A translation of Bibi’s press conference statement:
All day, politicians speak to the media, Tzipi, Bougie, leaders of the left, they…make crude election propaganda. The party of “Just Not Bibi” [Labor] speaks ceaselessly to the media. It’s no surprise, the only one they decided to prohibit from speaking to the media is me, the Likud prime minister. No one will shut our mouths. In a democratic country, even a Likud prime minister has the right to speak his mind.
Here are the things they don’t want you to hear. I say them to you on the internet. There they can’t stop us. We are at a fateful juncture. There remains a significant gap between the Likud and Labor. The only way to reduce it is to go to the polls and vote Mahal [Likud]. This gap arises from foreign money streaming in vast sums to leftist NGOs. Its goal is to replace the Likud government under my leadership with a leftist government supported by the Arab List. Ayman Oudeh, chairman of the Joint List, who supports Herzog, said it’s not just his intent to replace me, but to put me in jail for endangering the lives of Israeli citizens and soldiers. This is the same List which says Hamas is not a terror organization, which supports Herzog; the same List with which Herzog created an agreement. A leftist government involved with such acts will surrender everything: 1967 borders, Jerusalem, everything.
That’s why there is such a monumental effort by the leftist NGOs to bring leftist voters, especially those from the Arab sector and leftist strongholds, to the polls. There is nothing wrong in voters, whether Jewish or Arab making their choice known. What’s wrong is major funding from foreign sources, from foreign NGOs and governments, bringing voters to the polls in an organized fashion. This foreign funding distorts the true will of Israeli citizens, to the benefit of the left and gives excessive strength to the external Arab List.
This may impede the right-wing bloc, so that it may not be able to form a government, despite the fact that most of the citizens of Israel support the nationalist camp with me as its leader. We don’t have such NGOs. We don’t have V15 [campaign group calling for ending Likud government]. We only have you, voters of the nationalist camp.
Go to the polls. There’s still time. Go vote Mahal to close the gap between Likud and Labor. Vote Mahal so I can form a government to protect the State of Israel and our children’s future. That’s why I hope the responsibility will placed with me to form a government from the nationalist camp.
We will not form a government together with Labor because there is no way to close the gaps between us. Therefore, I turn to voters of the nationalist camp: if you want me and not Bougie to form the next government, you must vote only for Likud, only for Mahal. There is no other party [a reference to Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi]. There are still a few hours left. With God’s help and yours, we may still close the gap. I ask you: stop everything, go vote, vote Mahal.
Bibi is runnin’ scared. In fact, I’d say he’s heard from his pollsters that the situation is dire, perhaps even hopeless. There can’t be any other reason to conduct the sort of press conference he just did, in which he sounded like a desperate, clutching-at-straws, pol about to go down with the ship.
His robo-calls warn of “Hussein Obama” dictating a shameful peace deal to the new Labor prime minister. He cries that mysterious “foreign money” and “foreign governments” (you know who that is) have rigged the election against him. Likud election callers warn voters of an “Arab” defense minister and Arab voters being bused to the polls by Bougie. It’s the onslaught of “Arab horde.” The same racist mantra used by desperate right-wing politicians the world over. The only reason for Bibi to invoke this shameful rhetoric is if he believes the gig is up and he has no other choice.
Sheera Frenkel writes in Buzzfeed that the latest polls she’s seeing have Likud down to 20 seats and the Zionist Camp as high as 26. While it’s possible that this is optimistic, it does indicate a trend, and a troubling one for the far-right nationalist camp.
Of course, a loss by Likud doesn’t mean all’s right with Israel. It means the possibility of a Labor-led governing coalition for the first time in 15 years. But will it be different? The NY Times ran a profile of Isaac Herzog, the potential next prime minister, in which he was asked about his political influences. Instead of choosing Yitzhak Rabin or Shimon Peres (a close family friend), he turned to an old party warhorse, Levi Eshkol. This is the prime minister who fought the 1967 War. The one who brought not just decisive victory, but the settler regime. Eshkol is responsible for the incipient rise of settlerism in Israeli society. Though he died in office in 1969, before the Greater Israel movement had swept the nation, he allowed the groundwork to be laid for this national disaster.
Bougie, as Herzog is popularly known, is a similar sort of colorless, uncharismatic figure as Eshkol was. He’s an organization man. His organization is the Zionist middle.
Much has been made in the media about the rise of the Joint List. It’s polling 13 seats. Bibi is screaming from the rooftops: “The Arabs are coming, the Arabs are coming!” He invokes the specter of the Arab Fifth Column getting cabinet seats; even an Arab defense minister.
But let’s be realistic: it ain’t gonna happen. It should happen, but it ain’t. Herzog, even if he wanted to, could not call on Palestinian parties to join his governing coalition. It would drive the far-right insane. There would be a repeat of the 1995 rallies that led to Rabin’s assassination. They’d dress Herzog and Livni is SS uniforms once again, as they did Rabin. They’d march around with coffins marked “Zionist dream” as they did with Rabin.
There is a political taboo in Israel. “Arabs” may be seen but not heard. They may exist, but not too robustly. They may live in Umm al Fahm, but not sit in the cabinet in Jerusalem. To violate this taboo is too painful, too shocking for Israeli Jews to contemplate. This is why Bibi’s decline doesn’t mean real change is one the way.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.