Israel's Prime Minister won a tragic election by vilifying Arabs and defacing Israel’s history
A few years ago, I drove from Jerusalem to the West Bank, to the city of Bethlehem, to have dinner with TIME’s Palestinian stringer, the late Jamil Hamad. He was a gentle and sophisticated man, soft-spoken, and levelheaded when it came to politics. After dinner, I drove back to Jerusalem and had to pass through the bleak, forbidding security wall. An Israeli soldier asked for my papers; I gave her my passport. “You’re American!” she said, not very officially. “I love America. Where are you from?” New York, I said. “Wow,” she said, with a big smile. And then she turned serious. “What were you doing in there,” she asked, nodding toward the Palestinian side, “with those animals?”
And that, of course, is why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “won” the Israeli election. That is how he won the election even though there was a strong economic case against him, and people were tired of his ways, and about 200 former Israeli military and intelligence leaders publicly opposed his dangerously bellicose foreign policy. He won because he ran as a bigot. This is a sad reality: a great many Jews have come to regard Arabs as the rest of the world traditionally regarded Jews. They have had cause. There have been wars, indiscriminate rockets and brutal terrorist attacks. There has been overpowering anti-Jewish bigotry on the Arab side, plus loathsome genocidal statements from the Iranians and others. But there has been a tragic sense of superiority and destiny on the Israeli side as well.
This has been true from the start. Read Ari Shavit’s brilliant conundrum of a book, My Promised Land, and you will get chapter and verse about the massacres perpetrated by Jews in 1948 to secure their homeland. It may be argued that the massacres were necessary, that Israel could not have been created without them, but they were massacres nonetheless. Women and children were murdered. It was the sort of behavior that is only possible when an enemy has been dehumanized. That history haunted Netanyahu’s rhetoric in the days before the election, when he scared Jews into voting for him because, he said, the Arabs were coming to polls in buses, in droves, fueled by foreign money.
It should be noted that those Arabs represent about 20% of the population of Israel. About 160,000 of them are Christian, and some of them are descendants of the first followers of Jesus. Almost all of them speak Hebrew. Every last one is a citizen—and it has been part of Israel’s democratic conceit that they are equal citizens. The public ratification of Netanyahu’s bigotry put the lie to that.
Another conceit has been that the Israeli populace favors a two-state solution. That may still be true, but the surge of voters to the Likud party in the days after Netanyahu denied Palestinian statehood sends the message that a critical mass of Israeli Jews supports the idea of Greater Israel, including Judea and Samaria on the West Bank. This puts Israeli democracy in peril. The alternative to a two-state solution is a one-state solution. That state can only be Jewish, in the long run, if West Bank Arabs are denied the right to vote.
There will be many—in the Muslim world, in Europe—who will say that the results are no surprise, that Israel has become a harsh, bigoted tyrant state. It has certainly acted that way at times, but usually with excellent provocation. It is an appalling irony that the Israeli vote brought joy to American neoconservatives and European anti-Semites alike.
When I was a little boy, my grandmother would sing me to sleep with the Israeli national anthem. It still brings tears to my eyes. My near annual visits to Israel have always been memorable. About a decade ago, I was at a welcoming ceremony for new immigrants—thousands of them, Russians and Iranians and Ethiopians. And I thought, if Ethiopians and Russians could join that way, why not, eventually, Semites and Semites, Jews and Arabs?
That was the dream—that somehow Jews and Arabs could make it work, could eventually, together, create vibrant societies that would transcend bigotry and exist side by side. The dream was that the unifying force of common humanity and ethnicity would, for once, trump religious exceptionalism. It was always a long shot. It seems impossible now. For the sake of his own future, Benjamin Netanyahu has made dreadful Jewish history: he is the man who made anti-Arab bigotry an overt factor in Israeli political life. This is beyond tragic. It is shameful and embarrassing.
3. "On a national election, I doubt it" In response to Reply # 2
>>Shit, all it would take is another mid-sized terrorist >attack >>on US soil and Jeb Bush would suddenly have a real chance. > >Jeb Bush has a real chance right now, sadly. But Clinton is >a >war-hawk herself, so it's not as if she won't appease the >chicken hawks.
Imho the party's been loonier then usual and I don't think they will be able to clear up their act by 2016. That letter, which they probably would have gotten props for right after the 2014 elections, backfired pretty quickly across the board.
Then again, I remember feeling this way when George Bush ran a second term...
========================================= I'm an advocate for working smarter, not harder. If you just focus on working hard you end up making someone else rich and not having much to show for it. (c) mad
7. "I'm just glad we're finally having the conversation." In response to Reply # 0
It's time to decouple our interests from Israel. They can be our ally, but we don't have to pretend that everything they do is good for us - lord knows they don't, and they ain't afraid to say so either.
WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday walked back statements made during campaigning rejecting the possibility of a two-state solution, telling NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, “I don’t want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution.”
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Netanyahu’s first post-elections interview was delivered to the US news TV station, indicating a focus on calming tensions with Washington, which have risen steeply following a sharp right turn by Netanyahu in the final days of his campaign.
“I haven’t changed my policy,” Netanyahu insisted. “I never retracted my speech at Bar-Ilan University six years ago calling for a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes a Jewish state.”
“What has changed is the reality,” he continued. “ the Palestinian leader refuses to recognize the Jewish state and has made a pact with Hamas that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, and every territory that is vacated today in the Middle East is taken up by Islamist forces. We want that to change so that we can realize a vision of real, sustained peace. I don’t want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but for that, circumstances have to change.”
On Monday, Netanyahu had told Israeli news outlet Maariv that he would not allow a Palestinian state on his watch, as he attempted to rally voters from the right to cast ballots for his Likud party ahead of Tuesday’s election.
The statement was seen as an about face of Netanyahu’s 2009 Bar-Ilan speech, during which he said he was committed to a two-state solution.
Netanyahu handily won the election Tuesday against center-left rival Isaac Herzog, in part, analysts said, because of his last-ditch hardline appeal.
The comment brought an international backlash, with sources saying the White House may pull back support for Israel at the United Nations, compounding the prime minister’s already fractured relationship with US President Barack Obama.
On Wednesday, the Obama administration launched a scathing critique of Netanyahu’s campaign statements, even indicating that if Netanyahu rejected a negotiated path toward a two-state solution, the US would support Palestinian initiatives to unilaterally declare independence through the United Nations.
In a second US TV interview on Thursday, with FOX News, Netanyahu said he hoped that wasn’t the case.
“I hope that’s not true, and I think that President Obama has said time and time again, as I’ve said, that the only path to a peace agreement is an agreement, a negotiated agreement.
“You can’t impose it,” he went on. “You can’t force the people of Israel — who’ve just elected me by a wide margin, to bring them peace and security, to secure the State of Israel — to accept terms that would endanger the very survival of the State of Israel. I don’t think that’s the direction of American policy. I hope it’s not.”
The prime minister downplayed the level of discord with Washington, noting to NBC that “Secretary Kerry called me yesterday, and I am sure I’ll be speaking to President Obama soon.”
“We’ll work together – we have to – because we have no other alternatives. We’re allies,” Netanyahu insisted. “We have to consult each other, not have fiats or unilateral impositions but negotiated peace with our neighbors and support between allies, and America has no greater ally than Israel and Israel has no greater ally than the United States.”
He also stressed that he “didn’t mean any disrespect” to Obama in addressing Congress earlier this month to warn against an impending deal on Iran’s nuclear program.
Later in the interview, the premier demonstrated unusual flexibility on the issue, saying that allowing Iran to retain a “small number” of its centrifuges as part of a deal “wasn’t something that Israel and its Arab neighbors would love, but it is something that they could live with.”
Israel’s traditional position has been that Iran must be stripped of an capacity to create nuclear weapons, including the dismantlement of all facilities used to enrich either uranium or plutonium.
The prime minister rejected allegations that the decision to bypass the White House and make a speech at the invitation of the Republican-controlled Congress was a partisan move.
The prime minister also dismissed allegations that he had resorted to race-baiting following comments about high Arab voter turnout during the election, saying that he was not a racist.
Netanyahu defended his record in reaching out to the Arab community. “I will continue to do that — in my government — to have real integration of Arab citizens of Israel into the Israeli economy, Israeli high-tech, and Israeli society. My commitment is real and it will stay real.”
Netanyahu doubled down, however, on his allegations that there was a well-funded international campaign against him.
He emphasized that his warning was not about Arabs-Israelis voting in general, but rather warning that there was a large turnout in support of “a specific party — an amalgamation of Islamists and other anti-Israel groups.”
According to Netanyahu, he also issued the warning to a group of Arab supporters of Likud, in order to encourage them to go to the polls in support of the prime minister’s party.
“I wasn’t trying to suppress the vote. I was attempting to get something to counter a foreign-funded effort to get votes that are intended to topple my party,” he said.