radiating from Netanyahu, the loss of self-confidence and the panic. That is the beauty of democracy.

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