Opinion |

Netanyahu Paved the Way for Israel’s Far-right Pyromania

Niva Lanir
Niva Lanir
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Protesters and Israeli police in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah this week.
Protesters and Israeli police in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah this week. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Niva Lanir
Niva Lanir

What a moving meeting! What a loving embrace in Itamar Ben-Gvir’s new “office” in Sheikh Jarrah when Likud’s Amir Ohana came to visit. Anyone who didn’t see the warm hugs in this East Jerusalem neighborhood on TV can lovingly leaf through the newspapers and remember that these two rightist politicians are meant for each other.

The joy that Gvir spreads around him is something we remember well from the ‘90s. And if he has already moved his archive to his new office in Sheikh Jarrah, there’s probably a quote there from the Walla news site. October 13, 1995: “The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court rejected the police’s request to detain the 19-year-old Kach activist Itamar Ben-Gvir for another eight days.”

He was suspected of organizing a lynching of the Labor Party’s Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, damaging the car of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and distributing a doctored picture of Rabin in a Nazi uniform at a demonstration in Jerusalem’s Zion Square. According to the judge, “The police presented slim evidence linking him to the grave incidents.”

Later Walla noted that “at the beginning of the week Ben-Gvir claimed that he pulled the hood ornament off the prime minister’s Cadillac and declared: ‘We got to his car, and we’ll get to him, too’ ... but he changed his version and claimed that he found the ornament on his way to the demonstration.”

Well, the Knesset Guard should secure the big Knesset Menorah so it won’t get pilfered, placed next to Ben-Gvir’s office in Sheikh Jarrah and serve as a backdrop for the photos of VIPs visiting to support this fighting MK.

The attempts to fuel incitement won’t stop; after all, for 15 years the line between incitement on the one hand and freedom of thought and expression on the other has been blurred almost to the point of being erased. This is the case in the Knesset and in the media (and where isn’t it the case?); we’ve all been marking time as the shallowness mixes with the pyromania surrounding us.

And let’s not forget who carried Ben-Gvir to the Knesset on his back. Wasn’t it Benjamin Netanyahu? From the Knesset podium the other day our new opposition leader (how pleasant it is to drop the title “former prime minister”) called for an investigation into the Pegasus affair.

“There’s only one way to handle it – not with maneuvers and excuses, and not in all kinds of ways that won’t be acceptable to everyone seated here,” he said. “The way to do it is a strong and independent investigation acceptable to both sides. That’s the only way to rehabilitate public trust in the state and our democracy.”

I have only one question: How much time will pass after the Knesset decision for “a strong and independent investigation” until Netanyahu demands that the court postpone his corruption trial until the investigation is over?

Well, actually, I have several questions. If the Pegasus story is found true, will Netanyahu mention who was prime minister when the spyware was used? And maybe it will turn out that such an embarrassing mistake took place under his nose? And if it turns out that the story, or most of it, is only an embarrassing mistake, well, they’ve gained time, they’ll breathe a sigh of relief in the Netanyahu home.

Whatever the case, public trust in the state and our democracy severely eroded during his tenure. On top of this erosion there’s also the shallowness and noxiousness of a good percentage of Knesset debates, not to mention the political talk shows that fill our television screens – and the cooking programs, the Ninja Israels and the dancing with stars. Vanity Fair.

The time of corona is a time when we hope for a negative diagnosis, but Israel’s era of the negative began long ago, long before the coronavirus, the invention of Pegasus software and the entry of spyware into our lives.

It began when Netanyahu ruled Israel, with his Bibi-ist lackeys doing his bidding – Likud’s Amir Ohana, David Amsalem, Yisrael Katz, Yoav Gallant, Miri Regev, Miki Zohar, Yariv Levin and others who guarded the kingdom and sent Israel lower until the state and its democratic regime now need rehabilitation, as former “King Bibi” declared.

Israel really needs healing, not only from the Netanyahu era but from the Kahanists who are trolling the Knesset and the country.

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