During Wednesday`s special plenary sitting marking the 76th anniversary of Ze`ev Jabotinsky`s passing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, ”Nazism and Communism threatened free societies in the 20th century, and radical Islam is threatening them in the 21st century. Jabotinsky was vehemently against turning a blind eye to the existential threat of Nazism, and for this he sustained enormous criticism, but he stuck to his just position.”
”Self-denial won`t help these days either. The threat of radical Islam is an existential threat. The choice is clear: we can either witness the intensification of this threat, or the freedom camp can wake up and stand at a broad and effective international front. Our policy is based on nurturing strength. The weak does not survive,” the prime minister told the plenum.
”When there is a crisis, there is also an opportunity; there is a risk and there is a chance,” Netanyahu continued. ”The powerful storm that has occurred in the Middle East over the past few years also contributes to unprecedented closeness between us and elements in our region which view us as a partner in fending off shared threats.”
(Knesset marks Ze`ev Jabotinsky Day)
PM Netanyahu also addressed the accusations that he is trying to control Israeli media, saying ”One of the things Jabotinsky believed in is the idea of a free market and the choice of the citizen. While applying Jabotinsky`s doctrine, we implemented it in all fields. There is a determined struggle to prevent competition in the media market. All over the world there is competition, with some newspapers supporting one side and other newspapers supporting another, and no one says anything. In Israel there was an outlook different from Jabotinsky`s; there was immense concentration in the economy, media, and all other aspects of life. We are trying very hard to open these monopolies to competition, and this is the basic principle of democracy.”
Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Camp) said, ”We need people like Jabotinsky today in his political camp in Israel. People who would not incite against the Arab minority in the State of Israel; who would never try [Jabotinsky`s words] `to breech the equal rights given to them and will not make any effort to expel or oppress.`”
”We need more Jabotinskys who would be Zionist patriots in their heart and soul; who understand and recognize the fact that it is only natural that in the State of Israel `From the wealth of our land there shall prosper the Arab, the Christian, and the Jew.`”
Herzog continued ”Where are today`s Jabotinskys? Rise up! I search for them in the coalition benches – I search and am unable to find. Where are the Jabotinskys who use action and words to push away all of the fascist symbols which trickle among us slowly but surely?”
”There is a saying that when people are little there is a big shadow cast on them, meaning that the sun is setting. I wonder what would Jabotinsky think today about the fact that the Likud party, which claims to be his successor, is absorbing ”Hatzel” (rapper ”The Shadow”) – the violent, racist, fascist Israeli.”
”What would Jabotinsky think of the cultural commissar, the current Culture Minister (Miri Regev), who shuts the mouths of those who think differently than her in spirit and creativity? I wonder what Jabotinsky would think of your efforts, Mr. Netanyahu, to silence and prevent legitimate discussion and criticism in the media and news, or even criticism of your decisions such as those during Operation Protective Edge?”
”I stand here as the leader of the opposition in the Israeli Knesset, and think about Ze`ev Jabotinsky who had a similar position at the Zionist movement, 10 years prior to the establishment of Israel. I stand here and cannot help thinking about the irony we have today, myself and my friends to the Zionist Camp, we have more in common with the democratic vision of Ze`ev Jabotinsky than the Likud party, the ruling party and the person standing at its head. It is us who defend [Jabotinsky`s] democratic legacy from those who claim to be his successors- while they harm and wear out the values which he believed in,” Herzog said.
Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein addressed the tensions within Israeli society. ”Today we live according to labels: Right-left; religious-secular; conservative or liberal. Tell me who you voted for and I`ll tell you what your opinion is on any topic – do you support or oppose the soldier who shot the (immobilized) terrorist? Do you support the `suspension law`? And what is your opinion on the remark of a certain rabbi or a quote by a certain artist?”
In his speech, Edelstein also spoke about what he referred to as the shallow discourse in Israeli society. ”Everything has become simplistic with us, superficial; brief and immediate, and mainly impatient, if you will,” he told the plenum. ”Have we lost the ability to listen to the other? Gentlemen, this way we cannot lead a proper societal life nor have a real public discussion about anything. All the disagreements become defiance, every discussion becomes an argument and every debate becomes a fight.”
”If we should learn something about our society from Jabotinsky, it is the need to stop doing this, open and our eyes and see that all of these things are destructive for our society. Let us stop seeing everything in black or white; let us stop with this childish labeling, which arouses hateful discourse, separation and terrible divisiveness within Israeli society.”