Opinion |

We May Miss Netanyahu Yet

A moment before the party ends, we should start thinking about the morning after

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
Netnayahu.Credit: Emil salman
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

The celebrations are going full steam. The Israeli Nicolae Ceausescu (with his wife Elena) is on his way home, and probably to prison. The good people demonstrating in Petah Tikva and Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard are jubilant, the justice fighters are rejoicing, the analysts are exuberant.

From bondage to slavery, from darkness to light, the end of corruption. Benjamin Netanyahu has earned all the gloating against him, not to mention his description as Satan. His conduct is repulsive, the damage he has caused the country is considerable, the suspicions against him are heavy. His term must end, immediately. Netanyahu go home.

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But a moment before the party ends, we should think, as always in this kind of revelry, about the morning after. What awaits Israel and who awaits it? The candidates are limbering up on the starting line and the sight is somewhere between embarrassing and grim. This can’t be ignored, even as we rejoice over the despot’s fall.

Some of those who are now celebrating will miss Netanyahu’s days. The days ahead may be darker; it’s possible: a prime minister worse than Netanyahu. All those who saw the struggle to remove Netanyahu as the be all and end all – let’s just get rid of him and everything will be wonderful as it once was – will discover that everything may still blow up in their faces.

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Netanyahu has displayed disgusting corruption alongside the great state corruption, which has been perpetrated by almost every Israeli prime minister in recent decades. His heirs may steer clear of cigars and champagne, but none of them can fix Israel’s great corruption – the institutionalized state corruption arising from 50 years of occupation.

So the rejoicing over Netanyahu’s demise is premature, and more to the point exaggerated. An Israel led by Yair Lapid, Gideon Sa’ar or Yisrael Katz wouldn’t be a better place. It may even be worse, even if their wives are pious and their ways nothing but modesty and honesty.

The leading candidate on the way to this light is of course Lapid – a hope-infusing victory speech at first light in the square, a new dawn for Israel. Shining photo ops with world leaders, most of whom will be happy to shake off Netanyahu, whom they see as the biggest obstacle on the way to peace and justice. Lapid would charm them. They’d only find out the truth over time: His positions aren’t different from his predecessor’s. Only the rhetoric is a bit different.

At a meeting with Donald Trump the two wouldn’t lack a common language. They’d compare which of the two is the shallowest and hollowest; who’s the more ignorant and opportunistic. The competition wouldn’t be easy. They could talk about how they both made their way to the top, straight from the ideological void. That too would be a love story – without a happy end.

A Lapid government would probably consist of the radical right brother-or-not Naftali Bennett and perhaps Avigdor Lieberman. Lapid would be like a babe in the woods.

Anyway, there’s nothing to expect from a man who thinks Jerusalem must not be divided, the settlements must not be evacuated and the Arabs are Zoabis. His father left him the country as a gift and only this week he supported the bill extending Israeli law to colleges and universities in the West Bank. To prove himself he may also launch some savage patriotic attack on Gaza or a little war in the north. He always sports an Israeli flag on his lapel.

And he wouldn’t save Israel’s democracy either – he sees the ex-soldiers in Breaking the Silence as traitors, and his party is a paradigm of servile obedience to a single leader. If Lapid rules we’ll miss Netanyahu, even the cigars. For a moment we might even miss Sara.

Sa’ar, friend of the settlers and the ultra-Orthodox, should be the terror of the center-left. The commander of the war against the asylum seekers, the founder of the deportation and round-up doctrine, may become a prime minister who exceeds his predecessor’s brutal nationalism. His colleague Katz may build an island off Gaza to act as an artificial port, but he’d deport Arabs in iron chains, as he beat them in his university days. All three may turn out more dangerous than Netanyahu.

The thought that there isn’t a single hope-inspiring leader in Israel today, someone who harbingers change or can generate a revolution, is depressing. It dampens the joy of losing Netanyahu.

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