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Toward the end of Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech today, he said:
Facing me right up there in the gallery, overlooking all of us in this (inaudible) chamber is the image of Moses. Moses led our people from slavery to the gates of the Promised Land.
And before the people of Israel entered the land of Israel, Moses gave us a message that has steeled our resolve for thousands of years. I leave you with his message today, (SPEAKING IN HEBREW), “Be strong and resolute, neither fear nor dread them.”
The idea of a “dog whistle” in political rhetoric is that the speaker uses language that will be understood only by his or her supporters. To the outside observer, meanwhile, the speaker’s meaning is innocuous. Netanyahu’s biblical reference was a dog whistle.
To understand it, consider when Moses spoke those words. It was just before Moses left the people and went off to die, when Joshua was to take over leadership. I believe that Netanyahu expects to lose the election in a few weeks.
This brings to mind another Israeli prime minister: Menachem Begin. Begin was facing an election in 1981, and expected to lose. Meanwhile, intelligence indicated that Saddam Hussein was about to break out with nuclear capability. The cabinet was debating a military strike on the Osirak reactor. Begin’s opponent in the election, Shimon Peres, was a member of the cabinet and was adamantly opposed to a strike.
And so Begin, expecting to lose, and fearing that Peres would not do what needed to be done, ordered the daring air strike that destroyed Saddam’s reactors.
In the event, Begin won the election. He was accused of ordering the strike to boost himself politically. But later the truth came out — a truth that Netanyahu knows, and must be pondering as his electoral opponents pillory him for souring relations with the US.