Opinion |

Yes, I Hate Netanyahu. Join Me

Other leftists say they don’t despise him. I do. His lies and cynicism have managed to take away our love for our country and ability to think

Rami Livni
Rami Livni
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem November 25, 2018.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem November 25, 2018.Credit: \ RONEN ZVULUN/ REUTERS
Rami Livni
Rami Livni

Unlike Haaretz editor Aluf Benn, the paper’s columnists Gideon Levy and Ravit Hecht, and others, I confess that I hate Benjamin Netanyahu. I’ve been hating him chronically for nearly two and a half decades.

It’s one of the constants of my life. I’m not embellishing this. I’m not only against his polices and am uncomfortable with aspects of his personality – to me the man is detestable. Even though in this era of positive-thinking psychology it’s not customary to openly express negative feelings about others, I can say I feel no shame in my hatred of Netanyahu.

On the contrary, I see it as something constructive. It’s a sentiment that’s not only required by circumstances, based on the facts, it also expresses something sane and whole in me, something that still cares, that hasn’t given up, that can still imagine a different kind of Israel without him. I’d be worried if these feelings passed.

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This hatred of Netanyahu is a vestige of other glorious leftist hatreds such as those against Ariel Sharon helping launch the first Lebanon war and Menachem Begin inciting people in city squares. These hatreds all had a point, but in many respects the one against Netanyahu is the most justified.

It’s not a dybbuk. The fervor underlying my revulsion toward Netanyahu is bitter, but it’s not based on whim or envy. His character is inextricably linked to his political path, and in both dwell his immense cultural impact.

I blame Netanyahu for the fact that during his term he has hurt me and at least hundreds of thousands of other sane people who detest him. The wound and insult are mortal, and they continue to fester.

It’s not only his burying of prospects for peace, his entrenching of the occupation and settlements to the point that serious doubts about the feasibility of dividing the land have arisen – a division that for me and others seems a prerequisite for our existence here as a collective.

It’s not only his role in the social deterioration and slide into selfish, alienated and violent behavior in a society riven by economic and identity rifts in which four or five classes and communities live in isolated bubbles.

It’s not only the turning of Israel into an intolerant and racist country amid increasing religiosity, incitement against the left, corruption and an assault on the rule of law. It’s not just the memory, that never goes away, of his involvement in the process that led to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, his complete opposite.

The thing for which we’ll never forgive Netanyahu is that more than any other leader he has managed to take away our love for our country. We’ll always love it, despite him, but we confess without fear of being branded that the Israel being created in his image is getting harder and harder to love. A love of one’s country isn’t a luxury – it can give you purpose in life. Its absence hurts like a lost limb.

Even if there were prime ministers who made the situation here drastically worse, even over a shorter period, Netanyahu’s contribution to mutilating Israel’s image and diminising its humanity has had a worse effect, perhaps an irreversible one.

Netanyahu, the ugly Israeli, has made Israel uglier by shaping it based on a culture of lies, spin, deception, cynicism and avoidance of responsibility. He has gotten people used to incessant manipulation, he has hopelessly degenerated people’s ability to think for themselves, eroding our democracy as an arena of well-informed debate. Netanyahu has made us dwarfs; we can’t let this pass.

It’s not personal. Well, actually it is. For so many years his spirit has accompanied us like a dark shadow. He has occupied and shaped a significant part of our lives. He has stuck in our bones.

So, yes, I hate Netanyahu. Join me.

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