From the Israeli Press: The Great Netanyahu Hunt

The Prime Minister has been vilified using disgraceful methods during the entire election period. All winter long, the scent of a lynch was in the air.

Haggai Segal

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The ‘Zionist Camp’, so it was reported this week, has already reserved Tel Aviv's Rabin Square for a post-election day victory ball. Doubtless, this report comes as part of the psychological warfare intended to weaken resolve on the right, create the incorrect impression that the outcome has already been decided, and imply that it would be useless to continue the struggle against Herzog’s well-oiled war-machine.

Its subliminal message is: “Likud activists, Likud officials, stop wasting your time, we already have our champagne bottles in the refrigerator, see you at the Square”.

But even if we were to assume that the reservation of the square was done for purely logistical reasons, as would be expected from a well-organized social-democratic party, it still betrays a moral failure: a massive political victory ball is a spiteful act which indicates a lack of seriousness. He who wins an election should feel more of a sense of trepidation than one of joy. The task of managing the country is suddenly thrust upon his shoulders. From then on, no one else can be blamed. The chances of failure are ten times greater than the chances of success. The streets of Israel have seen more than one victory ball, from the left as well as the right, which ended in bitter disappointment. Remember the “Dawn of a New Day” of 1999?

But the left's massive “Just Not Bibi” campaign is not an ordinary political campaign intended to replace  a failed government. There is no clear opposition program yearning to be realized. Neither is there an oppositional camp suffering under the yoke of oppression. Anyone with basic common sense understands that Herzog cannot magically pull a solution out of his hat for the housing problem, or for the Palestinian problem either, for that matter. Therefore, the main purpose of the planned victory ball is to celebrate the successful conclusion of a well-organized hunt, possibly the best organized hunt in Israel’s history. The hunters want to celebrate. They have worked hard in the past months.

In certain venues this past fall, the decision was made to remove Netanyahu from the Prime Minister’s office. By hook or by crook. From a democratic perspective, it was a perfectly kosher resolution. What was not kosher was the method chosen: the Prime Minister has been vilified using disgraceful methods during the entire election period. Not a single missile was left un-hurled against him, no hole left un-dug before his feet. All winter long, the scent of a lynch was in the air.

Most media outlets discarded not only the principle of objectivity, but even any pretense of it, and lashed out at Netanyahu without the interference of the Supreme Court or recourse to journalistic ethics, day after day, hour after hour. Every minor tactical error on his part, such as the Hamas clip, was inflated to catastrophic strategic proportions. (When the late Rabin made a comparison between the right-wing and terrorist organizations, the
In the past month, the American President found the time to meet with the prince of terror from Qatar, but adamantly refused to meet the Israeli Prime Minister.
foundations of Israeli journalism sure shook a lot less.) The dismissal of several dozen employees of Israel Chemicals was presented as a wave of massive layoffs in the public sector. The necessary elimination of an Iranian scourge on the Golan was presented as an electioneering stunt.

[Household staff member] Meni Naftali’s accusations against the Prime Minister’s family received very generous media attention, while the counter-accusations against Meni Naftali got a back-seat. Meir Dagan, previously considered a high-ranking yet controversial officer, was raised to the level of martyred saint – all in the service of the great hunt. Suddenly, he became an oracle.

At an early stage, the White House, too, joined in the hunt. A storm of insults, aimed by Obama’s people against Netanyahu’s speech in Congress (and really, what did it matter to them that he should speak?), was intended to discredit him in the eyes of the voters here. In the past month, the American President found the time to meet with the prince of terror from Qatar, but adamantly refused to meet the Israeli Prime Minister. This was his not-so-modest, very problematic, contribution to crowning Herzog. Obama went head-to-head with Netanyahu.

The writer of these lines is not one of Netanyahu’s automatic sympathizers – to say the least. I have written many angry words against him, and most likely will continue to do so in the future, should he be re-elected. But one does not need to be a supporter of his in order to understand that this great hunt against him was savage and unforgivable – a  disgrace for Israeli democracy.

The people that hunted him down were in fact hunting down all that he represents. And THAT is not a personal issue for Netanyahu. This savage hunt will be remembered at the ballot box, and long, long after.   

This article was published in the Hebrew Makor Rishon newspaper weekend edition, translated by Yair Geiman.



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