The media offensive against appointing national religious leaders Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir as PM-elect Benjamin Netanyahu’s senior government ministers began shortly after the right’s resounding victory on November 1 that gave Smotrich and Ben Gvir 14 Knesset mandates––two more than any previous national religious faction going back to 1948. But at some point, the cacophonous left was joined by Netanyahu’s henchmen who flooded the airwaves with recriminations of the two leaders over their ambitious demands. Eventually, Ben Gvir received everything he asked for and should turn out to be an excellent internal security minister. Netanyahu tried to divide and conquer his two new partners and used his henchmen to pour hot lava on Smotrich, again, for being so ambitious. Hopefully, that phase is over, for the time being.
And then came the event that proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that Smotrich and Ben Gvir are the vanguard of a new Israel, comprised of settlers, residents of periphery towns, and army grunts that include the new Israel, including the children of folks from Arab countries, Ethiopia, and Russia. It’s an Israel that abhors the leftist establishment controlling the IDF, the judiciary, and the media. It’s a traditional-Orthodox Israel that wants to enhance its connection to Jewish history and faith.
On Saturday, the two parts of Jewish Israel clashed again, and this time, unlike all their previous clashes, the right-wing pro-religious segment is winning the day. This war, which is mostly taking place in the media, is not going to end any time soon. But its high decibels should subside somewhat when Netanyahu presents his government, in mid-December.
It began with an encounter last Saturday in Hebron between two Givati Brigade soldiers and a large group of anti-Israel anarchists.
The right has been careful to no longer call these people “left-wing activists,” sticking instead with “anarchists.”
I looked it up (so you won’t have to). Anarchism is a political philosophy and movement that’s skeptical of all manner of authority and seeks to abolish state institutions such as the army, government, and the people who don’t think like them. The group in Hebron included men and women, including Arabs and secular and Haredi Jews. They were all united in hatred of the Jewish State and those two soldiers whose job was to maintain public order in the unruliest, most Hamas-infested city in Judea.
After a long string of harassment that included pushing, cursing, baiting, provoking, and allegedly even spitting, those two soldiers lost their cool (IDF Suspends Soldiers Who Responded to Relentless Harassment by Anarchists in Hebron). They detained one of the anarchists, and when he escaped, one soldier took him down, quite professionally, and then, less professionally, punched him in the face. Meanwhile, some anarchists were sticking their cameras in the other soldier’s face, yelling, “Ben Gvir, Ben Gvir,” until he took the bait and said into the cameras, “Soon Ben Gvir will make order around here, you ate it.”
התקרית בחברון: הלוחם מעכב את פעיל השמאל הקיצוני יחד עם לוחם נוסף, כאשר פעילה דוחפת אותו והלוחם מפציר בהם – ״לא לדחוף חייל, לא באלימות״.
הפעיל בורח מעמדת העיכוב בניגוד להוראת הלוחם שמבצע עליו מעצר בכח. pic.twitter.com/9mCudJj4rH
— הלל ביטון רוזן | Hallel Bitton Rosen (@BittonRosen) November 25, 2022
The soldier’s commander sentenced the one who mentioned Ben Gvir to 10 days in military prison, while military police are still investigating the other soldier. But the fact that the case was under investigation did not stop Lieutenant General Aviv Kochavi (who will be gone come January 2023) from rebuking his lowly underlings, depicting them as, essentially, immoral.
And since then, that scene has provided the background for endless clashes between the old establishment and the up-and-coming right. Left-leaning broadcasters who in early November had no problem interviewing strictly anti-Ben Gvir and Smotrich “experts” about all the harm those two admittedly brilliant politicians would surely inflict on Israel and Jewish history, have now been interviewing those same experts about the rebellion of the Ben Gvir and Smotrich crowd against the sacred values of the state of Israel.
Itamar Ben Gvir for his part called on the Chief of Staff and the IDF leadership to “think twice” about the punishment, and argued that the prison sentence handed down to the soldier is “crossing a red line and conveying a harmful message to IDF soldiers.”
Ben Gvir placed changing the rules of engagement at the forefront of his agenda, promising to back any police officer or soldier who opts to shoot a suspected terrorist rather than go through cumbersome steps that could result in harm to the member of the security forces. Ben Gvir has been proven right just this week: an Arab motorist rammed into a female soldier on the side of the road in Binyamin and proceeded to drive like a madman on the highway, hitting cars left and right until two police officers managed to catch up with him and one of them took advantage of a lull in traffic to shoot him through his window, causing no harm to other motorists.
Needless to say, the policemen did not call out on the terrorist driver to stop in the name of the law. When he was shot, he was less than a kilometer from the border of the Palestinian Authority, where he could have been lost forever.
Kochavi criticized Ben Gvir’s call on his brass “Political interference in the IDF harms directly the army’s ability to carry out its tasks and its legitimacy. Slandering commanders on political grounds is a slippery slope down which we as a society must not slide. The soldiers, commanders, and also their family members have many rights, but they should stay out of any political discourse.”
Ben Gvir retorted that he “expects the Chief of Staff that just as he demanded that a soldier not express his political views, he, too, must refrain from making political statements.” In an interview on Army radio, Ben Gvir also wondered aloud whether we want to live in a country where elected officials are barred from commenting on the decisions of military commanders. It was an excellent retort.
The latest angry cry from the establishment left came on Wednesday from the soon-to-be Opposition Chairman Yair Lapid, who took a nasty swing at the right that just defeated him at a state memorial ceremony in Sde Boker marking the 49th yahrzeit of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.
“I did not come today to eulogize Ben-Gurion, I came to apologize to him,” Lapid said, kind of channeling Mark Antony’s “Friends, Romans, countrymen” speech. “What is happening today in the State of Israel is contrary to everything he (Ben Gurion) believed in, every commandment he left us. These days a new government is being established in Israel that doesn’t believe in it. Not in equality for women, not in equality for LGBT people, not in political equality, not in social equality, and certainly not on equality for non-Jews.”
Ben Gvir LOLed robustly on Army radio when the host read him that paragraph. Did Lapid really just depict David Ben Gurion as an LGBTQ unsung hero? Did Lapid ever read Ben Gurion’s assertion that between morality and the survival of Israel he picks survival? Ben Gurion who coined the scornful phrase “Um Shmum (the UN is nonsense)?” And as to equality for non-Jews, for heaven’s sake, Ben Gurion instituted a military rule over the Israeli Arab population that lasted from 1948 until 1966 – three years after he left office.
Lapid just offered yet another example of what an uneducated fool he is, after, among other things, insisting Copernicus was a Greek philosopher (he was a Polish astronomer), and suggesting a rival was a Don Quixote riding on the back of his Dulcinea. He meant Rosinante, Don Quixote’s horse. Dulcinea was his lady, whom, it’s safe to say, the Knight of Dreams never rode.
In the end, the new Israel will find its comfort zone as the new owners of this country, and strive to enhance and expand its domination, much as the left has done since the Second Aliyah of 1910 (give or take). Smotrich and Ben Gvir will prove themselves much better at their jobs than their feeble predecessors. And then, at some point, they and the national religious and traditional elements within Likud will probably move against the last old-establishment leader: Bibi Netanyahu.