Outgoing Israeli Transportation Minister and Labor Party chair Merav Michaeli opened her latest faction meeting with a false parallel.
“There’s a direct line between the violence in Hebron and the stabbing in Holon,” she said on Monday, echoing a tweet by former Israel Defense Forces spokesman Avi Benayahu, currently a regular political commentator. She was also repeating a report by Channel 13 military correspondent Or Heller, who cited an anonymous IDF officer to make the same claim.
Michaeli and the others were referring to a pair of recent incidents that have been dominating Hebrew-media headlines. The first was the senseless slaying on Wednesday evening of 52-year-old Bat Yam resident Yuri Volkov—as he crossed a street in Holon with his wife—by Adi Mizrahi, a 22-year-old criminal who committed, then tried to cover up, the murder.
The second was the physical confrontation in Hebron on Friday between soldiers from the Givati Brigade and left-wing activists on a “solidarity visit” to Palestinians in the area. One of the infantrymen was caught on video punching a man he was trying to detain. Another declared on camera that slated-to-be National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir “will restore order here.”
The two events had nothing in common, other than their being linked for political purposes by detractors of the coalition-in-formation of Prime Minister-elect Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu. The irony here is glaring, as both events took place during the current government, led by caretaker premier Yair Lapid.
It’s especially jaw-dropping as Michaeli is still the politician in charge of road safety, and Benny Gantz—who told Kan 11 News during a Rosh Hashanah interview in September that “if Netanyahu manages to forge a narrow, extremist coalition … invite me for an end-of-the-country interview”—remains defense minister until the next government is finalized.
The “anybody but Bibi” crowd never lets such an inconvenient truth—or any veracity, for that matter—disrupt its narrative. And Michaeli is a queen bee of chutzpah on this score.
“A direct line connects the violence used against Arabs and human-rights activists in Hebron to that suffered by female and male citizens on the Israeli street,” she told fellow Laborites on Monday. “When the steering wheel of the country is in the hands of extremists who say, ‘We’re the landlords, so we’re allowed to do anything we please’—when they label Arabs, leftists and human rights as the enemy, when anything justifies brandishing a gun—it means that anyone who isn’t like [them] … can be beaten up … and expelled.”
Failing to recognize, let alone acknowledge, that the “steering wheel of the country” is actually in her hands and those of her partners who lost the Nov. 1 Knesset elections, she went on to bemoan the “violence that can grab you” anywhere, “whether at a hitchhiking post, a crosswalk or on a bus.”
Naturally, though each item on her list related indirectly to her own purview, she left out the part about the twin Palestinian-terrorist bombings at a bus stop and hitchhiking post in Jerusalem on Nov. 23—which killed two innocent Israelis and wounded another 18—mere hours before an evildoer consumed by road rage struck down a pedestrian on a crosswalk in a different city.
She then had the gall to blame politicians who haven’t yet taken up their posts for the bloody lawlessness.
“This is what happens when the next government is made up of the parties of Ben-Gvir, [Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel] Smotrich and … Avi Maoz of the Noam Party—a party entirely based on … hatred of gays and lesbians, hatred of Arabs, segregation of women. … Today, these parties of hate and segregation are warmly embraced by Benjamin Netanyahu, to escape from his trial.”
After blathering on about how these “extremists” (in the next government) are endangering Israeli security, she proposed a remedy for the “violent cycle in which there is a “direct line” connecting Holon to Hebron.
“In order to stop this violence, we have to have a different vision and horizon,” she said. “A political horizon. A civil horizon. A liberal horizon. Because without a liberal horizon, anyone who isn’t heterosexual or Jewish according to laws of very particular rabbis can be persecuted. Because without a civil horizon, there won’t be equal rights for women, Arabs and immigrants. Because without a political horizon, we will continue to use and experience violence at checkpoints, generation after generation after generation.”
The “key word,” she announced, “is tolerance.” Then she added a few more.
“The key word is acceptance of others. The key word is peace,” she said wistfully.
The inability of Netanyahu and the “extremists uniting around him” to grasp this tenet is the “reason that they will fail,” she stated. “Because it’s impossible to succeed through hatred, extremism and violence, which erode the foundations of Israeli democracy.”
The rest of her progressive pontificating focused on the pet peeve she never omits: violence against women. Interesting that her tenure in the Cabinet didn’t scratch the surface of that problem either.
Though she and her anti-Bibi buddies refuse to take any responsibility for the spike in every form of violence under their watch, it’s one of the reasons for their defeat. To her dismay—and despite the left’s state of denial—Ben-Gvir owes his popularity at the ballot box to the public’s hunger for someone promising to tackle this phenomenon with concrete steps, not delusional rhetoric.
Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”