Tidbits From Israel
By Ron Jager
The day last week when Israel’s ruling coalition abruptly came to an end, meaning that Israel is heading towards new elections and that Benjamin Netanyahu will be running for a fourth term as the prime minister of Israel signaled to the left that it’s “open season” on Netanyahu.
It’s as if the dams burst—filling the airwaves, newspapers, websites, and news shows on all the TV stations (controlled by the left) with vile, irrational hatred of Bibi Netanyahu. All you could hear was a systematic process of demonization, an unabashed, uncalled-for fanning of flames of hatred for Benjamin Netanyahu.
What has Israel’s prime minister done that can explain this lynch-mob mentality? What is it that has ushered in this wild, impassioned “kill the beast” atmosphere? How can one explain or even comprehend that politicians and citizens who normally exhibit sensitivity and civility in the public discourse have become so brazen in stating lies, baseless accusations, and general nastiness as they bare their teeth in a frenzy of violent self-righteousness? They hate Bibi Netanyahu as they once hated and vilified Menachem Begin.
There are deep motives for this hatred. Since the heyday of the Oslo Agreement back in 1993, Israel’s liberal left elite have been infected by a messianic mission to make peace with our Arab neighbors at any cost. Israel’s peace movement, supported by the intellectual elite, the media, and the courts, began to believe that they could hasten the end of the unsolvable conflict between Israel and her Arab neighbors by simply forfeiting sovereignty on lands that are essential to Israel’s security and by forfeiting Israel’s identity as a Jewish state.
But even then, back in the autumn of 1993, Netanyahu was the naysayer. The heretic. He roamed the countryside much like Johnny Appleseed, from village to village and from town to town, going against the grain by repeating fearlessly that Israel was intoxicated with a peace fantasy. Netanyahu explained, for those willing to listen, that the conflict with our Arab neighbors is more complex than the peace-train movement claims. There were issues of Jewish identity, Jewish history, and culture—fundamental existential considerations and challenges.
Netanyahu claimed way back then that our Arab neighbors had not accepted the legitimacy of Israel’s right to exist and would continue to weaken Israel, if not by terror, then by delegitimization.
And then the terror struck; daily suicide bombings, the streets of Israel’s major cities became nightmares, thousands killed and wounded. When the peace movement was voted out of power—having yet to return for the past 20 years—they could only blame the messenger of truth, not the Palestinian Arabs and their leadership.
The hatred of Netanyahu correlated to their need for an emotional discharge, a kind of false catharsis, enabling the Israeli left to conveniently forget that the peace fantasies that began in the Oslo Agreement were no more than an illusion, now effectively rejected by the Israeli public.
So in the upcoming election, no one will talk about peace. This worn-out bill of goods can’t be sold again. Only Labor Party head Yitzchak Herzog has said that his first step will be to go to Ramallah—and he has not repeated that mistake.
The alternative will be to rant about justice, inequality, social gaps, and the cost of housing. But here, too, although Israel has a way to go on those issues, the left has a problem. Over the past six years, Netanyahu’s economic reforms have transformed Israel’s socialist economy into a rapidly growing free market, making Israel a global powerhouse in the fields of computers, medicine, food, and agricultural technology—and the list goes on and on. The standard of living in Israel has risen dramatically during Netanyahu’s watch, and Israel ranks high across the board in comparison to other Western nations.
Netanyahu has explained Israel’s economic success: “We’re just, you know, a small niche economy. But what we’ve done and what we’ve instituted is essentially turning Israel into a high-tech, free-market economy. And that is a fundamental change from where we were decades ago.”
“We were growing oranges and selling polished diamonds,” he elaborated, “and now we’re selling the software on chips and we’re producing all sorts of innovations, technological innovations. And we’ve essentially become an export-driven, high-tech economy that has a very open marketplace. Not open enough. That’s actually our strategic opportunity for growth. And that’s the secret of what you do in an advanced economy and you want to keep it growing after it has reached $30,000-per-capita income. That is our situation.”
Despite his success in promoting Israel’s security and its economic success, we can expect that in the coming months until Election Day, the people of Israel will be inundated with a nonstop defilement of Benjamin Netanyahu. To some extent, some of the voting public will be affected by this propaganda and character assassination, but the majority of the Israeli public understands that most of Netanyahu’s policy decisions have been vindicated over the past few years.
After 66 years, the Israeli public supports the idea that Israel as a modern Jewish state must be just that—a Jewish state. The Israeli public has and will, in the coming elections, continue to confirm that Judaism is the reason for Israel’s existence and the justification of Israel’s existence.
Those having a tough time with Netanyahu’s possible reelection were brought up believing in the secular-liberal “feel good” Judaism, so common among the left in Israel as well as in the United States; they are unable to fathom the severity of the existential threats facing Israel and instead sense existential meaning in abdicating Israel’s Jewish identity.
The good news is that a Jewish Israel will continue to be democratic, protecting the human rights of minorities, and will continue to be a true melting pot for all of the world’s Jews. Palestinian Arabs living in Judea and Samaria will continue to benefit from the legal and human rights Israel provides them—more than they have in any Arab nation in the Middle East. Israel will also behave morally and unashamedly as a Jewish state. The left’s visceral hatred of Benjamin Netanyahu won’t affect him or halt these trends.
Ron Jager is a 25-year veteran of the Israel Defense Forces, where he served as a field mental-health officer and as commander of the central psychiatric military clinic for reserve soldiers at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring from active duty in 2005, he has been providing consultancy services to NGOs, implementing psychological trauma treatment programs in Israel. Ron currently serves as a strategic adviser to the chief foreign envoy of Judea and Samaria. To contact him, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ronjager.com.