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Photo: Emil Salman
Prime Minister Netanyahu
Photo: Emil Salman
Nahum Barnea
Only the Likud Party can do it
Op-ed: A right-wing government has more room to maneuver than a center-left one does when it comes to agreements with enemies. As long as the hate-filled rhetoric remains the same, Netanyahu's base will stay loyal to him.
On Saturday night, several hundred residents from communities on the Gaza border protested at Rabin Square. It was the fourth Saturday protest in the square—it was preceded by the LGBT community, the Druze and the Arabs. But despite the fact most Israelis share the concern for the Gaza border residents, their security, their mental fortitude and the fate of their fields—the crowd at their protest was rather thin. This is not a good time for those in the national consensus. Consensus has gone out of fashion: If there's no disagreement, there is no interest.

 

 

Who would've thought, the most right-wing government in Israel's history is seeking an agreement with the terror organization it has sworn to destroy. It is negotiating the details of this agreement while under fire, doing the very thing its ministers have criticized others for in the past. It's not hard to imagine what would've happened if a center-left government had acted the same. The word "betrayal" would've been on everyone's lips—from the head of the opposition to the last of the radio personalities. Photos of the prime minister in the robes of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin would've been plastered over every town square. Ministers and their families would've come under violent attacks on social media, at public events, in their homes.

 

Fortunately, we're living under a right-wing government. These graves scenarios are not happening and will not be happening. Bennett will take a little jab at Lieberman in an effort to get more votes and promote himself as the next defense minister. Everyone, even his voters, know where this criticism is coming from and how quickly it will disappear.

 

Prime Minister Netanyahu (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
Prime Minister Netanyahu (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
 

"Only the Likud Party can do it," we said when Menachem Begin conceded the entire Sinai Peninsula and paved the way for a Palestinian political entity in the land of Israel; "only the Likud Party can do it," we said when Benjamin Netanyahu conceded 13 percent of the West Bank and Ariel Sharon evacuated the settlements in Gaza and in the northern Samaria. When it comes to the Israeli-Arab conflict, the right-wing governments have more room to maneuver, a lot more than center-left governments do. The left-wing can make promises, the right-wing can keep them.

 

This determination raises an interesting question: What is this "base" everyone's talking about? What does it expect of its leaders, and what would it punish them for? Likud's "base" hates anyone who criticizes Netanyahu.

 

Anat Rosilio, a researcher at the Berl Katznelson foundation, monitors expressions of hatred online. A list of 100 words and phrases makes up the Lexicon of Hatred. Normally, Arabs, the Left and the New Israel Fund are the stars of the show; the media as well.

 

She found that when Ministers Regev and Levin and the close associate Natan Eshel slammed the Druze, and when Netanyahu shared the false accusations of right-wing organization Im Tirtzu on his Facebook page, the Druze immediately turned from national heroes to enemies of the state. Every three and a half minutes, an expression of hatred against them was posted online. Later, when the attacks from the top stopped, the expressions of hatred disappeared. "The expressions disappeared, but the narrative remains the same," Rosilio told me.

 

Druze protesters at Rabin Square (Photo: AFP)
Druze protesters at Rabin Square (Photo: AFP)

 

In other words, Netanyahu can lead his "base" just as well as his "base" is leading him. His major supporters are not impressed with the talks he's having with an Arab terror organization, but as long as his rhetoric remains anti-Arab, anti-Left, anti-elite and anti-media, they will blindly follow him. The spell of the words and the personal loyalty overcome the ideological aversion. Trump's supporters are the same: the rhetoric is the supreme test, it is the litmus paper that distinguishes Left and Right, not the decisions in practice.

 

That is why the discourse is about an "arrangement" and not an "agreement": An agreement is a paper that is signed, a joint photo op with flags on both sides. The arrangement is done on the ground, without stopping either side from carrying on promising to destroy the other.

 

On a positive note, this provides Netanyahu and his ministers with a convenient basis for a pragmatic policy concerning the conflict as well as for military restraint; they don't always take advantage of this freedom, but they know it's at their disposal—to be used to reach an arrangement with Hamas, for example.

 

On a negative note, he's pushing them to incite, to oust, to sabotage the internal Israeli unity and to undermine any institution that does not accept their authority—the Supreme Court, the State Attorney's Office, the police, the free media.

 

The Israelis who do not belong to this "base" earn quite a bit and lose a lot. It's doubtful this deal is beneficial.

 


פרסום ראשון: 08.20.18, 23:32
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