Netanyahu Levin
© Torner Appelbaum
Benjamin Netanyahu and Yariv Levin
Jerusalem is united, there's no occupation, the settlements are legal - all lies. That's why the right finds nothing wrong with Netanyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a loyal representative of the latest on Israel's right wing. The right never eschewed lying and so it doesn't understand what all the fuss is about. Even when Education Minister Naftali Bennett dared preach to Netanyahu, he was sanctimonious about it; he too knows that lying is the language of his camp. It's in its DNA, part of its life cycle. Without it, it wouldn't exist.

After all, for the sake of the Land of Israel one is permitted to lie - and steal, too. And for the sake of other matters. And so the Israeli right never stopped lying; that's why it finds nothing wrong with Netanyahu.

The Israeli right has someone to learn from; there's nothing like the American right wing when it comes to lies. Guns everywhere are portrayed as the protection of individual rights, health insurance for everyone is considered a violation of rights, and neoliberal economic policies are said to be an example for the entire society.

In Israel, too, right-wing politicians no longer make statements that don't depend on lies. Jerusalem is united - a lie. There is no occupation - a lie. The settlements are legal - heaps and heaps of lies. The right wing's conscience is so accustomed to lies that it can't distinguish between lies and truth anymore.

And so when Netanyahu says he doesn't want to close Channel 10 and the next day says he does, that he's not going to an election because of Israel Hayom and the next day he is - that's no problem at all. True, the right wing didn't inherit pure truth from its predecessors in government, who ruled from the time of the Nakba to the changeover from Labor to Likud. But the right has brought lying to unknown proportions. In the Israel of 2018, lying is the norm and truth is the exception.

In this country it's permissible to deceive people into believing that Rwanda is a safe place for asylum seekers and Israeli officials will take care of them there. Anyone who says this knows that it's an utter lie, but what's wrong with that? Lying is the way. Without noticing, lying has become the heart of our political culture, absolutely fine. Lying has become so much the norm that no one gets excited about it.

One can lie and claim that an Iranian drone on Israel's border is a brazen form of baiting, while routine Israeli bombing doesn't violate anything. One can claim that the Israeli film Foxtrot is anti-Israeli without having seen it, because lying is allowed. One can say the Tamimi family is a terror family and call a girl who slaps an armed soldier a "terrorist," because lying is allowed. The police commissioner can falsely accuse a teacher, Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, of being a "disgusting terrorist" linked to the Islamic State, because lying is allowed.

Huge amounts of money can be transferred to the settlements because lying is permitted and necessary, and so is stealing. It can be claimed that the tunnels from Gaza are an existential threat and that Hamas endangers Israel's existence; that we've left Gaza and it's free, and that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is an anti-Semite. Of course it can, it's all lies.

The occupation, the heart and soul of the right, can't continue without lies and theft; this is the foundation of the entire enterprise. There have been a bunch of pretexts for settlements: Rabbi Moshe Levinger's Passover vacation at Hebron's Park Hotel in 1968, Israel's "work camp" at Kadum, the need to guard the antenna at Ofra, and the archaeology at Susya. Ever since, the whole settlement enterprise would collapse without its two main tools: lies and theft. What are the outposts if not theft and lies? And the settlements? Not one room in them was built without stealing and lying.

And what's the claim that the country that controls the lives of 4.5 million subjects without rights is democratic if not the mother of all lies? And equality of Israel's Arab citizens - that's not a lie? The High Court of Justice controls the country, there's no increased religiosity, there's no discrimination against the Mizrahim, all the Arabs fled in 1948 and all the wars have been wars of no choice - all lies. The right can't do without them. Israel can't do without them by now. So what do we want from Netanyahu?

It was said of the first right-wing deputy prime minister, Simha Erlich, that it was so rare for him to tell the truth that a warning light went on when he did. Now there's no longer a need for one.

Gideon Levy joined Haaretz in 1982, and spent four years as the newspaper's deputy editor. He is the author of the weekly Twilight Zone feature, which covers the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza over the last 25 years, as well as the writer of political editorials for the newspaper. Levy was the recipient of the Euro-Med Journalist Prize for 2008; the Leipzig Freedom Prize in 2001; the Israeli Journalists' Union Prize in 1997; and The Association of Human Rights in Israel Award for 1996. His new book, The Punishment of Gaza, has just been published by Verso Publishing House in London and New York.