Does Bibi Still Call the Shots? // Despite all the rancor, will Netanyahu pull out another victory?

By Chaim Friedlander

“Attack the Jews and save our homeland” was the anti-Semitic slogan of the pogroms in Czarist Russia. A hundred years later, it seems that the media and the left-wing parties have adopted the slogan with a slight tweak: “Attack the chareidim and bring down Netanyahu.” This is something that has been going on for the past year, with the secular media obsessively reporting on any chareidi violations of the COVID guidelines. Time after time, news shows opened with explosive reports from the streets of chareidi cities. The fact that the percentage of hospitalizations among chareidim wasn’t proportionately different from the general population didn’t interest the writers and reporters, who turned the chareidim into the “ticking timebomb” of the coronavirus.

At first it seemed like prejudice against those who are different, but when the same media outlets were silent about the rise in infection in the Arab community, which did cause a disproportionate rise in hospitalizations, it became clear that there was something more essential here—a desire to hurt Netanyahu.

It’s no secret that most of the outlets are arrayed against him. It’s been that way for 20 years. Once in a while, a journalist will even come out and admit it. And it becomes more distinct before every election. If a foreigner were to hear Netanyahu’s interviews with the media, he might think that he had ended up in a boxing ring. The interviewers don’t ask questions because they want answers, they just use them as excuses to attack him. There’s even a secret competition among the journalists over who can embarrass Netanyahu more. To their misfortune, Netanyahu is a wizard when it comes to the media, and he manages to come out on top every time.

It is that hatred for Netanyahu that is the driving force behind the media’s incitement against the chareidim right now. Netanyahu’s natural partners, and the ones who are the kingmakers time and again, are the chareidi parties. The media’s calculation—consciously or subconsciously—is that if they can drum up enough hatred for the chareidim, then Netanyahu’s voters will jump ship from the Likud to other parties just to stick it to the chareidim.

One person who discusses this openly is former MK Moshe Feiglin, who in the past ran against Netanyahu for leadership of the Likud: The anger against the chareidim is a powerful driving force in Israeli politics. Barak defeated Netanyahu in 1999 by riding that wave, and Lapid came out of nowhere to get 19 seats in 2013 by doing the same. And Liberman’s entire political currency is based off of that. Now, with the combination of COVID and the elections, the worst type of hatred for chareidim has arisen, and it’s obvious that many politicians will try to use it to build themselves up.

Does it sounds a bit conspiratorial to say that the media is cooperating with the hatred for chareidim in order to take down Netanyahu? Perhaps. But there is no better explanation. One example took place this past week when Channel 12, the major news channel in Israel, broadcast a ten-minute “investigative” report about the Exceptions Committee [in charge of allowing Israelis back into the country on a case-by-case basis during the lockdown] only allowing chareidim to enter the country. As the report said, “Only emergency flights of Israelis who are stuck outside the country are supposed to be allowed into Ben Gurion Airport, with the approval of the Exceptions Committee, and only up to 2,000 people per day. Yet somehow, plane after plane that lands in Israel is mostly full of chareidim. Thousands of Israelis are stuck outside the country with no way home, they are rejected by the committee again and again, but the skies are fully open for only one sector. Something doesn’t make sense here.”


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