Rabin’s 1995 assassination is casting its long shadow over the overheated arena of Israeli politics
The annual festival of the macabre, the ridiculous, and the politically debased that is the remembrance service at the late prime minister Rabin’s grave site followed by what is supposed to be a solemn and non-political meeting of the Knesset was particularly atrocious this year as the fate of the country hangs in the balance after two tied elections. Rabin’s family has long converted his assassination into an inexhaustible source for money and power and this time around they had to repay their sponsors among the Israeli leftist urban affluent elites by cashing in their victim chips to hurt incumbent PM Netanyahu and the entire nationalist and religious population of the country.
It is rare that I compare Israeli politics to those of the US. The two countries are vastly different and I find most comparisons to be too shallow and facile. There are, however, undeniable similarities between the cult of Rabin and the shameless exploitation of his death by his family for political and personal enrichment purposes and the nearly identical cult being built around the controversial persona of the late senator McCain. Even more regrettable are the similarities between the deligitimization of the nationalist movements in Israel and in America by their left-wing opponents. In both cases, political support for the blocs led by president Trump and prime minister Netanyahu is pushed beyond the pale by their political opponents. The notion that supporting certain mainstream political parties, parties that enjoy electoral majorities and are the incumbents at the seat of power is illegitimate, uncouth, and even criminal is anti-democratic and dangerous in the extreme and yet it has become the favorite tactic of the left in many western nations.
In Israel, this persecution of the unwashed masses that support the nationalist religious agenda often relies on the vague and absolutely false accusations that this entire bloc of of Israeli voters, well over half of the Jewish population, is somehow responsible for the “incitement” that led to the murder of Yitzhak Rabin 24 years ago. There can be little doubt that these accusations coming as they are less that two weeks before the leader of the Israeli left Benny Gantz must return his government forming mandate to president Rivlin will backfire. Nobody likes to be falsely accused and these accusations in particular bring back the acrid memory of the Oslo accords and the rivers of Jewish blood that were spilled on the streets of Israeli cities as their direct consequence. Putting Benny Gantz, a Rabin-like figure if there ever were one, back in the seat of the prime minister is beginning to look less like a good idea with every mention of the horrific events of the mid 1990’s.
The real game of chicken however is now focused on the larger than life personalities of prime minister Netanyahu and his protege turned nemesis Avigdor Lieberman. Netanyahu wishes to corner Lieberman into a binary choice between rejoining the nationalist religious bloc and thus allowing him to form a government and supporting a radical left minority government led by Benny Gantz, a government which will owe its very existence to the votes of the anti-Zionist, anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, and pro-terrorist Arab members of the Knesset.
Lieberman has lately been indicating that joining such a government would be a possibility as far as he is concerned, but Netanyahu assesses, correctly, that he is bluffing. Lieberman’s “Russian” Jewish voters may not like religious Israelis and their agenda of religious “coercion”, but they like Arabs far less and mostly they like safety and security. By joining this minority government, a government that will not last more than a few months, Lieberman would be signing his political death warrant. Netanyahu is doubtlessly ready to offer Lieberman a token win in the arena of the secular-religious divide in Israeli politics so that he can save face as he returns into the fold, but this will be a token gesture at best. Both Lieberman and his voters will see it for what it is and it is likely that dragging the country through the expense of the political mayhem of a second election will neither be forgiven nor forgotten as far as Lieberman’s political future is concerned.
Still, a nationalist-religious government, a majority government relying on a solid Jewish majority of 63 MK’s, is likely to last for quite a long time, maybe the full four years and in Israeli politics that is a near eternity. This is the choice that is now being offered by Netanyahu to Lieberman: die on the altar of your distaste for Judaism as a religion and be considered a traitor to the Jewish state or wipe the egg off your face and come back into the fold. Choosing neither will lead to a third election in March of next year, a risk that Lieberman may find the least palatable of all, since this new election may spell the end of his political career.
Who will swerve first? Will Netanyahu agree to ditch his right wing and religious bloc to become prime minister for a short while in a “national unity” government with Benny Gantz and Lieberman flanking him at the government table or will he force Lieberman to put his cards on the table and once and for all show where his true loyalties lie? The next few days will reveal the answer to this question. The people of Israel deserve it.
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