The new wave of suspicions against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has again boosted the optimism on the left. Once again Israel’s left-wing opposition is consumed by the investigative reporting of Channel 10 reporter Raviv Drucker. Once again, on Facebook posts and in cafe conversations, left-wingers are saying that this time it’s different, this time it’s really serious, this time there’s proof.
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This time he won't get away with it. This time will be his undoing. Last month they were sure the submarine scandal would be his end, and last week it was the alleged favors from Australian billionaire James Packer.
These left-wingers are the same people who have trouble distinguishing between hope and reality, people who were convinced that Netanyahu’s fall would follow that Facebook post by journalist Igal Sarna, who has been slapped with a libel suit.
These left-wingers don’t even care that the Israeli people aren’t on their side. They also don’t care about the politicization of criminal law: If you’re left-wing, you want a police investigation into Netanyahu; if you’re right-wing, you’re against it.
There’s no basis to complain about Drucker. He’s talented and does reliable reporting. But the left wing needs to sober up and understand something. Netanyahu won’t be removed from office over the submarine affair or the James Packer affair because most Israeli Jews don’t see these cases as even partial grounds for it. (And the Arab community doesn’t count at all in Israeli democracy, which de facto is for Jews only.)
Societies produce the law enforcement system they deserve. And just as the Israeli law enforcement system hasn’t forced the end of the occupation on Israeli society, it won’t force the replacement of a popular prime minister who’s carrying out policy that the vast majority of the people want. (Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Olmert weren’t popular prime ministers, and their removal from office reflected the will of the people.) There’s enough room to interpret evidence in a way that’s consistent with the will of the people.
It would be hard to list all the Netanyahu cases reported by Drucker that generated baseless ouster fever on the left. It’s the same circular pattern of hope, then bitter disappointment and the wait for the next exposé. The entire left-wing agenda comes down to the fervent desire to catch Netanyahu in the act. And Drucker is all that remains of the opposition. There is no leader, no vision. There is also no public (meaning real people beyond the bubble of the Facebook news feed).
There is no political party daring to present a clear agenda that includes an immediate end to the occupation and the apartheid, while supporting full cooperation with the Arab community under the state's direction. There is no real left-wing movement that has produced a leader capable of being elected and effecting real change in the territories and ending Israeli society’s slide toward religious fascism.
And let’s assume Netanyahu is deposed. What then? Nothing really. Some Yair Lapid, Naftali Bennett, Avigdor Lieberman or Gabi Ashkenazi would replace him.
Settlements would not be removed, the apartheid would not be dismantled and the extremist, racist and religious nationalism in Israeli public life would not be weakened. Everything would remain the same, or at least very similar, but simply without Netanyahu. It would be nothing more than a hollow, technical achievement.
The toppling of Netanyahu wouldn’t make a majority of Israeli Jews support the immediate end of the occupation or the apartheid; it wouldn’t make them support the removal of the settlements and the Arab community’s full integration into the government.
Netanyahu’s ouster wouldn’t forge a political leadership offering a genuine alternative to the right-wing government. The hope for the prime minister’s removal remains the pathetic wish of a shrinking, atrophying and defeated political camp.