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'Anybody but Bibi' Is Replaced With 'Anybody but Bennett' – the Israeli Che Guevara

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at an Israeli Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at an Israeli Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony on Wednesday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

What do they want from his life? What do the religious and nationalist right want from the flesh and blood of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett? What do they want from his life – and now there are some who want his death. Bullets in envelopes; Bennett cast in the role of a lifetime as Yitzhak Rabin. But if with Rabin one could understand the danger to the occupation from his continuation in office, an imaginary and baseless danger, what danger is there from Bennett? Bennett is yet another insurance policy for the continuation of the occupation and the settlements, like all his predecessors. That’s what he said and that’s what he’s doing. He was and remains right wing, his government is right wing. A tempest in a teapot.

The right is pouncing viciously on Bennett, recalling the attacks on former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from his haters. “Anybody but Bibi” has been replaced by “anybody but Naftali". The insults heaped on Bennett from the right wing are unbelievably harsh. Bennett is not only a fraud, the most fraudulent fraud there ever was, but he’s also a leftist and the ultimate traitor. And Bennett didn’t even know he was like that; neither did we.

There is not one leftist iota in the policies of the Bennett government, and so it’s clear that once again, it’s all personal. Bennett is a traitor not because he betrayed his path – he did not – but because he betrayed Netanyahu. This is treachery to which he committed himself from the start. Bennett is what led to the replacement of Netanyahu, that is his sin according to the right wing. Bennett also committed another, less important sin: He brought Arabs into his government, and for that sin there is no atonement.

The racism of the right wing cannot abide Arabs in the government. The right wing sees this as a dangerous precedent and legitimization of Arabs as citizens of Israel with equal rights, and that, of course, is a national disaster for them. But the United Arab List’s joining the government didn’t really lead to major change in policies, and therefore this is also a tempest in a teacup. Netanyahu began to add to budgets for Israeli Arabs, it should be said greatly to his credit, and not one shekel added there is a leftist shekel, but rather a shekel of responsible governments that realized shockingly late that this is in the interest of the state, not the left.

On the crucial issues, nothing has changed. Netanyahu began with the Abraham Accords, Bennett strengthened them. The nation-state law has remained shamefully in place, there is no intention of abolishing it. The needless deaths by the army in the territories continue to mount almost every day, and so does settler violence. The Homesh outpost was not and will not be returned to its owners, the outpost of Evyatar roils with settler activity whose end is clear: another eternal settlement. Khan al-Ahmar was not evacuated under Netanyahu, nor under Bennett. The bulldozers continue to build settlements and pave huge roads in the territories. Drive out there and see for yourself. If allowing just over 10,000 laborers to come in from Gaza is change, then that’s a joke, a sad and particularly depressing joke.

Tagging Bennett as a leftist and a traitor continues a long inglorious tradition of the right wing, especially of the settlers, to lament, complain and weep over the bitterness of their fate and to protest angrily when necessary, and mainly when not necessary. Bennett is a leftist. The Che Guevara of Ra’anana, the George Habash of the Yesha council of settlements, the Bernard Madoff of Yamina. The burden of proving otherwise is on him. That’s the way they always act. They’ve come a long way with that strategy.

But the truth is otherwise: Bennett was elected prime minister by a majority of Knesset votes, in an undeniably proper way, according to the system of government in Israel. There was nothing fraudulent about his actions. Immediately upon his election he declared that his government would not deal with the Palestinian issue, a commitment that unfortunately he has kept to the letter. His policy in most areas resembles that of his predecessor, with a few necessary, non-extreme changes, and without any real influence by his partners from the left and center, who support his policies with their silence.

If Bennett is left wing, then MK Itamar Ben-Gvir and his Religious Zionism colleague MK Bezalel Smotrich are the moderate center. And perhaps that’s where we’re really headed.

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