In a last-ditch effort to prevent Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz from being able to form a government in the final moments before his mandate to do so expires, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held an “emergency conversation” with cabinet ministers and Knesset members from his Likud party.
In it, Netanyahu assailed Gantz for his intention to form a minority government supported by the Arab parties. In the best tradition of his dubious governing tactics, Netanyahu incited against the Arab Knesset members.
“We’re facing a state of emergency unlike anything in Israel’s history,” the prime minister said of the possibility that a ruling coalition would be formed with parties that were democratically elected and represent 20 percent of Israel’s citizens, as if it were a suspected bomb on a bus. “Elections are a disaster, but forming a government dependent on the Arab parties is a bigger disaster,” he added. “This is a historic danger to Israel’s security. It’s a severe blow to Israel’s security.”
It’s hard to exaggerate the gravity of such statements by Netanyahu, who, by virtue of his job, is supposed to serve all Israelis, including the country’s Arab citizens. Netanyahu is appealing to the lowest common denominator, inflaming the Jewish community against the Arab community and inciting the entire Israeli public. “We have to warn against this danger; we have to work together to warn against it,” he said, as if he were talking about an enemy.
Later, he even slandered the Arab Knesset members. “This is a government that will be dependent on Islamic Jihad and Hamas,” he said. “It’s a slap in the face to Israel Defense Forces soldiers by three former chiefs of staff. Such a government must not be established even for an hour.”
Sunday evening there was an “emergency conference of the right” — an event that wouldn’t have embarrassed extremist hate groups — in which it was again claimed that the Arab MKs seek to destroy Israel and that if a minority government were formed, “they will celebrate in Tehran, in Ramallah, and in Gaza, as they do after every terror attack.”
This man, about whom history will have its say with regard to the damage he has done to the fabric of Israeli society, must be replaced by a sane leadership. A leadership to whom it’s clear that its job is to improve Israeli society, not infect it with malice aforethought with a metastasizing disease of hatred.
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The appropriate response to the gutter politics of this national inciter, who, as the years passed, has merely expanded his circle of incitement, is to form a government together with the Arab parties’ Joint List, or alternatively one supported by it from the outside, in defiance of the man who seeks to turn Israel’s Arab citizens into enemies. We must hope enough decent lawmakers will be found to support such a move, and that they’ll join together to put an end to Netanyahu’s era of hatred.
But Netanyahu is right about one thing: Israel is genuinely in a state of emergency. It is headed by a national inciter who is unraveling its society solely to shore up his reign and remain in power.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.