RELATIONS BETWEEN Benjamin Netanyahu and the Biden administration have sunk so low that the Israeli prime minister has mounted a blatant disinformation campaign to discredit his opponents that Vladimir Putin would be proud of.
The increasingly desperate Netanyahu, backed by far right media and MAGA Republican members of Congress, is spreading a new conspiracy theory to explain away the massive grassroots street protests that have forced him to pause his attempted castration of the country’s independent judiciary.
The not-so-hidden hand behind the protests, he says, is none other than the Biden administration. Putin promulgated the same anti-U.S. conspiracy charge when he was faced with mass protests in 2011.
At first, Netanyahu was shy about glomming onto the baseless theme, which germinated from a column in the rightwing Jewish News Syndicate headlined “How Biden subverts Israeli democracy.” He prohibited reporters from using his name when he took them aside to blame Biden for the massive protests during a trip to Rome in February. Speaking only as “a senior Israeli official,” he claimed without evidence that the protests, which saw 80,000 people turn out in Tel Aviv alone in mid-January, were “financed and organized with millions of dollars”— a dubious figure, for starters, with the implication that Israeli liberals themselves couldn’t possibly have raised such sums. “This is a very high-level organization,” he said. “There is an organized center from which all the demonstrations branch out in an orderly manner.”
“Who finances the transportation, the flags, the stages? It’s clear to us,” the “senior official” went on. One of Netanyahu’s aides confirmed that he was referring to the United States. Israeli reporters later outed Netanyahu as the senior official behind the mask of anonymity.
This “foreign interference” charge is the sort of lie that one hears from the Kremlin to discredit jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny and other critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin, or from Iran’s clerical leaders to besmirch the women leading the country’s anti-hijab protests. But it speaks volumes about where Netanyahu and his Jewish supremacist coalition partners want to take Israel.
Like most conspiracy theories, this one contains a grain of truth, upon which Netanyahu and his Republican claques in the United States have built a castle and ladled it with generous dollops of inflammatory rhetoric and disinformation.
The Jewish News Syndicate column, written by the syndicate’s senior contributing editor, Caroline Glick, fingered a tiny, U.S.-backed Israeli NGO the Movement for Quality Government, as the evildoer. She called it a “far-left organization at the epicenter of the Israeli left’s war against the Netanyahu government” and “the primary organizer and sponsor of the mass protests against judicial reform.”
For sure, the MQG has focused on fighting corruption since its founding in 1990, defending the rule of law and preserving what it calls “Israel’s liberal democratic character.” And it has petitioned the Supreme Court to oust Netanyahu from office, arguing that, as a criminal defendant indicted for corruption and breach of trust, the prime minister has a glaring conflict of interest as he oversees judicial reforms while on trial for those charges. But the MQG as the “epicenter” of the protests? If so, it’s bringing a pop gun to a heavy artillery duel.