Expert sociologists and psychologists have developed a checklist that identifies whether a religious, social or political group meets the criteria of a cult. As far as the Israeli right, in general, and the Likud, in particular, are concerned, the conclusions are crystal-clear.
A group that is actually a cult is focused on a charismatic leader, who commands and receives absolute obedience. The leader not only dictates the group’s views, he (or she) formulates its members’ perception of reality. The leader is seen as exempt from laws and accepted norms. Sounds familiar?
The group punishes anyone who expresses criticism or dissent. The group’s members come to believe that the end justifies the means. They embrace an “us vs. them” mentality. They harbor feelings of hostility and resentment toward any and all outsiders.
Members of the cult develop a deep emotional and psychological dependence on the leader, which lingers on long after he (or she) is gone. The recovery process can be long and arduous. Among the symptoms attributed to what psychologists term “Post-Cult Trauma Syndrome” one finds depression, isolation, anguish, bereavement, difficulties in forming relationships, fits of rage and an overriding urge to return to the intimacy, exclusivity and support they felt while under the influence.
Which means that the thought that Israeli politics will naturally revert to a semblance of sanity once Benjamin Netanyahu leaves the stage is overly optimistic, if not naive. Even if the seemingly impossible happened on Monday night when Netanyahu finally relinquished his presidential mandate to form a new government, and even if his rival Benny Gantz succeeds where he has failed, Netanyahu exits right and a successor is chosen – the Israeli right will need a long period of recuperation and rehabilitation before it can overcome its addiction, if at all.