Israeli protesters gathered on Sunday night along the highway to Ben-Gurion International Airport, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was headed to board a flight to the United States.
With their usual chants of “crime minister” and other trite anti-Bibi mantras, these self-anointed guardians of freedom and democracy—members of the so-called “peace camp”—were livid that the premier was on his way to Washington, D.C.
That the purpose of his trip was to sign the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords—a peace treaty with the United Arab Emirates and declaration of peace with Bahrain—didn’t matter to them. On the contrary, it became another excuse for their outrage.
A mere two or so hours earlier, Netanyahu had announced that the steep and steady rise in coronavirus morbidity made a three-week countrywide lockdown necessary. As if this weren’t sufficient cause for exasperation, even among his supporters, his detractors took the opportunity to rail against him for going off to a “cocktail party” at the White House, leaving Israelis ill in every sense of the word, thanks to his government’s failed COVID-19 policies.
Yes, they insist, he is responsible simultaneously for the increasing mortality rate and disintegrating workforce—for opening up the economy too soon on the one hand and for not “having a proper plan” to prevent the spread of the virus on the other.
Their anger at Netanyahu is nothing new. For the past three months, they have been spending their Saturday nights demonstrating near his official residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem, demanding that he resign or—better yet—go to jail. Though it’s hard to keep track of their many and disparate gripes, it’s very easy to spot their hypocrisy.
In the first place, they behave as if their “democratic right” to demonstrate makes them immune to the coronavirus. While accusing Netanyahu of “caving” to his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners—one of whom, Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman, just resigned over restrictions on synagogue gatherings (hmm)—they themselves practice zero social distancing during regular mass protests.
Meanwhile, their masks are costume-like contraptions shaped like pigs’ snouts, genitalia and other animal or human body parts.
Secondly, rather than being happy that Netanyahu is forging close ties with Muslim states—not only the UAE and Bahrain, but also Kosovo, which is on the verge of recognizing Israel and opening an embassy in Jerusalem—they are blaming him, as usual, for the Palestinians’ unwillingness to get with the peace program.
Third and equally ridiculous is their assertion that Netanyahu is using his skill at international relations, which they refer to snidely as “PR,” to distract the public from his looming trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
This claim is not only ludicrous due to the nature of the indictments, two of which involve his ostensible attempts to receive positive coverage from hostile media outlets, while a third surrounds his receiving pink champagne and cigars from billionaire friends abroad.
Far more important is new information, revealed last week by Israeli Channel 12’s Amit Segal, which exposes a serious conflict of interest exhibited by one of Netanyahu’s investigators.
It is no wonder, then, that most Israelis do not side with the “peaceful,” “peace-loving” protesters. Indeed, polls show that Netanyahu’s Likud is still the largest single party in the Knesset, and any support it might lose is being picked up by Yamina, farther to the right.
In other words, while the “anybody but Bibi” crowd is great at huddling together en masse and shouting about the government’s inability to protect them from microbes and bankruptcy, they do not constitute a majority.
Nor are most Israelis indifferent to the major shift in the Middle East that is taking place before their eyes, and would not belittle it in order to debase Netanyahu by saying that it’s a ploy of “distraction.”
This brings us to similar sour grapes on the part of “progressive” Americans, who cheered the nuclear deal with Iran—orchestrated by former U.S. President Barack Obama and ripped up by his successor—yet turn their noses up at the actual peace agreements brokered by Donald Trump.
Take House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), for example. When asked on Friday by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer how much “credit” she gives Trump for the agreements, she stammered that she hoped they’d be “beneficial for the region,” but promptly pooh-poohed them by raising the issue of the Palestinians.
“We’ve been waiting for a very long time for the president’s proposal for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement that honored the two-state solution,” she said. “It was coming in two weeks; it was coming in two months; it was coming in six months—it still hasn’t come in any way that has brought peace.”
She concluded sarcastically, “So, good for him for having a distraction on a day when the numbers of people who are affected and the numbers of people who are dying from this virus only increases [sic].”
Like her left-wing counterparts in the Jewish state, Pelosi and her crew are in a funk over the historic events unfolding at this very moment, courtesy of Netanyahu’s long-term plan and the Trump administration’s crucial backing.
She would be most welcome at the anti-Netanyahu demonstrations organized by the ex-pat Israeli movement “UnXeptable” to put a damper on Tuesday’s treaty-signing ceremony. After all, the group is none too fond of Trump either.
Whether they keep a safe distance from one another at the rally remains to be seen. One thing is clear, however: Hell hath no fury like peaceniks upstaged by their nemeses.
Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”