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Israelis are no longer buying what Netanyahu is selling

Never has a prime minister appointed a defense minister so far beyond the consensus. For the first time in a decade, it feels like fewer people truly buy into Bibi’s lies and theatrics.

By Alon Mizrahi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu observes military drill in the occupied Golan Heights, April 11, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu observes military drill in the occupied Golan Heights, April 11, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Throughout his years in the public spotlight, Netanyahu and his advisors have been successful at doing one thing: to completely control the story of the State of Israel.

It does not matter whether they were able to do so because they are talented at doing so, or because they use deeply-entrenched Jewish and Israeli motifs: victimhood; persecution; siege mentality; the Arabs as a representation of the devil incarnate and the heirs to the Wermacht; Judaism as a supreme category whose fate, near-annihilation by anti-Semitism — is different than the rest of humanity (a fate prevented only due to aerial bombings and God).

We know all this, and yet the left-wing, liberal camp has been sitting by helplessly for an entire generation, perhaps even longer. The Left has never been successful — or has even tried — to challenge this story. The Jewish public simply does not want a different story. Israeli Jews want to feel special and in danger, and every political movement that builds on these fears succeeds at becoming a dominant force. Every step taken under the guise of these fears is justified: the occupation itself, of course, justified but so are other acts of cruelty against non-Jews, as well as the arrogance vis-a-vis non-Jews abroad. That’s the story. Am Israel Chai — the nation of Israel lives thanks to miracles and unregulated use of force.

But something in this story is now falling apart. We are hearing people in the heart of the Israeli Right saying: wait. There are things we mustn’t do. Maybe this story is so wrong that it actually justifies strange and reckless behavior. Such as appointing Avigdor Liberman defense minister, for example.

If we understand things as such, the resignation of Avi Gabai (along with that of Yisrael Beiteinu’s Orly Levy and former Defense Minister Minister Moshe Ya’alon) from the Netanyahu-Bennett-Liberman government, is significant. It is the earthquake happening under Netanyahu’s rule.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Photo by Activestills.org)

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon (Photo by Activestills.org)

It’s not just a change in the people running the country. It’s not just the fact that people no longer want to work with him, including diehard rightists. It is the fundamental psychological change taking place here over the past few weeks, which signals one thing: Netanyahu is no longer able to tell the story of Israel. His point of view, the story he is trying to sell — the Holocaust and the Mufti — are no longer the point of view of most Israelis. At least not entirely. This is a drastic change from the past few decades.

Things we must pay attention to: Netanyahu’s story of “widening the coalition” has turned into the story of Ya’alon’s resignation and the appointment of a defense minister whom nearly every Israeli (and non-Israeli) prefers didn’t get the job. If Israelis wanted Liberman as a top political leader, his party would not have just barely passed the election threshold. Never has a prime minister appointed a defuse minister so beyond the consensus, and the Israeli public understood this immediately. This is the most important failure in Bibi’s story. The story that an Arab attacked dozens of policemen in Tel Aviv didn’t work either: Israelis know that their police force is violent, and that appointing Roni Alsheikh to police commissioner was a poor choice.

And even at the end of last week, when Netanyahu tried to connect the “Left” and the “media” to a horrifying case of rape (this is the prime minister of Israel), Minister Avi Gabai, one of the most honest and respected people in the government, announced that he was resigning, explicitly saying it was due to the danger of appointing Liberman. Including those same “trends” that Deputy Chief of the General Staff Yair Golan warned against last month.

The story is everything. And Netanyahu can no longer tell the story like he could in the past. This is wonderful news; for the first time in a decade, there is a feeling that fewer and fewer people feel the need to protect him, while more people no longer believe his lies or theatrics. Honest rightists such as Moshe Ya’alon and Moseh Arens, Avi Gabai and Orly Levy are saying “enough is enough.” And I believe, perhaps, that we are closer to the end than it seems.

Alon Mizrahi is a writer and a blogger. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    1. i_like_ike52

      We have been seeing articles like this for the last 20 years…personalization of the conflict the Left has with the Right in the person of Netanyahu and demonization of him. We keep hearing the claim “everybody hates Bibi”….everyone that is except for the voters, whom the Left views as nothing more than an ignorant rabble.

      Ya’alon will end up like Douglas MacArthur who said old soldiers simply fade away If he tries to come back with a new party of Likud malcontents, it will end up just like Itzik Mordechai and his failed “Center Party” which was also hyped by the media in the 1999 elections but which bombed out only winning 6 seats.
      Ya’alon is being a hypocrite when he claims he left the Likud because it has supposedly “been taken over by extremists”. Just a few days before he quit he was visiting Likud branches saying how much of a “right-winger” he was and how much he opposed the Labor Party and the Left. He also tried to ally himself with Moshe Feiglin, who was considered an “extremist” by Netanyahu and who was pushed out of the Likud by Bibi, yet Ya’alon claims “the extremist’s are taking over” when the opposite occurred.

      Dream on.

      Reply to Comment
      • Traffa

        Likud got 30% of the vote in the last election, not exactly a resounding mandate for Likud OR Netanyahu.

        Reply to Comment
        • i_like_ike52

          The Jewish Home, SHAS and United Torah Judaism are basically satellite parties allied with the Likud. Their voters pretty much all support Netanyahu for Prime Minister. So did Lieberman’s voters who got 6 seats. Most of Kahalon’s 10 seats voters also support Netanyahu.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      “…or because they use deeply-entrenched Jewish and Israeli motifs…The Jewish public simply does not want a different story. Israeli Jews want to feel special and in danger….”

      I don’t think I’ve ever read a better succinct accounting of the existential underpinning of the problem.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Dave

      What a load of self-serving bullshit. It reminds me of when you were all going around calling “Occupy Rothschild” a revolution, an “Israeli Spring”, a “harbinger of change”. That is right up until the moment that Netanyahu appointed some empty-suit professor of economics to head up some blue-ribbon panel designed to placate you with offers of free child care and govt subsidized reflexology treatments, and then did nothing. Yaalon is a modern orthodox, national religous, Kahanist piece of sh*t who can read the writing on the wall. That said he’s an excellent reflection of the current Israeli zeitgeist. He probably figures if he throws Bibi under a bus, the world will let him keep his villa that he never had to pay for.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Lewis from Afula

      Yishai Kohen (above) gives a very good response to this ridiculous article. Apart from the political-historical facts, a huge majority of the young Israelis (less than 35) overwhelmingly support the National camp. Support for the left tends to concentrate in elderly Askenasi elites. This trend means the National camp will strengthen in the years ahead.

      All you 972 self-haters / leftists / PLO supporters should take this into account.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        The visitations by the hard right here are always informative. Believe me, we are taking it into account, hence we understand now the need for outside intervention at long last to ensure that either the two state arrangement (unlikely) or the one state arrangement (likely) will not become an ethnic-cleansing, population-transferring orgiastic reprise of 1930’s Europe. Fanatics can’t be reasoned with. They can only be stayed by a calm firmness backed by force as necessary. Let’s hope that the inevitable force will be nonviolent economic force. One of the strikingly self-referential, narcissistic veins in the story Israelis tell themselves is that “it’s in the consensus.” Which “consensus” extends exactly to the edges of the center-right inside the Jewish section of the Israeli populace. And nowhere else on earth. Just yesterday the EU told Israel that the demolitions in Area C are a huge problem and the French let it be known that their peace plan seeks rigid deadlines for every stage of I-P talks. And no one but no one, left or right, anywhere, believes a word Bibi and Lieberman mouth about their newfound joy in the API. Least of all Obama, who becomes a president free to actually fully act in America’s interests–what a novel idea–from November to January. If you think a tipping point is not going to be reached at some point where some form of boycotts and sanctions are not part of the American-European “consensus,” dream on. And if you think you’ll start a war and use it to do the population transferring you’re itching to do, and you’ll live happily ever after in some kind of judeofascist paradise, dream on. I know the hard right thinks in terms of centuries not months or years and thinks everyone outside will patiently indulge them but I think the outside world, Jewish and not Jewish, is pretty tired by now of endlessly indulging you.

        Reply to Comment
        • i_like_ike52

          In the end, there isn’t going to be any “outside intervention” to please the anti-Israel crowd. The anti-Israel crowd view themselves as the “conscience of mankind” and since they go around obsessing about Israel, they assume that everyone else does. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of humanity, including in the Muslim countries, COULDN’T CARE LESS ABOUT Israel and the Palestinians and the settlements. The reason some European countries obsess about Israel is due to Middle Eastern petrodollars greasing their palms. If European countries who are always screaming about israel want to do business with Israel, they will continue to do so. Most people in the world view the Arab/Israeli conflict as just another long-running conflict that is unresolvable.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            It is not interesting to me if people in Korea or Bhutan or Mozambique are interested in this or think about it at all. It is interesting to me what Europeans and Americans think or do not think. That is changing. The level of sheer ignorance is changing. The amount of misinformation people unquestioningly accept is changing. Ask Bernie Sanders and his supporters. Ask the egregious Donald Trump and his supporters for that matter. And ask Europeans. In the end I perceive that what you display here is not unlike the attitude of a gangster. “Leave us alone. We have work to do while the world is distracted. What’s it to you anyway, buddy?” And it’s just a way of trivializing other people’s pain and showing contempt for them.

            Reply to Comment