The Collapse of Netanyahu and Israeli Politics

Photo Source: The Times of Israel

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Upfront

There is an insincere praise bestowed upon Netanyahu after 2021 post election in Israel that the Jewish state under him was not racist, fascistic, or an apartheid, and a colonial enterprise. He was lionised, in some quarters, for uplifting the lives of Israeli Arabs, by helping them with post secondary degrees, but the fact remains that under his leadership, Israel was not only at war with Palestine, but also within. He initiated political infightings, in perpetuation of his power, and exploited every divide between Jews, Arabs, religious, secular, Ashkenazi, and Mizrahi by stoking historical resentments. For this reason, it will probably take years for Israel's political and social fabric to heal.

He first took office in 1996, a year after a Jewish extremist assassinated the Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, for spearheading the Oslo Accords. A month before the assassination, Netanyahu took part in a demonstration, in Jerusalem, in which protesters chanted ‘Death to Rabin’. In an interview with then journalist Yair Lapid, he conceded that he might have had a hand in the rising tensions.

Looking at his dragged out rule, its obvious that Israelis made a deceiver as their prime minister, heading not one, two, but five governments and counting, as in office, he faced charges of bribery, fraud, and a breach of trust in 2019. As a reaction, he went on to mistreat his advisers and ministers, and three among them had testified against him. Although, he has denied the charges, and his trial is expected to take years. Despite these odds, he would most likely continue to be the leader of Likud party, with considerable hardcore supporters intact. 

In thievery of Palestinian territory, Netanyahu did everything to reverse any progress that was achieved by his predecessors. He denied any minor concessions to Palestinians given before. Apart from that, he pressured America under Trump to withdraw from the US-Iran nuclear deal, and went on to attain sovereignty on the Golan Heights, ensuing even more hatred for Israel, and damage to US’s global credibility furthermore. He did that because for him America is gullible, and whenever its government played hardball, he tried to deploy his influential lobby in United States, to whip it into submission. This stands true because US has provided Israel with close to $150 billion in direct assistance, but only to be returned with political insults.

US, uncritically and mindlessly, supporting Israel, under Netanyahu in particular, has proved execrable for the Middle East. The facts vouchsafe the past. In history, he called Bill Clinton a ‘radically pro Palestinian’, even though due to Clinton foreign investment skyrocketed, the economy prospered, and trade increased on the cost of illegal settlements. In 2002, Netanyahu forcefully opposed George W. Bush’s demand that Israel immediately withdraw its military forces from Palestinian areas, in the West Bank, days after it had launched an operation to dismantle the Palestinian infrastructure. However, his chutzpah is best illustrated when he humiliated Barack Obama, lecturing him on the Middle East, and then denouncing him on Iran deal, his opposition to settlements, and snubbing him in his talk directly to the Congress. And Obama’s defeatism is best elucidated when he rewarded him with a $38 billion military aid. Shortly after signing the deal, Netanyahu lashed out at the Obama-Biden administration, for abstaining during a UNSC vote on Israel’s illegal settlements that Washington long opposed, calling it a ‘shameful anti-Israeli ploy’. Quite recently, what became insanely stupid, is that Biden administration rewarded him with a $735 million arms sales that included precision guided weapons. Such huge military assistances would have been justified in the Cold War, but not now.  

Israel, under Netanyahu, has concluded from last three Gaza assaults that it could no longer have any strategic tie up with Hamas. They believe its military victory should be real, quick and strident, regardless of how much the world whines. In this quest, they have destroyed Gaza’s administrative, economic, municipal infrastructure, including electricity, water and sewage systems, setting it back to years, if not decades. This reflected how Netanyahu, over the years, made Gaza a cynical ploy, to appease his political clique.

Netanyahu has not only stopped talking that way but, under his rule, Jewish settlements in the West Bank have flourished: there are now nearly half a million settlers living there, roughly three times the number when Netanyahu first took office. This reality makes drawing an abutting Palestinian state extremely difficult. With Israel’s recent signing of normalisation agreements with countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco, Arab countries no longer demand an independent Palestinian state, as a prerequisite for diplomatic ties with Israel. Because of Netanyahu, the vision of a two-state solution is clinically dead.

As for Hamas, it has long entrusted the negotiations of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, and it has limited the scope of its activities, and objectives, in freeing Palestine from Israeli colonialism. 

Under new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who won with a razor thin one seat lead in the Knesset, the first Arab Muslim Issawi Frej has been nominated as minister for regional co-operation, with another Muslim minister from the Raam party, an outgrowth of Muslim political party in Israel, in the offing, too. It is leading to many observers believe that things have changed in Israel. No, they have not. Israeli Arabs are still facing myriad problems, and Bennett, at his best would be a continuer of Netanyahu’s policies. Living dangerously with a fragile coalition of eight diverse parties, his own political party, Yamina, defines itself as right wing to far right, with very close ideological affiliations to Zionism.

In 2013, as Middle East peace talks were set to resume after a five-year cap, Bennett trumpeted to Israeli National Security Adviser Ya’akov Amidror: ‘Ive killed lots of Arabs in my life, and there is no problem with that’. 

Bennett, who has been director of the Yesha Settlements Council, in 2014, advocated that all Jewish Israelis living in the West Bank, even those living in remote areas that violate Israeli law, should remain under Israeli sovereignty, and called for more settlement construction. In 2016, as Israel’s Minister of Education, back then, Bennett called on Israeli Jews to ‘give lives’ to annex the West Bank. In the past, he invoked Kahanism, a Jewish supremacist ideology, based on the views of Rabbi Meir Kahane, that calls for violence and extremism to be used to secure Israel, as an ethno-nationalist state, against Palestinians and others, and they had done that in the past, when, in 1994, an Israeli settler and Kahane follower Baruch Goldstein murdered Palestinians, in the West Bank Ibrahimi mosque. These things have reflected the mindset on which Israeli Jews bred their conscience. 

Though the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are the official authority of the West Bank and Gaza, respectively, Israel is the actual nanny state in charge. It controls the borders, the currency, and the central bank. It collects taxes on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA), maintains the right to carry out military operations on Palestinian land, and controls the amount of freedom, if there was any, that Palestinians are granted.

Israel approves only about half of the permits that residents of Gaza apply for to travel outside of Gaza, for vital medical treatment. In 2017, fifty four people died while awaiting a permit to travel for medical treatment, leading to condemnation by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI), and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights.

Reasons for denying people in Gaza necessary medical treatment are often ill judged and irrational, such as denying travel because a relative at one time moved from Gaza to the West Bank without Israeli permission. At times, the Jewish state has even controlled the number of food imports, according to the number of calories Gazans should consume.

Israeli government controls not only the exterior borders of the West Bank, but also the interior. While the Palestinian Authority manages utilities and infrastructure for much of the West Bank, the Israeli settler regional councils control forty percent of West Bank land. Even in areas like Ramallah, supposedly under complete Palestinian Authority control, Israeli government reserves the right to enter the city at any time, and can close its streets and shops, barge into homes, and can make warrantless nabs when required. They often do nightly air and drone raids, and have been attacking fishermen and farmers in Gaza. 

The Palestinian Authority does maintain a judicial and penal system, but are subject to Israel’s military court system, and laws such as Military Order 101, which bans peaceful protest. They are prosecuted in Israeli military courts, have served time in Israeli military prisons, and have no say over who is appointed to the military courts.

About twenty percent of Israeli citizens are Palestinian.  And, Jerusalem Palestinians hold the status of permanent residents, allowing them to vote in municipal, but not national elections. However, a closer look reveals careful distortion of demographics, to ensure at least a seventy percent of Jewish majority at all times. Through policies such as inordinate taxation, requiring constant proof of residency status, and denial of family unification, since 1967, Israel has managed to revoke the residency of 14, 595 Palestinian Jerusalemites. In the present times, Israel’s courts are in the process of ethnically cleansing the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.


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