Opinion |

A Different Netanyahu Story

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset, on Wednesday
Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset, on WednesdayCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

One could tell a different story. A story about a politician who doesn’t give up and doesn’t surrender, where anyone else in his place would have long since given up; a politician whose skin is thicker than an elephant’s, who has undergone and is still undergoing a series of humiliations, condemnations, scare–mongering, incitement and hatred that few have experienced, including a sloppy legal battle whose conclusion is still unclear.

Israel heads to fifth election, and its democracy is on the line

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We could tell a story about a politician who didn’t break, in spite of everything he’s gone through; that would arouse tremendous admiration in a different context. We could also tell about a man who protects his family, who supports his wife through thick and thin and pays a high public price for it, which would also arouse admiration in a different context.

We could tell about a politician who is loved by a large percentage of Israelis, whether we like it or not. We could tell about the camp of his enemies, which is hollow, filled only by its hatred for him. We could say that the government that replaced his was not superior to it in any way, except when it came to politeness and good manners.

In Israel, anyone who is impressed by politeness and manners, and only by them, is also considered enlightened and liberal. We could talk about a politician who in spite of all these things receives a decisive majority in every survey about suitability for the position of prime minister.

The amazing story of Benjamin Netanyahu can also be told that way. But whoever tells the story differently from what is customary is, of course, a Bibi-ist who is doomed to condemnation in the camp of light, the opposite of the camp of darkness. The only light is that of someone who opposes Netanyahu.

In what way is Netanyahu darker than his rivals? In what way are his rivals more enlightened than he? In Israel there’s no longer any need to explain. It’s enough to say Netanyahu, Ben-Gvir and Smotrich. This triumvirate will destroy Israeli democracy. One of the most enlightened regimes of liberty and equality, second only to the democracy in Iceland, is about to be destroyed due to the three tenors.

Bezalel Smotrich, by the way, was already a minister, and I don’t recall that the sky fell. But wait for Itamar Ben-Gvir in the Internal Security Ministry. He’ll already order the police to kick the coffin-bearers of a great Palestinian journalist, who was apparently killed by IDF soldiers. He will already sic the police on the Palestinians in Jerusalem, and send the Border Police to kill Arab workers who dare to touch the fence that imprisons them. When all that happens, because of Netanyahu, of course, Israeli democracy will definitely be destroyed. That’s the story that enlightened Israelis tell themselves.

Now all that will return, and even more forcefully. Israel is split over only one thing: between those who want a leadership that will smooth over the totalitarian tyranny in the territories for them, and those who will present it as is, evil and criminal.

With Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir we won’t feel good about ourselves. With Yair Lapid and Omer Bar-Lev – oh, how beautiful we are. Now all that is no longer theoretical and not a dream. We have already tried the government of light that ruled here for a year. Its members ate with their mouths closed and spoke nicely; Miri Regev, David Biton and David Amsalem disappeared from the TV screen, how nice, but after they were replaced by Merav Michaeli, Nitzan Horowitz and Mansour Abbas, members of the government of dreams, the crimes have piled up even higher than prior to their arrival.

There have never been such frequent pogroms here by settlers, without anyone stopping them or trying to protect their victims. Never have IDF soldiers killed so easily as under this government of change. And they’re scaring us with Netanyahu. He will destroy the judicial system.

Which one exactly? The one that has long since become a despicable rubber stamp for the occupation? Who needs an independent judicial system, if on the most crucial issue for the country’s legal character it is a disgraceful system of collaborators? We could continue to say that Israel will become undemocratic if Netanyahu is elected. It helps a lot to believe that without him, Israel, the occupier and tyrant, is a democracy. And that’s all that the camp of Bibi-haters wants to feel.

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