Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
As Israel’s Election Day approaches, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his lefty rivals both got some international support. Netanyahu got a boost from President Trump, who announced the recognition of the Golan Heights, a strategic territory that Israel took at great cost from Syria, and from Putin, who oversaw the return of the remains of Zachary Baumel, an Israeli-American MIA soldier, back to Israel.
Yair Lapid, Israel’s version of Canada’s Justin Trudeau, headed to France to meet with President Macron. According to a statement by Lapid’s party, the French leader and the former talk show host who owes his political career to his famous father, discussed the regional situation and European anti-Semitism.
The contrast between Netanyahu, delivering tangible results through international diplomacy, with the support of two of the three world leaders, with Lapid, talking to France’s leader, was devastating.
The contrast was on show again at AIPAC, which Netanyahu skipped out on to fight a war against Hamas back home, leaving Benny Gantz, the other half of the opposition, to posture to AIPACers in D.C. After securing a political victory with Trump, Netanyahu then phoned into AIPAC with a video taking a shot at Rep. Omar’s anti-Semitism with a quip. “Take it from this Benjamin: it’s not about the Benjamins.”
Not all that long ago, the media had written Netanyahu’s political obituary. These days, it’s reluctantly admitting that Netanyahu will be back. The last pre-election polls, the latest allowable under Israeli election law, show that Netanyahu will lead the next government. And while election polls are fallible, Israeli polls (like American polls) usually err on the side of leftist candidates, not conservative ones.
The election is close because the local version of the swamp had thrown everything it could at Netanyahu. It doled out indictments of him and his wife, it assembled another fake centrist party, this one fronted by two fake centrists, Yair Lapid, a product of nepotism, and Benny Gantz, another in a row of former chiefs of staff recruited by a frantic leftist establishment to provide it with security credibility.
In the last resort of every scoundrel, they even named their alliance, Kahol Lavan, or Blue and White, for the colors of the Israeli flag. It was almost as desperate an effort as the Labor Party in the last election running under the brand of the Zionist Union. But the fake patriotism and the roster of generals has failed. Israel’s lefties resort to fake centrist parties and dressing in patriotic drag because their policies are monumentally unpopular. But, like every scam, fake centrist parties only fool voters once.
It’s understandable that the mainstream media in this country thought that Netanyahu was doomed. Not only does it reflexively hate him, he is on the right, and he’s a friend of Trump, but every Israeli they talk to hates him too. I often encounter American Jews who insist, vocally, that most Israelis hate Netanyahu. How do they do know that? They read the Israeli papers. And the Israelis they talk to, inevitably representatives of an upper class who live in homes that 99% of Israelis can’t afford while bemoaning a “housing crisis” that makes it expensive to buy those same homes for their children, do.
Netanyahu’s political survival, in that light, certainly seems baffling. But it becomes less baffling when you watch him campaign in working class areas in Israel. Or when you realize that his most popular slogan has become, “Davka Netanyahu”. ‘Davka’ is one those foreign words that the English language lacks. If you want to be polite, you could translate it as, “On the contrary.” If you were being less polite, it’s, “In your face”. The face in question is that of Israel’s establishment, its officials and its media.
Or its deep state, fake news and swamp.
Netanyahu’s Likud doesn’t need a MAGA slogan. Netanyahu has already presided over tremendous economic growth, the walling in of the terrorist attacks that had been ubiquitous before he took office, and a string of diplomatic triumphs. All of those might be enough to explain why he’s winning. But they’re not. Israelis are impatient, suspicious and mistrustful of politicians. No matter their pedigree.
To understand why Netanyahu is winning, you have to understand why “Davka” became Israel’s MAGA. Both slogans channel the frustration of ordinary people with a country run by political and economic elites that hold them in contempt, bleeding away its potential and theirs, for their own corrupt gain.
On their own, Israelis might have expressed their frustration by voting in another ex-military ‘fresh face’ while caring little that the military elites are also political elites, and bringing in a former chief of staff to reform the system is like cleaning a toilet with the contents of a sewer. The indictments might have been taken as validation of the popular perception that politicians are corrupted by the oligarchy.
But then the media decided to pour on its hatred for Netanyahu and contempt for his base. And Netanyahu turned, “Davka” into his slogan. Huge billboards across the country display pictures, not of Netanyahu, but of top reporters, with the message, “They Won’t Decide. You Will.”
“Davka Netanyahu” encourages Israelis to tell the media and establishment elites to go to hell. Voters are encouraged to vote for him, not despite the phony indictments, but deliberately in spite of them.
Instead of running against puppets like Gantz and Lapid, men who have never had an original idea about anything except their own importance, Netanyahu, like Trump, is successfully running against the media. And against the infrastructure of oligarchs, lobbyists, influencers, officials and organizations behind them. It’s not really about the media, either in Israel or America, but about the powers behind them.
This campaign has divided the electorate between those gullible enough to think that voting for a new party will express their discontent and those who understand that the new party is a controlled opposition. The fake ‘reformers’ here are Yair Lapid, a former talk show host who was admitted into a doctorate program despite never having received a BA, based on his “literary and journalistic achievements”, and Benny Gantz, who, as a military man made for an excellent future politician. After two more disgruntled former military bosses, Gabi Ashkenazi and Moshe Ya’alon, the fifth name on the list is Avi Nissenkorn, the former boss of Israel’s gargantuan and corrupt, Histadrut, labor system.
The Histadrut is so unpopular that while Nissenkorn vowed to make a labor union economy, Ashkenazi promised that, “we don’t intend to implement the Histadrut’s policies in our party.” Other party figures have claimed that they represent a free market party. Kahol Lavan claims that it’s a party for everyone. Its argument is a list led by establishment power brokers and tailed by the usual random diversity picks of activists who, like its brass, exist only in the hopes of one day being picked for a party slate.
That’s not reform. It’s the same old dirty politics.
“Davka Netanyahu” expresses the public’s contempt for the establishment’s cynicism, hypocrisy and lies. Choosing Netanyahu is not just about his record, it’s an angry rebuke to the bosses of the swamp.
The establishment wanted to make the election a referendum on Netanyahu. And Netanyahu turned around and made it a referendum on the establishment. It’s a Trumpian move, but one that Netanyahu had been successfully pulling off in election after election. That’s why he’s been in office for so long.
Israel’s Left once dominated the country. Netanyahu’s rise has banished it to the dusty corners of politics. The Histadrut once made kings. Now its former boss has to watch his own party disavow it. The leftist establishment still dominates the media, academia, the entertainment industry, the legal profession, and all the usual bailiwicks of the Left. And Netanyahu continues to run against it.
“Davka Netanyahu” is set to be the ringing rebuke of Israelis to the power of that establishment. Its message, like MAGA, is that the country doesn’t belong to the elites, it belongs to the people.
Photo Credit: (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90).
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