Israeli politics are as bizarre as a surrealistic painting – analysis

If a committee were tasked with deciding which of the greatest artists in history could best portray what happened in Jerusalem on Monday, Salvador Dali would certainly have to be a top candidate.

Neither the realist Gustave Courbet nor the romantic Francisco Goya and definitely not the idealist Michelangelo. But Dali, the giant of surrealism.

Why Dali? Because he’s the master at painting things out of place: a melting clock on a barren tree, a hand emerging from a man’s forehead, flying tigers. This is one of the defining characteristics of the surrealist movement: the representation of objects that are normally not connected to each other.

And what could be out of place, more inappropriately, usually not more connected than on the one hand the State of Israel persecuting a sitting Prime Minister and on the other – exactly at the same time – considering extending his term in office and allowing him to try to form yet another government.

What Israel witnessed on Monday – the beginning of the testimony against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Jerusalem District Court, while various parties testified before President Reuven Rivlin that Netanyahu should be tasked with and head the formation of the next government – the equivalent of one Ant crawling over a clock on one of Dali’s canvases.

Of all the great artists in history, Dali could have done the most justice to Monday’s events in Jerusalem, as the images the nation saw on a split television screen did not seem to fit logically or flow from one another as expected.

But here we are: Israeli politics as a surrealist painting.

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Netanyahu is not the first public figure to be tried in Israel recently.

In just over a decade, Israel watched with bated breath the trials of former President Moshe Katsav, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, all of which went to jail. It is nothing new for this country to see its most famous people accused in court.

But “earlier” is the relevant word in cases in which Katsav, Olmert and Metzger are involved. They were all “former” officials of the highest rank who were not in office at the start of their trials.

In Netanyahu’s case, however, not only is he still in office, but at the same time that former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua testified against the Prime Minister, Rivlin heard arguments from various parties as to why Netanyahu should be tasked with forming a government again makes sure he stays in office.

When Katsav, Olmert and Metzger showed up in court, it was clear that their public careers were behind them. Not so with Netanyahu.

This is one reason why, in addition to the adjectives “sad” and “proud” routinely used in the past, the description of the day one of the heads of state appeared in court – “sad” because a head of state was accused of one Crime, “proud” because it showed that no one was above the law in Israeli democracy – this time another adjective can be thrown into the mix: bizarre.

Strange because not only is the accused still prime minister, but the country hasn’t dismissed him from office in the last four elections, despite knowing very well what the charges against him were. Bizarre because he is very good at going on in this position. This indicates either a nation enthusiastic about its leader or one that doesn’t trust its judicial system. Or both.

One of the most striking features of Yeshua’s testimony against Netanyahu was the extent to which the actors discussed are still very central actors in the political drama of that country, and all interconnected and interacting with one another.

Yeshua testified that in 2013 he received instructions from the Netanyahu family to tell critical stories about Naftali Bennett and Ayalet Shaked, the leaders of the Bayit Yehudi party at the time, in order to smear them and their families and bring them down before that year to bring elections.

That would, of course, be the same Bennett and Shaked, now the leaders of the Yamina party that Netanyahu is currently furiously courting to form a government and – maybe, just maybe – prevent his trial from continuing.

This is more ironic than surrealistic, but there is often more than a touch of irony in all of the great works of surrealism.

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