Netanyahu Is No King of the Mizrahi Jews

In the past seven years Bibi has formed three governments with a total of 35 ministers from his Likud party. Only seven had ethnic roots in the Middle East.

Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav
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Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu celebrate Mimouna in the town of Yavneh, May 1, 2016.
Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu celebrate Mimouna in the town of Yavneh, May 1, 2016.Credit: David Bachar
Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav

So now Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is interested in the story of the Yemenite children, the ones allegedly taken from their new-immigrant families between 1948 and 1954. He even made a video about it.

He’s been in politics for 25 years, prime minister for 10 years, and until last week we never heard a word from him about this painful affair. Recently he also revealed that according to a DNA test his brother took he’s actually part Sephardi Jewish Jews from Spain.

It will be interesting to see what else we can expect on the subject in the near future. After all, the ethnic card is just about the last card Netanyahu has. He’s no longer Mr. Iran, Mr. Anti-terror or Mr. Security, and of course he’s not Mizrahi with roots in the Middle East. His only real family connection to the Sephardi-Mizrahi thing is that his historian father specialized in Spanish Jewry.

He received his education and political orientation in America, where he called himself Ben Nitay, not Benjy Makhlouf. What his wife thinks about the ethnic issue could be gleaned in the lawsuit filed by Meni Naftali, a former chief caretaker of the prime minister’s official residence. “We’re sophisticated Europeans,” Sara Netanyahu reportedly said. “We don’t eat as much as you Moroccans.”

Netanyahu’s affection for Mizrahim and people in the country’s outskirts is of course for electoral purposes only. He’s relying on them to keep voting for him so they can screw the Jews of European origin and the Tel Avivians even if along the way they keep screwing themselves.

What’s interesting in this story is the Mizrahim’s blindness about the composition of Netanyahu’s governments. For some reason it isn’t discussed. Some ethnicity experts even cheer Netanyahu’s Likud for instilling pride in the Mizrahim.

That may have been true historically and sociologically in the time of Likud leader Menachem Begin, who was “the first to identify” the Mizrahi electorate. But 40 years after the political upheaval when Likud first beat Labor in an election, it’s absurd to say this. And nothing makes that clearer than the identity of the people whom Netanyahu appoints, time after time.

Personally, I’m far from favoring this type of head count or DNA test. But if Netanyahu is rekindling the ethnic flame in order to purge his failures, we should stop him immediately. All we need to do is talk to him in numbers.

Netanyahu’s current government has 20 ministers. Only five of them are Mizrahim. But for our purposes, more important are the Likud ministers. After all, it’s a coalition government; Netanyahu is only responsible for appointing the ministers from his own party.

Well, Likud has 12 ministers in this government. Only two of them are of Mizrahi origin Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev and Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel, who are also the only two female ministers. A double whammy.

For the sake of fairness we should note that when the government was formed there were two other Likud Mizrahim: Danny Danon, who was quickly dispatched to the United Nations, and Silvan Shalom, who resigned from politics. A total of four.

In Netanyahu’s previous government, which took over in 2013, Likud had eight ministers. Only one of them, Silvan Shalom, was Mizrahi. Before that, after the 2009 election, Likud had 15 ministers. Only two of them Shalom and Moshe Kahlon (who has since left Likud) were Mizrahim.

To sum up: In the past seven years Netanyahu has formed three governments with a total of 35 Likud ministers. Only seven were of Mizrahi origin. Twenty percent. Maybe we should simply remind Netanyahu of that the next time he rides the ethnic horse.

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