Former Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu is on the verge of returning to office and the country is likely to be led by one of its most conservative governments. Netanyahu’s comeback appears powered by politician Itamar Ben-Gvir and the far-right.
Uriel Abulof is a visiting professor in Cornell University’s government department and professor at Tel-Aviv University. Abulof studies the politics of fear and can speak to why leaders like Netanyahu gain a strong following.
“When Benjamin Netanyahu (Bibi) first won in 1996 many Israeli liberals saw it as the second assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Now, with Itamar Ben Gvir, if they haven’t become too numb, it might feel like the third. And there’s no charm. Just the electoral magic of fearmongering driving devotion to the protective leader.
“Bibi is a master of that dark art and Ben Gvir is his most successful apprentice to-date. I met with Ben Gvir a couple of days ago, and what I heard was a deep-seated sense of shameful humiliation seeking redemption through power. He lacks a long-term vision, but now firmly sees Jews – a clear majority within Israel – as a persecuted minority, who need to reassert control. It appeals to many people, pledging to substitute collective power for personal pain. It’s a vain promise, but that lesson can only be learned the hard way.
“Meanwhile, with Israel’s ‘mighty martyrs’ (Netanyahu and Ben Gvir) at the helm, Israelis will have to fight harder to keep, or rather revive, the dream of the Jewish State becoming ‘a light onto the nations.’ It has become much dimmer tonight.”