Yedioth Ahronoth columnist Nahum Barnea knows. He has always known. He has shared juicy secrets with us from behind the scenes. His keyboard makes most people appear small and delusional. Throughout his long career he has always attributed nothing but petty personal interests, fears and limitations to his subjects, his political opponents.
I have been racking my brain trying to recall a single incident in which he attributed good will, legitimate considerations or even ideological motives to any political figure that he loathes. All I could come up with was venom.
Recently, Barnea wrote that Gideon Sa'ar, formerly the education minister, worked to advance the university status of Ariel University to curry favor with Likud voters and not, heaven forbid, because of the excellence of the institution or the desire to promote higher learning. Certainly not because of his true beliefs or political ideology.
For years, the settler enterprise has suffered its fair share of vitriol from Barnea. I could list all the things that Barnea despises, but no one ranks higher on that list than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As I have written in the past, the pathological loathing of Netanyahu in the media goes far beyond his being a prime minister and a representative of the opposing camp. It is not just the prime minister's party, but the entire conservative camp that the semi-liberal media views as a mortal threat.
Recently we had the pleasure of hearing a wave of remorse from various sources. Channel 10 correspondent Alon Ben-David talked about unwarranted negative reports about Netanyahu; veteran Haaretz writer Yoel Marcus surprised his disciples last Friday when he declared that "for Israel, there is no better leader than Netanyahu." Compare Marcus' extolling article with Barnea's criticism and you will get a glimpse of the rift that is beginning to chip away at the media fortress. Even the rage-filled Sima Kadmon (a senior Yedioth Ahronoth political commentator) has toned herself down recently and even managed to put out some vague praise.
It is not necessary to love Netanyahu. It is okay to criticize him, even harshly. The rampant criticism over the unwieldy method in which Bank of Israel Governor Karnit Flug was appointed this week is completely understandable.
But Barnea is fooling people. After listing Netanyahu's many shortcomings, he arrived at the cherry on top: The reason that Flug's nomination took as long as it did was because Netanyahu "understood that the plummeting popularity of [Finance Minister Yair] Lapid's party [Yesh Atid] would force Lapid to stand his ground. He (Lapid) desperately needed a win. Netanyahu realized that the public lays most of the blame for the farce on him."
It all becomes clear, doesn't it? "He understood"; "he realized." Barnea isn't trying to explain or comment, but rather taking a jab at the object of his nightmares. In his view, Netanyahu doesn't have a shred of desire to improve the economy by selecting a worthy bank governor; he is motivated only by political considerations. All of Netanyahu's long economic experience, his know-how, his neo-liberal views, are all ignored as though they did not exist. The only things that remain are fear, concern and limitations. The only person who does not possess these shortcomings is Barnea himself.
"The problem," he wrote, "is the gap between the way Netanyahu views himself... and his actual conduct in the real world." Perhaps the opposite is true? Is there not an enormous gap between the way the media portrays Netanyahu and the way he actually is? Monday's article is part of a long tradition of writing that has always been ideological, but has lost its grasp on reality, making way for dry writing containing nothing but negativity.
Yirmiyahu Yovel wrote in his book "Spinoza and Other Heretics" about the double language used by the Marranos in Spain (Jews living in the Iberian Peninsula who converted or were forced to convert to Christianity, some of whom may have continued to observe rabbinic Judaism in secret). He demonstrated how they managed to covertly insert harsh criticism against the Christian institution into seemingly innocent texts.
But Barnea is not a Marrano. He is courageous, and his words are not in any way disguised. Adam Baruch once wrote of Barnea that, as a reporter for the now-defunct, left-leaning Davar newspaper in the early 1970s, his writing included "accurate, powerful Israeli Hebrew and the special kind of insight of a native Israeli seeking to distinguish between pretty words and the truth." Whatever remains of that?