In a typical tirade against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (“Bibi”) Netanyahu on Tuesday, Hatnua Party chair Tzipi Livni said, “No leader in Israel has the right to destroy everything we have built here for his own personal needs.”
Referring to Netanyahu’s televised address to the nation on Monday evening, Livni—still stinging from her sudden ouster by Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay as head of the Zionist Union opposition bloc—added, “That’s what he does on prime time.”
Livni was not alone in lambasting Netanyahu for causing the country to spend three hours speculating about the “dramatic announcement” he was going to deliver, and then treating viewers to a complaint that he is not being given a fair shake by the legal system.
It was a disappointing display. Rumors had been rampant of imminent war, the possible release of Israelis in Hamas captivity or potential U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The letdown, then, was enormous.
More importantly, it provided “anybody but Bibi” politicians and members of the media with the perfect opportunity to accuse Netanyahu of hijacking the airways to make a case for his innocence in a number of corruption cases for which he is being investigated. Channel 10 went as far as to cut off the prime minister’s remarks in the middle and resume its regular news broadcast.
Livni’s replacement as opposition leader, Shelly Yachimovich, called Netanyahu’s performance a “cynical and lame election show,” put on by someone who “created a fake drama out of nothing and took over screen time like a dictator.”
Such denunciations are par for the course within the “anyone but Bibi” camp, particularly ahead of a national election that Netanyahu is almost certain to win.
But Livni outdid even herself this week, saying, “The real war today is not against external enemies. The Jewish state is in danger because of an extremist group that has taken over the prime minister and leads us to a situation in which Israel will cease to be Jewish and democratic. … It’s time to get up and fight, time for leadership that is ready to fight, time to fight for the life of the State of Israel. … Instead of watching Netanyahu’s shows, we need to fight to save Israel from Netanyahu.”
The joke is on Livni, however. The only battle in which she is engaged at the moment is the one for her political career. The same goes for many of her “anybody but Bibi” peers on the ever-splintering left side of the spectrum.
The reason for this is threefold.
First, the Israeli left no longer has a plausible platform to peddle. After decades of harboring pipe dreams that peace with the Palestinians was a matter of Israeli concessions and territorial withdrawals, the public now knows that weapons are a better bet for security than wishful thinking. Repeated brutal assault at the hands of enemies bent on your destruction will do that.
So when Livni and her ilk try to promote the idea that Netanyahu is a greater danger to Israel than Islamist missiles and butcher knives covered in Jewish blood, most of us just sigh and yawn. You know, when we’re not too busy watching our prime minister forge one after another alliance with regional Arab states and other countries across the world.
Where the economy is concerned, the left is equally bankrupt. Under Netanyahu, the Israeli economy has boomed, at least on the macro level. The serious micro-level flaws are the fault of socialist policies that Netanyahu—a free-market capitalist—has not succeeded in eradicating. Politicians plugging greater government control and enhanced intervention hardly seem like the right antidote to that particular malady.
On the issue of the separation of synagogue and state, too, the left is out of touch.
There is much room for improvement, but it has been Likud, and not the opposition, that has managed to move the pendulum in the direction of more palatable solutions.
With no alternative to all of the above, the left resorts to calling Netanyahu’s leadership into question. This is perhaps the opposition’s weakest, most pathetic ploy. Though both his actions and personality rub many Israelis the wrong way—and his repeated re-election and lengthy tenure have an even greater number thinking that he’s soon to wear out his welcome—only someone grasping at straws to get him out of power can say about him that he’s not a leader.
“Anybody but Bibi” may make a catchy campaign slogan. But at the end of the day, it is mere bluster that’s bound to fail.
Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”