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The Bibi Cult Has Finally Detached Itself From Israeli Society

Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht
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Pro-Netanyahu demonstrators in Jerusalem's Paris Square, August 20, 2020.
Pro-Netanyahu demonstrators in Jerusalem's Paris Square, August 20, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

The Bibi-ism cult is detaching itself not only from the Israeli right but from society in general. It’s still intact, though, despite the worsening poll numbers. Benjamin Netanyahu has the most Knesset seats, but the Yom Kippur shofar is frantically wailing.

The following cliché passes from generation to generation, but it’s also a fact: Mapai headed by Golda Meir won a great electoral victory after the Yom Kippur War. Everyone knows how it ended.

LISTEN: How COVID killed Bibi’s legacy and resurrected his archrivalCredit: Haaretz

Back in the day, when security was adequate and the economy boasted full employment, it was easy for the cult members to persuade much of the public that Bibi was the be-all and end-all. The cult even managed to seem like a solid base of a large camp guided by sound political logic.

The predominant sentiment in Israel – post-Oslo and the exploding buses – was rightist anyway, insofar as Netanyahu could be called rightist. His opponents, usually found in the more well-to-do classes, had a hard time persuading the laggards on the socioeconomic ladder that their situation was so bad because of Netanyahu.

The right never believed Netanyahu, but the ideological settlers followed him because to them he was less evil than the begetters of the Oslo Accords. They regularly called him a liar, and his reputation as one worsened after his annexation farce.

Today, none of them would even trust an agreement to buy a bicycle from him. They’ll turn their backs on him when the scent of his weakness strengthens, at which point the Bibi-ists will call them a radical leftist faction financed by the New Israel Fund.

The haters of the old elite and Mapai followed Netanyahu because he promised to destroy these groups – and indeed in this realm he has chalked up a few achievements.

Netanyahu has managed to turn his corruption trial into a means of mobilizing those who felt offended by the old elites’ condescension. He has portrayed the cases against him as an attempt at political assassination, giving him immunity from the coronavirus.

Yet this issue is as relevant as a postcard from the world of once upon a time, when people smiled into the camera with heartrending naivete, without knowing that their lives were about to be turned upside down. Tell the business owner whose life’s work has collapsed, or the mother who can’t go to work because she has to look after her children, that Liat Ben Ari built a wall without a permit at a property she owns. That’s the last thing they’re interested in right now.

Many of Netanyahu’s voters were once part of a large silent group that believed that Bibi was the responsible adult good for running the business, so they should turn a blind eye to his mendacity, intrigue-mongering, warped family and corruption suspicions. And lo, the responsible adult is emerging as a hysterical figure who imposes a brutal, destructive lockdown that injures his voters severely for the second time in a few months, because he has no idea how to run this thing.

Netanyahu’s shameful failure in handling the coronavirus, his disgraceful political behavior culminating in his surrender to the ultra-Orthodox, which will bring disaster on them and on us, are ripping the rational envelope of the Netanyahu cult.

This is the context of Nave Dromi’s op-ed in Haaretz’s Hebrew edition Thursday. Dromi admonishes her right-wing colleagues for daring to be impertinent to the father who has brought them so far. She feels a need to protect the father not only because of articles published by Kalman Liebskind or Akiva Novick, ungrateful children that they are, but because Daddy is indeed standing stark naked in his failure.

The “privilege” Dromi attributes to them is their being adults not dependent on a rap on the head by the sect leader’s – they aren’t afraid of him but see him as a man of flesh and blood and judge him for his actions.

The Bibi-ism cult is in such dire confusion that its members would rather believe stories about poisonous unicorns stampeding outside the prime minister’s residence spreading disease, rather than the fact that their leader, how should I say it, is doing pretty badly in this crisis.

Because otherwise, what does it say about them?

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