Photo Credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, January 8, 2023.

The left in Israel has been on the warpath since the moment it turned out that Likud Chairman had outsmarted them, using their hopeless internal divisions to convert a 50-50 vote on November 1, into a 64-56 Knesset ruled by his unified right-wing bloc. But last Wednesday, following Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s announcement of his much-needed reform of Israel’s justice system, leftist warriors went on an all-out attack, complete with 10,000 protesters outside the Habima national theater and promises of rebellion against the “tyrannical majority.”

Unfortunately, some members of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s party – most notably himself – were dragged into offering fierce responses to senior left-wing politicians such as Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz who were openly calling for a civil war (by warning against one – the oldest trick in the revolutionary playbook – DI).


As a result, Ben Gvir et al had a very bad day on Tuesday, when their combative statements started to match the nightmare scenario that was propagated by their enemies on the left.

And so, Ben Gvir’s associates leaked his tough talking-to at a closed session of his Knesset faction, where he rebuked everyone and basically told them to stop talking. The emergency session followed several concerned messages from friends of Otzma Yehudit in the right-leaning media. Let’s hope the chairman’s warning works, or we can see the disintegration of the “full-right” coalition government under its own weight.

MK Tzvika Foghel was the most frequently quoted man in Israel on Tuesday, especially his typical rookie politician’s statement, where he clearly failed to recognize the difference between what you say to your colleagues behind closed doors and what you spill out in public:

“In the last half day, I recognize here a very dangerous process whereby four drivers are driving the bus, none of them have a driver’s license for the bus, they lost the brakes, and are about to crash into us. They push the people to revolt, they do not recognize the election results, and they want to take the people to the streets. They do everything that’s forbidden.”

Foghel is a lieutenant colonel in the reserves, served as a commander in the artillery corps, and was chief of staff of the Southern Command. I searched his Wiki page for hints as to why he would use the above complicated four bus drivers metaphor and didn’t come up with anything. But his message was clear: the other side is riling up in extremist ways against the government, which may be illegal. As a free-speech maximalist, I disagree, but I understand the message.

I do not understand the next paragraph, also from MK Foghel:

“I’m talking about very senior people, two chiefs of staff – Bogi Ya’alon and Benny Gantz, one delusional general named Yair Golan, and one prime minister who happened to be on the scene, but he also drives the bus irresponsibly – and his name is Yair Lapid. It’s crazy. These four need to be arrested now. They are the most dangerous people out there right now. Not the demonstration, not the [Palestinian] flags, not anything else – they are now talking about war. I thought I was a political opponent, but suddenly I realize that I am an enemy.”

Stop the presses. That’s all we needed to hear. Coalition MK advocates the arrest of former prime minister Yair Lapid, alongside former defense minister Benny Gantz. It makes no difference that MK Foghel then explained at length that he is for demonstrations, that they’re the lifeblood of democracy, and that the four “bus drivers” in his fable are driving the country over a cliff. He touched the third rail of every democracy: he called for the arrest of his political opponents.

Next, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Almog Cohen, also from Otzma Yehudit, told News 13: “If Lapid and Gantz don’t stop with the incitement, the agitation, and the desire to shed blood on the streets of Israel – they will be arrested with handcuffs.”

“Where do you get it from?” Ben Gvir reportedly yelled at his faction MKs. “You know perfectly well that it won’t happen. Say they are rebelling, inciting against us all the time! But we will not arrest political opponents, the police will not arrest them. It doesn’t work that way and we don’t intend to do anything like that. Nor can you do such a thing. Do not go in the wrong and inappropriate directions.”

But Ben Gvir himself fell into a similar rookie trap when he told Reshet Bet Radio on Tuesday that the police are not using an even-handed policy when it comes to turning on the water canon (Machtaz) against different groups of demonstrators. He pointed out that the cops had been reluctant to turn their powerful hoses on leftist demonstrators (only three times during the Balfour protests in front of Netanyahu’s official residence), compared to their far more frequent use of the same tool against right-wing protesters. And when they turn them on Haredi protesters, they add the “stinker” feature – flooding them with what smells like sewer water.

The media interpreted Ben Gvir’s statement as encouraging the police to hose the leftist demonstrators. He didn’t say it, but he gave them an opening – like a rookie.

Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich in the Knesset, December 28, 2022. / Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

Meanwhile, Ben Gvir’s allies, the Religious Zionist party, have learned from their past mistakes and just stopped giving the left-leaning media interviews that are chock full of nuggets such as the right of religious hotel owners to ban homosexual guests.

And Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has been more restrained than anyone else in this area. He doesn’t talk much, he acts, and as we’re starting to see, he is getting results in the finance ministry as well as in his role as chief of the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria.

Frankly, I expected Ben Gvir to start his tenure as National Security Minister by sending massive forces into Arab villages to search for and confiscate the millions of illegal weapons local criminals are reportedly amassing.

The late prime minister Yitzhak Shamir (Likud), once the legendary commander of the Lehi underground, is credited with the adage, “The dogs keep barking and the caravan moves on.”

Let the dogs bark, Itamar Ben Gvir, and you focus on the caravan.


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