A “cult of personality” usually implies the use by a regime of government-organized rallies, media, propaganda and other instruments to establish a positive or heroic image of its leader to consolidate or enhance its power. It is often, though not always, a practice of authoritarian or totalitarian systems.
The cult of personality destruction may take place when elements of the deep state, such as members of the police, the prosecution and even the judiciary, bolstered by a partisan media and opposition-organized demonstrations, endeavor to establish a negative or criminal image of the country’s leader in order to get him replaced. It is a less common phenomenon, which may occur even in a democracy.
Anyone who has been following closely the trial of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cannot escape the uneasy feeling that the charges in the most serious criminal case against him may have been creatively concocted and/or secured through illegal searches and coerced depositions. Biased information may then have been spoon-fed to a receptive media and dramatized in speeches in the Knesset and the streets.
What’s more, such a cult of personality destruction now constitutes the primary, if not the only, basis for the formation of a “change coalition” of parties with otherwise diametrically opposed ideologies, interests and policies. A far less important explanation is the pop psychology view that shared personal grudges for broken promises provide valid grounds for such a coalition.
It is true that the approval of a budget as soon as possible is extremely important, but should it be guided by a fruit salad of disparate priorities?
Should politicians who have always espoused a nationalist ideology abandon their values on the altar of a cult of personality destruction? Will a Yamina-elected prime minister passively accept the reopening of an American “Palestinian” Consulate in Israeli-sovereign Jerusalem, because his hands are tied by Meretz, Labor and Ra’am? Or authorize the funding of major economic projects in Judea and Samaria without the Palestinian Authority first withdrawing its complaint to the International Criminal Court? And miss a historic opportunity for long-overdue judicial and other reforms? All because of hatred for one man?
Most importantly, if and when a reinstated Iran nuclear deal enables the ayatollah regime to get close to a dangerously short breakout time, will the narrow right-wing majority in the “unity” security cabinet be able to gain the approval of a military operation against the Iranian nuclear infrastructure, with all the sacrifices that it would entail? Or will the existence of the Jewish state be allowed to rest in the hands of an apocalyptic supreme leader who may soon find out he is terminally ill, or a terrorist regime that may one day realize it is about to be overthrown?
Sixty-five out of 120 Knesset members were elected to enact right-wing policies. Up to 13 of them also committed to replace a prime minister that many believed had engaged in criminal acts, foremost bribery.
If those policies are totally cast aside and it later turns out, as the trial may be beginning to indicate, that the alleged crimes had been fabricated for political purposes, the government about to be inaugurated will go down in history as the first (and hopefully the last) to be formed in Israel on the basis of a contrived justification, not to speak of reneged pledges to the voters.
My heartfelt wish for the new government: b’hatzlacha! (“good luck”). But should the right-wingers in the new government be faced with the situation that their policies are being thwarted or, heaven forbid, Israel’s existence is being put in jeopardy, I trust they will dissolve the government and replace it with the strong right-wing coalition that a majority of the Israelis actually voted for.
Julio Messer is a former president of American Friends of Likud.