By Avshalom “Abu” Vilan
Hello Mr. Netanyahu. We’ve known each other for nearly 50 years and fought side by side in military operations that will never be revealed to the public. Because of this long-standing acquaintance, I’ve always been careful of questioning your sense of obligation to the country and its security, even when I criticized your decisions and behavior.
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But the wild incitement campaign you’ve been leading against the left in recent weeks — to which you amalgamated the attorney general and judicial officials — raises the suspicion the despite your important contribution to the State of Israel, you no longer desire what’s best for the country’s interests.
The things Benny Gantz said about your military service disgusted me. I know your service well; you were a good soldier and a good team leader. I was only a few meters away from you when your arm was accidentally hit by friendly fire in Operation Sabena in 1972, in which we rescued a hijacked aircraft. I participated in the most important operation you ever commanded as part of the rescue force, and again in the 1972 in an operation to abduct Syrian army officers. I served side by side with your brother Yoni in the operation to conquer Mount Hermon during the Yom Kippur War, and admired the way he handled the fight and his insightful strategic understanding. Attacking your military past was misplaced.
However, the fierce incitement strategy against the left, through which you try to maintain your rule, is in itself unfriendly fire that is destined to tear Israel’s democracy to pieces.
How can you not tremble as you delegitimize the left, which makes up half of the Israeli public, and call them “enemies of Israel”? I trust that you remember that the man who saved your life in the Suez Canal was the late Amatzia Ben-Haim, a member of Kibbutz Yad Mordechai and a leftist, who later died at the hand of a terrorist in Gush Katif. Your good friend Haim Ben-Yona, another leftist, from Kibbutz Yehi’am, died in that canal.
I know all about politics and election strategies, with all the American-inspired tricks behind them. But we aren’t America. The world’s strongest democracy will outlive Trump and his ilk. Israel, with all its disparate tribes, might not overcome the raging incitement that you unleashed in a sole effort to gain one or two more Knesset seats, to make it to 61 seats and the win.
Netanyahu, your commitment to your causes and your ability to achieve any goal you wish was one of your strong points as a soldier and a commander. Now, when your sole goal is political survival, that ability has become a double-edged sword, lodged into our flesh — of both rightists and leftists. Your hate and incitement won’t win, but they will wreak terrible havoc, and rebuilding our home after you will be incredibly difficult.
I know you’re locked in a legal battle that means life and death to you, and that means nohing is of the table for you. But still, I hope that at night, when you’re all by yourself, you’ll stop think. Consider what’s really important for Israel’s best interest, what brings us together rather than what drives apart. What are we willing to live for, as a nation? And yes, if there’s no other choice, what are we willing to die for? These questions and values are far more important than the question of how long you can remain prime minister.
America will survive Trump, but can Israel survive you?
Avshalom Vilan served as a Knesset member for Meretz from 1999 to 2009