Sunday, August 21, 2016

Netanyahu Didn't Ruin Israeli Democracy. The Occupation Did

Gideon Levy, Haaretz

After some hesitation, I won’t be voting Likud in the next election or probably in the election after that, but Carolina Landsmann found that I had great admiration for the leader of the party, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Haaretz, August 19). Most of the anger engendered in Landsmann and others was the last sentence that I wrote about Netanyahu’s meeting with Haaretz’s editorial staff: “Given the current proposed alternatives, we may even, God forbid, come to miss him.” (Haaretz, August 18). In light of the candidates to succeed him, I repeat that we indeed are liable to miss him, God forbid.

Longing is sometimes a relative emotion. Who would have imagined that former culture and sports minister Limor Livnat would one day be seen as a rock of liberalism and a beacon of intellect? Compared to her successor, Miri Regev, one longs for Livnat. Large portions of the Zionist left see Netanyahu’s removal from office as the be-all and end-all. If we were only rid of his demon, things would be good here [..]

Everything bad began with his governance and will end when it ends. Just give us his head. It’s a typical delusion. It absolves one of responsibility. Netanyahu has brought disasters on Israel, as I also wrote, but he has only continued the process of rot that began well before him and will also continue long after him, considering his successors. Would the Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog make peace? Would Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid end the occupation? Former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi? These are summer jokes. Lapid heads a dark, tyrannical party ruled by the man at the top alone. While Netanyahu meets with members of the editorial staff of a newspaper that attacks him, Lapid the democrat calls for it to be boycotted because of what was written about him. Netanyahu’s detractors say he is destroying democracy, as if Israel had been a Scandinavian democracy until the great dictator came along and ruined it.

It’s true that Netanyahu declared war on the wheels of democracy, but had they been fulfilling their role prior to that? Who? The Supreme Court, which has never gotten in the way of the occupation? The media, which has never really covered it? Has the educational system not carried out brainwashing? Did discrimination against Arabs just begin after Netanyahu warned that they were streaming to the polls? Hadn’t Lapid before him, in reference to Arab Knesset member Haneen Zoabi, spoken of “Zoabis”? Hasn’t Herzog spoken of “Arab lovers”? And the apartheid in the territories? And the mass arrests?

Everything is Netanyahu’s doing? The most critical damage to Israeli democracy is from the occupation. Netanyahu didn’t start it. His successors won’t put an end to it. Everything else is secondary.

We’ll miss Netanyahu if his successors are worse than he is. Yes, there is such a thing as worse than Netanyahu. There are those more bellicose and dangerous than he is, and above all, there are the hollow and cynical opportunists. One can quibble over whether Netanyahu is an ideologue. I believe he is. But there’s no disputing what is motivating his potential successors. None of them (except perhaps for Naftali Bennett of Habayit Hayehudi) is motivated by ideology. Landsmann believes that there is no benefit to ideology since, after all, Hitler and Stalin were ideologues, but in the reality of Israel, there is no danger greater than populism. [..]