Opinion |

With Indictment, Netanyahu's Gaslighting Will Only Get Worse

One minute he's inciting as if Kahane were really alive, the next he's showing off his civilized manners alongside world leaders. And then you start to wonder – maybe he's okay and we're the crazy ones?

Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the media in his residency in Jerusalem, February 28, 2019.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the media in his residency in Jerusalem, February 28, 2019.Credit: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters
Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann

Part of me wanted Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to announce that there will be nothing because there was nothing. For Mendelblit to prove to the public, and to me, that Benjamin Netanyahu is not only cleared of all suspicion, but that he was also right the whole time: He was being gratuitously persecuted. I wanted Mendelblit to order all the cases closed, so this subject would be off the public agenda once and for all. And then for Netanyahu to lose the election.

Another part of me wants to see that, in response to the attorney general’s decision to indict, “a million people won’t accept it,” just as coalition whip David Amsalem threatened; for people to take to the streets to stop the “government coup” and put an end to “the witch hunt that was begun by the Israel Police” and then joined by the state prosecutor; for millions of Israelis to demand the arrests of all the conspirators, especially outgoing police chief Roni Alsheich and Mendelblit; for them to storm the television studios and newspaper offices and drag out the other conspirators who wanted “to decide for us,” as the Likud campaign warned – the journalists like Raviv Drucker, Guy Peleg, Ben Caspit and Amnon Abramovich; for them to haul out of his home the master conspirator, Ehud Barak, “an old man with a new beard,” as Netanyahu called him; and they shouldn’t forget the dedicated soldiers from the protest in Petah Tikva and Rothschild Boulevard – Eldad Yaniv and Meni Naftali.

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I prefer these crazy alternatives to what awaits us: more of the same nightmare that has been our lives under Netanyahu, trapped in the incomprehensible gap between what he tells us is happening and what we think is happening. Now we’ll be dragged along like this for another year until the hearing, in ongoing suspense over will there or won’t there be an indictment, and then there will be the trial and God knows what else.

And for all this time we’ll be living under the relentless incitement machine, always finding a new target – if not the police chief, then the attorney general, and if not him, then the state prosecutor, the district prosecutor and the witnesses. And at every stage we’ll be thrown yet another new tautology from Netanyahu’s list of talking points, so we can brainwash one another with it and hear it echoed on every news program, in every newspaper piece, as the talk of the day. Enough already! For God’s sake, Netanyahu, leave us be!

Because this is what Netanyahu is doing to us. There’s even a name for it – “gaslighting” (after the 1944 George Cukor film “Gaslight”) – a method for fostering dependence by blurring a person’s identity and creating doubts about his sense of reality, through lying and denial and doing the opposite of what you said you would do. This perfectly describes Netanyahu: a brazen liar and serial denier who says one thing and does the opposite. One minute he’s inciting as if Kahane were really alive, the next he standing there all proper in his suit and tie, showing off his civilized manners alongside world leaders, as if he hasn’t done a thing wrong.

And then you start to wonder – maybe he’s actually okay and we’re the crazy ones? For this is what his supporters are always saying – that his haters are exaggerating. And then you have to convince yourself again that you really did see him inciting against Rabin, that he really did put out that video warning of the Arabs going to the polls in droves, and so on and so on. This ability he has to swing back and forth between these two situations – to constantly shift people from thinking it’s unbelievable that this man is prime minister, to entertaining such self-doubt that they start to think it’s their craziness that’s really the source of the hatred against him, and that he’s not all that bad – is undermining our emotional foundations and driving us mad. He is simply driving us mad.

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