The PJ Tatler

Bibi Has Severe Case of Foot-in-Mouth Disease in Run-Up to Election

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu distorted history and provided an opening for his opponents to accuse him of lying.

Netanyahu told the Post’s Gil Hoffman that right-wing voters had “paved the way for the left” in 2006 when “we [Likud] didn’t get the support, and of course Kadima formed the government and went [through with] the withdrawal from Gaza with such horrible consequences for Israeli security.”

Reality, however, tells a different story: The withdrawal from Gaza took place in August 2005 . At the time, a Likud government was in power in which Ariel Sharon was the prime minister, and Netanyahu served as finance minister. While it is true that he resigned abruptly on August 7 in protest against the plan, it is also true that he had voted in favor of the withdrawal several times in the Israeli security cabinet before his precipitous resignation.

It was largely due to the stiff opposition which Sharon received from his own party to the withdrawal (which nonetheless had the approval of ca. 60% of Israeli citizens in repeated opinion polls taken at the time) and continued criticism from the Israeli right in its aftermath that Sharon left Likud to form the Kadima (“Forward”) party in November 2005, three months after the withdrawal. (Kadima has since become a spent force in Israeli politics; the party held only two seats in the outgoing Knesset, and will not pass the threshold in the upcoming election.) It is true that the withdrawal was proposed and carried out by the late Sharon; it is not true that voting for Kadima, or any other party besides Likud, could have had anything to do with it.

The leaders of HaMachane haTzioni were not slow in picking up in the gaffe, posting on their Hebrew-language Facebook page, “As Bibi goes down in the polls (skarim), he goes up in lies (shkarim).”

In complete fairness to Netanyahu, he is not the only one who has been committing gaffes in recent days, As reported by Arutz Sheva, on Saturday night Isaac Herzog appeared on a television program on which, apparently intending to say that he would “keep Jerusalem united,” he instead said that he would “keep Netanyahu united.” (Few had been concerned about Netanyahu’s imminent disintegration before that moment.)

And Ayelet Shaked, currently head of the Bayit Yehudi faction in the Knesset and second on the Bayit Yehudi Knesset list to Naftali Bennett, committed a similar gaffe on Sunday morning during an interview on the Kol BaRana radio station, which primarily caters to a religious audience: “I call upon anyone who is a rightist, anyone who believes in the Land of Israel, the Torah of Israel, and the nation of Israel, to vote for Likud….,” immediately trying to correct herself to say, “HaBayit haYehudi.”

It has ben an exhausting campaign all around, but there can be little doubt that Netanyahu’s lapse of memory was the worst of the lot. Perhaps Herzog’s plan to “keep Netanyahu together” and Shaked’s call for “rightists” to save Likud will do the trick for the sinking Likud.