The Israeli General Election in April will be interesting, not only because there is a good chance that the world will see the political end of Benjamin Netanyahu and his lies, but also because it will present us with a clearer image of what Israel is and how its so-called political elite think and behave. The campaign is capable of making us laugh and cry at the same time.
Netanyahu, who built his career on an image of himself as a war hero, is seeing his record demolished by the military service of his political opponent General Benny Gantz, a former Chief of Staff. To compound his woes, a fierce social media battle has erupted between his son, Yair Netanyahu, and the grandson of another former Chief of Staff, the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Netanyahu Junior called Rabin “a murderer of Holocaust survivors”, which is the most serious allegation that an Israeli could make against anyone, in response to a tweet by Yonatan Ben-Artzi. According, to Ynet News, Rabin’s grandson wrote that, “Benny Gantz exposed the lie veteran military men know so well: Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu’s nickname] is a coward. He was a cowardly soldier and a mediocre warrior at best.” In response, young Netanyahu claimed that Ben-Artzi’s grandfather, Rabin, “experienced nervous breakdowns in every battle (especially during the Six-Day War).”
The image Netanyahu has worked hard on building is reminiscent of an action movie. In one of his many narrations, he describes an incident thus: “I almost drowned in the Suez Canal after returning from an operation during the War of Attrition [the state of war between Israel, Egypt and Jordan 1967-1970]. Bullets whistling from all directions hit my boat. I jumped overboard with an ammunition box attached to my back. My comrades pulled me by the hand and prevented me from drowning.”
Ben-Artzi reports the incident differently. “Everybody who served in the [elite Sayeret Matkal] unit knows he [Netanyahu] jumped off a boat during an operational activity for fear of being shot [by friendly fire] and that his carelessness led to the discovery of [Israeli] forces.” This is, apparently, what Gantz has alleged.
The Prime Minister knows that he cannot counter Gantz’s accusations directly, as his alleged cowardice seems to be an established fact among his generation. Hence, he has opted to attack someone who he believes to be more of a coward than himself; not Gantz, but the General’s ally in the newly-formed Kahol Lavan alliance, Yair Lapid, whose only military role, mocks Netanyahu, was service as an army journalist. If Gantz believes Netanyahu to be a coward, how could he ally himself with someone like Lapid who had no combat role? That seems to be Team Netanyahu’s implied message.
We can learn a few lessons from this exchange. For a start, that Israelis are not superhuman; they are human beings prone to the same shortcomings as people everywhere in that they struggle for power and smear each other in the worst possible ways. Indeed, it is not only Gentiles who kill each other, as the Israeli narrative too often suggests; Jews can and do kill each other.
What’s more, the best people to debunk the Israeli narrative are those who constructed it — the Israelis themselves — especially when it contradicts their personal interests. If there is anything that may bring about Israel’s downfall, it is the people of Israel.
Israeli democracy is clearly not led by politicians. The militarised nature of the state is emphasised by the fact that so many veterans enter politics and are attract votes according to the amount of Palestinian and Arab blood on their hands. This is not a recent phenomenon. Menachem Begin, for example, was Prime Minister of Israel from 1977 to 1983 and founded Netanyahu’s Likud party; he was also the head of the Irgun terrorist group in the 1940s. Likewise, Yitzhak Shamir served twice as Prime Minister (1982-1984 and 1986-1992) having been in the Stern Gang terrorist group in the run-up to the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948. The allegations of cowardice against Netanyahu and Rabin are interesting, though, as this time they have been made by fellow Israelis.
Netanyahu is often referred to as the “King of Israel”, and he not only faces such cowardice claims but also faces indictment on corruption charges. His supposed political successes are illusionary, as are his claims that the Palestinians are responsible for their own tragedy. In fact, it is the likes of Netanyahu and his cronies and predecessors in power in Israel who are entirely responsible for the catastrophe and its ongoing consequences.
Despite all of this, we must remember that Gantz is no different to Netanyahu and the rest of the Zionist junta. They are the product of a state built on terrorism, lies and aggression. Whether it is Gantz or Netanyahu who is the next Israeli Prime Minister is largely immaterial; it will merely be a change of manager, not a change of ownership and the policies intended to take as much Palestinian land as possible will continue to be put into practice. Any changes will be superficial. As long as Israel is allowed by the international community to act with impunity, supported by the US and Europe, the injustice shackling the Palestinians will continue unabated.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.