The events preceding Independence Day have become symbols of Israel statehood. One can criticize the exclusion of certain populations or the poor taste, but the traditional torch-lighting ceremony, the Israel Prize awards ceremony, the International Bible Contest, the Memorial Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies are all supposed to be unifying moments. It’s a shame that, with the cynicism characteristic of the waning days of Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule, many of these events were used instead to glorify him.
In his Holocaust Remembrance Day speech, Netanyahu chose to attack the talks between the United States and Iran over the nuclear deal. Addressing U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration, he said, “Even to our best friends I say: Make no mistake; an agreement with Iran that will pave their way to a nuclear weapon – a weapon that threatens to destroy us – any such agreement will not bind us one iota. Only one thing binds us: preventing those who seek to destroy us from carrying out their plan.”
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His cult of personality reached its peak during the torch-lighting ceremony. At a time when his attorneys are arguing that the bribery charges against him in Case 4000 are ridiculous and claiming the case is about nothing more than pictures of Sara Netanyahu on a minor internet news site, he exploited this state ceremony for a similar purpose. The television channels were forced to broadcast pictures of Netanyahu and his wife to the nation over and over, as the two sat next to the person in charge of the ceremony, Minister Miri Regev. Netanyahu boasted about the vaccination campaign. Even Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, a company that has earned billions of dollars from developing the vaccine, was integrated into the ceremony to repay the prime minister.
Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu were also present at the Bible Contest, and Netanyahu praised his own role in the fact that it took place: “Thanks to the vaccination campaign, we brought salvation from the pandemic,” he said. Then, echoing his Likud party’s election slogan, he added, “We’ve gotten back to life and, to my joy, we’ve also resumed the Bible Contest.”
In a carefully planned move, Prof. Oded Goldreich was not present at the Israel Prize awards ceremony. In the view of Netanyahu’s government, Goldreich’s scientific achievements are dwarfed by his left-wing political views. And at the Memorial Day ceremony for victims of terror, one man burst out screaming at Netanyahu, “No politics! You should be ashamed of yourself.”
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Netanyahu, who is having trouble mustering the 61 Knesset votes he needs to form a new government, has begun campaigning for a fifth election in the hope that after it, he’ll be able to evade trial, corrupt state institutions and form a government that is subject to no restraints. L’etat c’est moi, Netanyahu says explicitly, thereby proving that Israel deserves a more fitting and responsible leadership.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.