Ne­tanyahu is de­stroy­ing both Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - WORLD - By Alon Ben-Meir

Much of what Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing to­day has be­fallen them un­der Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu’s lead­er­ship. He be­lieves that the Pales­tini­ans will al­ways pose an ex­is­ten­tial threat to Is­rael, which led him to pur­sue do­mes­tic poli­cies that dan­ger­ously un­der­mined the coun­try’s found­ing prin­ci­ples of free­dom and equal­ity. Con­cur­rently, he has taken ex­treme mea­sures to sup­press the Pales­tini­ans and main­tain the oc­cu­pa­tion to keep them at bay. This has re­sulted in the dis­in­te­gra­tion of the so­cial fab­ric of both so­ci­eties, and pre­vented the rise of new po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship to change course.

Notwith­stand­ing Is­rael’s re­mark­able mil­i­tary, eco­nomic, and tech­no­log­i­cal achieve­ments and the dra­matic ex­pan­sion of its trade and diplo­matic re­la­tions since its creation in 1948, Is­rael failed to live up to its prom­ise. Un­der Ne­tanyahu’s watch, Is­rael’s democ­racy is tear­ing apart at the seams, the unity of pur­pose be­tween Is­raeli and di­as­pora Jewry is crum­bling, the so­cial and po­lit­i­cal di­vide among Is­raelis is dan­ger­ously widen­ing, and the prospect of liv­ing in peace and se­cu­rity is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly un­ten­able.

Dur­ing the same pe­riod, the Pales­tini­ans’ sit­u­a­tion has be­come omi­nously worse. They re­main de­pen­dent on hand­outs, mil­lions of refugees still lan­guish in camps, and they are so­cially and po­lit­i­cally dis­in­te­grat­ing, in­se­cure, and de­spair­ing. The hope­less­ness of young Pales­tini­ans and the self-res­ig­na­tion of old, with di­min­ish­ing prospects of es­cap­ing the harsh re­al­ity of the oc­cu­pa­tion, fur­ther in­ten­si­fied their ha­tred and re­sent­ment to­ward Is­rael. And the Pales­tini­ans’ dis­tant dream of estab­lish­ing their own state is rapidly fad­ing away.

Ne­tanyahu seems to for­get that the his­toric sur­vival of the Jews and the se­cret be­hind it did not rest on mil­i­tary prow­ess or fi­nan­cial dex­ter­ity or the most ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy, but on an un­wa­ver­ing moral com­mit­ment to hu­man and civil rights and the broth­er­hood of man. They stood stead­fastly be­hind the poor and the de­spair­ing, and cham­pi­oned the causes of free­dom, lib­er­al­ism, and equal­ity. These at­tributes were en­grained in the minds and souls of the Jews, due, in the main, to their hor­ri­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ences through­out the mil­len­nia of dis­perse­ment, per­se­cu­tion, ex­pul­sion, dis­crim­i­na­tion, and death.

One might think that these ter­ri­fy­ing his­tor­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ences would in­flu­ence Ne­tanyahu and his fol­low­ers to fully ad­here to hu­man rights, and ex­haust ev­ery con­ceiv­able way not to be­tray these prin­ci­ples in deal­ing with the Pales­tini­ans. But sadly, Ne­tanyahu has cap­i­talised on a cer­tain seg­ment of Pales­tini­ans that still re­sist Is­rael’s ex­is­tence to le­git­imize Is­rael’s ac­tions against the Pales­tini­ans.

Ne­tanyahu pushed for the pass­ing of the Na­tion State Law, which de­grades non-Jews to sec­ond-class cit­i­zens. The law af­firms that “The state of Is­rael is the na­tional home of the Jewish peo­ple, in which it ful­fills its nat­u­ral, cul­tural, re­li­gious and his­toric right to self-de­ter­mi­na­tion.” The law dis­crim­i­nates against Is­raeli Arab cit­i­zens, in­ten­si­fies their re­sent­ment to­ward and ha­tred of the state, and widens the gap be­tween the two sides, which dan­ger­ously in­creases Is­rael’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity from within.

Ne­tanyahu sup­ported Trump’s cuts of US fund­ing to or­gan­i­sa­tions that pro­mote di­a­logue be­tween Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans, and barred scores of other Is­raeli or­gan­i­sa­tions ded­i­cated to peace from rais­ing money in for­eign coun­tries. Ne­tanyahu is deny­ing the nec­es­sary process of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween the two sides, which is cen­tral to peace­ful co­ex­is­tence and the only way to re­solve the con­flict. To be sure, Ne­tanyahu is tear­ing down in­stead of build­ing bridges to pro­mote peace.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Ne­tanyahu is de­stroy­ing Is­rael’s democ­racy brick by brick, start­ing with the ju­di­ciary, which is the most revered and in­de­pen­dent in­sti­tu­tion in Is­rael. He is sup­port­ing an amend­ment that trans­fers ju­ris­dic­tion of cer­tain cases re­gard­ing the West Bank away from the Supreme Court, which will com­pli­cate its de­crees to re­move il­le­gal out­posts and set­tle­ments, and an­other law that would al­low Mem­bers of the Knes­set to re­in­state laws struck down by the Supreme Court.

In the words of the Court’s Pres­i­dent Es­ther Hayut, the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion “would by­pass the hu­man rights of ev­ery in­di­vid­ual in Is­raeli so­ci­ety”, adding that “[i]t [the amend­ment] voids the Ba­sic Law. The cyn­i­cal use made of the prob­lem of in­fil­tra­tors as an ex­cuse to leg­is­late such a bill can­not hide its de­struc­tive sig­nif­i­cance.”

Un­der Ne­tanyahu, the grow­ing power of the Ortho­dox re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tion and the steady shift of the coun­try to the ex­treme right are ef­fec­tively blur­ring the lines of sep­a­ra­tion of power be­tween ‘church and state.’ He sup­ported the Re­li­gious Ser­vices Min­istry’s threats to bar the “Women of the Wall” from pray­ing at the Western Wall, warn­ing that if they do not obey, they will not be al­lowed to wor­ship at all. Sadly, and tellingly, the po­lice did noth­ing to stop ver­bal and phys­i­cal at­tacks against women pray­ing at the Ko­tel in July.

He fur­ther alien­ated di­as­pora Jewry, es­pe­cially in the US, by cav­ing in to the rab­bini­cal in­sti­tu­tions. He re­neged on his de­ci­sion to al­low men and women to pray to­gether at the Western Wall, what would have been a his­toric agree­ment with lib­eral Jewish de­nom­i­na­tions. This was not only a slap in their face, but de­fi­ance of one of the most crit­i­cal as­pects of Jewish sur­vival, which is main­tain­ing their pow­er­ful and un­com­pro­mis­ing affin­ity de­spite be­ing dis­persed in over 100 coun­tries.

Crit­i­cal of free press

Fi­nally, Ne­tanyahu is grad­u­ally chip­ping away at one of the cen­tral pil­lars of democ­racy—free­dom of the press. He has be­come in­creas­ingly crit­i­cal of the free press and has med­dled with no less than 13 me­dia out­lets. As be­ing in­ves­ti­gated in cor­rup­tion Cases 2000 and 4000, he con­stantly at­tempts to ma­nip­u­late the me­dia to re­ceive fa­vor­able cov­er­age, in­creases po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence, and ac­tively uses the courts to prop­a­gate li­bel and defama­tion law­suits, while fur­ther ex­tend­ing the mil­i­tary cen­sure into so­cial me­dia.

Ev­ery mea­sure Ne­tanyahu has taken is acutely un­der­min­ing Is­rael’s very ex­is­tence. But the big­gest threat as we know it is its lead­ers, es­pe­cially Ne­tanyahu’s un­will­ing­ness to re­al­is­ti­cally face the con­flict with the Pales­tini­ans while act­ing to de­stroy the Pales­tini­ans’ as­pi­ra­tion for state­hood. In­stead of re­main­ing re­lent­less in the search for a so­lu­tion dic­tated by the unim­peach­able re­al­ity of co­ex­is­tence, he chose to sup­press the Pales­tinian na­tional move­ment by what­ever means nec­es­sary, in­clud­ing force.

Ev­ery puni­tive mea­sure that has been taken against the Pales­tini­ans, be that ad­min­is­tra­tive de­ten­tions, de­mol­ish­ing Pales­tinian vil­lages such as Khan al Ah­mer in fa­vor of new Is­raeli set­tle­ments, ex­pro­pri­at­ing pri­vate land to build Is­raeli out­posts, night raids, lim­it­ing mo­bil­ity, deny­ing build­ing per­mits, up­root­ing olive trees, and ar­bi­trary in­car­cer­a­tions, have led to the grad­ual de­struc­tion of the Pales­tini­ans’ so­cial fab­ric and co­he­sive­ness, pro­long­ing the oc­cu­pa­tion and dis­place­ment for decades. The hu­mil­i­a­tion of the Pales­tini­ans for three gen­er­a­tions has ren­dered their present lead­er­ship help­less, with lit­tle or noth­ing to of­fer to change their plight.

To be sure, Ne­tanyahu be­trayed the very rea­son be­hind Is­rael’s creation—to live in peace, pro­vide a safe refuge for the Jews, and fos­ter strong and un­wa­ver­ing ties with di­as­pora Jewry, while feed­ing into one an­other to main­tain their strength, har­mony, and pur­pose.

Ne­tanyahu could have been the prime min­is­ter to reach a peace agree­ment with the Pales­tini­ans, but did not be­cause he was and still is de­ter­mined not to al­low the es­tab­lish­ment of a Pales­tinian state as long as he is in power.

He will leave be­hind a gar­ri­son pariah state and shat­tered Pales­tinian com­mu­nity, while set­ting back the prospect of peace for an­other gen­er­a­tion. Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a pro­fes­sor of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at the Cen­ter for Global Af­fairs at NYU. He teaches cour­ses on in­ter­na­tional ne­go­ti­a­tion and Mid­dle East­ern stud­ies. alon@alon­ben-meir.com www.alon­ben-meir.com

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