The Jerusalem Post
Likud’s morning after
With his jaw broken by former Marine Ken Norton, and with the referees’ split decision final, boxing legend Muhammad Ali responded to his unexpected defeat: “We all have to take defeats in life.”
Ali was right on that one, but accepting defeat is hard, and defeated people often turn to denial. That is what is happening to the new opposition, whose response to its loss of power and its perks has been childish, anti-patriotic and ruinous, for them and for the country they are sworn to serve.
The denialism surfaced the day the new government was born.
The heckling choir that greeted Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in his inaugural speech was designed to convince that what had happened didn’t really happen; that Likud and Netanyahu didn’t really lose. How could they?
Obviously premeditated, that cacophony’s message was a declaration of war with two aims, one moral the other political: morally, to delegitimize Bennett and his government, and politically, to sabotage their parliamentary work.
The quest to undermine the government’s work proved so intense that Likud tried to thwart the annual renewal of the regulation that limits naturalization of Palestinians who marry Israeli Arabs.
Never mind this restriction’s substance; what matters in terms of this discussion is that this regulation has been part of Likud’s own policy throughout the Netanyahu years. Even so, Likud now set out to join the opposition in torpedoing its renewal.
In other words, Likud’s urge to sabotage Bennett is now stronger than its own stated convictions, so much so that it is prepared to fling the country’s doors open to people it suspects of terrorist intentions. Party first, country second.
THIS IS not how parliamentary opposition is meant to work.
Yes, many bills are opposed just because the government proposes them, but when it comes to issues like national security, partisan considerations are set aside. That is what Benjamin Netanyahu did as leader of the opposition during the suicide bombings of 1996. “Shimon [Peres], fight them!” he told the prime minister. “We’ll be with you!”
The opposition’s work is to debate the coalition’s plans and to vote against its bills, but its job is not to lie to the people that they have “a government of fraud.” What fraud? Bennett tried to join a right-wing coalition, but Netanyahu failed to deliver one. That’s when Bennett decided to prevent another snap election, in line with one of his key election promises. It was the patriotic choice. His opposition, by contrast, is not patriotic. It is, however, childish and hysterical.
MK Avraham Michaeli (Shas) said Bennett’s establishment of a commission inquiry into the Mount Meron Disaster means his government is “dancing on the victims’ blood.” MK Meir Porush (UTJ) hollered at Arrangements Committee chairwoman Idit Silman, “You are behaving like a little girl” because she called him to order.
Hearing Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana (Yamina) ask Bennett’s ultra-Orthodox hecklers how they think they can preach to Bennett about faith if they, unlike him, never got to say the Prayer Before Battle – MK Dudi Amsalem’s (Likud) reply was: “Bennett’s rabbi is Yair Lapid.”
The policy of delegitimizing the Bennett government and sabotaging its work is disagreeable to a growing number of the new opposition’s leaders
Such, then, is the new opposition’s response to the voters’ verdict, a celebration of sore losing, escapism and self-righteousness underpinned by a refusal to realize that the parties that said Netanyahu should be replaced won 61 Knesset seats, and the rest, including Yamina, won 59.
LIKE ALL mourners, the new opposition’s members will in due course travel from denial to acceptance via anger, bargaining and depression. Some, in fact, are already past the denial phase.
One is former health minister Yuli Edelstein, who has not denied a KAN TV report that he told a closed forum, “Netanyahu must be replaced,” and that he will run against him for Likud’s leadership.
Another is former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, who attacked Netanyahu for not having let an alternative Likud candidate secure a right-wing coalition with Gideon Sa’ar.
Another Likudnik not living in denial is former internal security minister Avi Dichter, who said he will run against Netanyahu, and while at it criticized him for having dedicated a mere 30 minutes for his handover meeting with Bennett.
Whether any of these challengers can defeat Netanyahu is a separate question. What matters right now is the sobriety they display in telling their colleagues the two words that most of the new opposition’s members seem unable to utter: We lost.
Equally sober, and even more impressive, has been Ambassador Gilad Erdan’s offer to stay on as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.
Erdan’s proposal means that the man who served in Netanyahu’s governments for 11 years not only
recognizes Netanyahu’s defeat, and not only refuses to join the campaign to delegitimize and sabotage Bennett’s rule, he is offering to serve it. And he is right to offer this. It’s basic patriotism.
Golda Meir’s and Yitzhak Rabin’s ambassador to the US, Simcha Dinitz, remained in Washington under Menachem Begin, served him loyally, and also joined him at the Camp David peace talks. Labor’s Avraham Shochat found himself in 1990 chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee after his party left the government, while Yitzhak Shamir and his partners couldn’t agree on Shochat’s successor.
Shochat, who later was finance minister for Rabin, Peres and Ehud
Barak, stayed on and served that Likud government efficiently. Yes, he belonged to the opposition, but sabotaging the elected government’s work never crossed his mind.
Erdan is doing the same thing, and thus joins the growing number of Likud leaders who know the truth, which is that the election has not been stolen, the sky has not fallen, Bennett is prime minister by both law and justice, and defeat, as Muhammad Ali noted, is part of life.
The writer’s bestselling Mitzad Ha’ivelet Ha’yehudi (The Jewish March of Folly, Yediot Sefarim, 2019) is a revisionist history of the Jewish people’s leadership from antiquity to modernity.