Israeli elections: A vicious fight between politicians over trembling power
Yair Lapid has incumbency on his side, but beating Benjamin Netanyahu will require all of his might
Last week, the veteran politician and former minister of communication, Ayoob Kara in an interview with Channel 7, said: "I come back together with the Likud; this time we're going to crush the left with full power"
The verb he chose literally means in Hebrew "run the left over," as in a car-ramming attack.
However, Kara's choice of words did not seem to have enough punch. Someone before him had already used similar words and even went a step further.
Likud MP David Amsalem in a Kan Radio interview, last month said: "We will break the bones of the left when we return to power."
His words may be a promise to some, but a threat to others. In another lengthy talk with many participants on a Twitter Space audio meeting, he vowed to crush (run over) the High Court that he nicknamed a "mad gang".
Is this rhetoric ugly and brutal? Yes. But more so, it is plain dangerous.
In a country where violent protest ended in a killing of a prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli public knows that words kill. They are the trigger of the gun that shoots.
In May, Ilana Hania, an ardent supporter of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was arrested on suspicion of mailing two menacing letters containing bullets to then-prime minister Naftali Bennett.
Netanyahu condemned the letters and vowed to expel the 65-year-old from the party if she was proven to be guilty. The right-wing activist denied sending the letters, which included threats to the safety of Bennett, his wife and his son if he did not resign.
A few weeks before she was arrested, she referred to Bennett on Facebook as a "murderer" and "traitor" and announced she "would be happy" to see him and the current prime minister, Yair Lapid, die of Covid-19.
Death wishes were not reserved for them only. In September 2021, Hania was filmed calling on New Hope MP Benny Begin, a former Likud member, to drown himself in the ocean.
This phenomenon is not entirely new. It is just getting worse and more perilous as the November elections, the fifth in just over three years, have approached.
The election campaign will be accompanied by unprecedented radicalisation in social media discourse, one that may turn into attempts to physically hurt politicians or political activists.
After all, not all citizens understand poetic metaphors like "break their bones" and could be compelled to act upon it.
Gone are the days when a late Likud activist by the name of Gaston Malka made it into the pantheon of Israeli election campaigns for his antics - namely when, out of anger, he dared to flip the table at a Likud party gathering in 1986.
He became a household name afterwards but since then, Israeli society - young and old - has become dangerously violent. On social media, off social media, in the streets, and at demonstrations. Everywhere.
The Knesset, the Israeli parliament, has never been this savage, and not just verbally.
Probably no Israeli who even occasionally watches scenes from parliament can recall one non-violent session.
There is almost always an altercation, a trade of physical threats, and the presence of bodyguards around MPs.
There is constant ethnic tension between Sephardi and Ashkenazi Israelis; there is national tension between Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel. Hate is in the air, used and abused.
In an attempt to recruit a new campaign advisor for the March 2020 elections, Netanyahu's close friend and advisor Natan Eshel was recorded explaining to his colleague that the job is easy - it thrives on hate.
"Hatred is what unites our camp," he was heard saying in a leaked recording. "They call them the non-Ashkenazi… they hate everything."
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