Yesterday morning, as I walked on the beach with a group of friend and our dogs, I turned and said: How could I have been so wrong? — First, regarding Trump, and now regarding Netanyahu? I was sure that after the Access Hollywood Tape was released, women who had considered voting for Trump would reassess, and as a result, there was no chance Trump would win the election.
When the news came out about $4 million Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had gained from the sale of stock in his cousin’s company, I wrote in my Newsweek column that Israelis would suddenly pay attention, now that the allegations were not merely about cigars, or champagne, but real money.
Two months ago, I had been certain there was no way a campaign to label three former IDF Chiefs of Staff as “weak, leftists” would ever succeed. I was also convinced many on the right would be disgusted by a prime minister who insisted on running for re-election — despite having multiple indictments of corruption and breach of trust leveled against him — and who would feel safe placing their votes in the hands of Benny Gantz, Gabi Ashkenazi and Bogie Ya’alon.
This past Wednesday night, I sat in the audience, as two former IDF Chiefs of Staff, two Director Generals of the Ministry of Defense, and Israel’s former Ambassador to Germany, explained — in excruciating detail — why the Submarine/Surface Ship deal, combined with the sale by Germany of advanced submarines to Egypt that Netanyahu approved, smelled to high heaven of corruption. I was sure these extensive revelations would sink Netanyahu’s chances of being re-elected.
A woman at the beach this morning suggested the gap between my perception and the reality of this election might be because we live in a bubble – which is undoubtedly the case. Tel Aviv is undeniably the insular bubble in which I have lived for the last eight years. However, I think something else is at work.
We seem to be living in a post-truth world. Whether it’s between viewers of Fox News vs. MSNBC, or readers of Yisrael Hayom, vs. Ha’aretz, the news people consume is not only slanted, but it is literally not the same news. When there is no single/unified trusted news/information source, everything becomes fake news. People have an easy time believing the news stories that support their currently held viewpoints and ignoring or refuting the information they do not like.
Two years before the election (before Trump was actually running), had you asked the average Trump supporter whether they would vote for a man who said what Trump declared on the Access Hollywood Tape (i.e., where in speaking of women, Trump confessed: “I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the p-u-&-&-y.”), they would have overwhelmingly answered – No!
Ten years ago, if you would have asked a group of Likud voters whether they would vote for someone who was about to be indicted in three separate cases, and regarding whom there were serious allegations of involvement in an even bigger case that affected national security, without a doubt the overwhelming majority would respond – Never!
However, here we are, two days before an election. We know how the American electorate voted in 2016, choosing to overlook events and characteristics, which would normally be definitive factors for disqualification. Yet, in Israel, the most similar result to what happened in the last US election seems more than likely about to happen here. A man who, in any other parliamentary democracy would have resigned under similar circumstances, is running again, and if the polls are correct, that man will be re-elected.
Of course, the polls could all be wrong. Perhaps, when voters go to the polls on Tuesday, enough people who have thought until now that Netanyahu has been a good Prime Minister will realize that ten consecutive years in office is enough, and that the time has come for a change in leadership — or, alternatively, that voting for someone who is soon to be indicted makes no sense.
I can still hope, though I realize that when I wake up on Wednesday morning that hope will, no doubt, be extinguished. However, I will keep dreaming until the last moment.