Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu followed his electoral victory by flipping back on the flip-flop in which he finally admitted that he would never allow a Palestinian state but then tried to take back his admission to appease foreign critics. Yet, it was never a secret where Netanyahu really stood, says Alon Ben-Meir.
By Alon Ben-Meir
In a follow-up question to the statement that Prime Minister Netanyahu made during an interview with the Israeli website NRG — in which he stated that “I think that anyone who moves to establish a Palestinian state and evacuate territory, gives territory away to radical Islamist attacks against Israel” — he was asked if that meant a Palestinian state would not be established if he is reelected. Netanyahu replied, “Indeed.”
This was not in the least a surprise to me, as I have never believed that Netanyahu was sincere when he declared in 2009 at Bar Ilan University that he supported a two-state solution, nor did I ever believe him when he repeatedly stated that Israel is prepared to make “painful concessions” to reach an agreement with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu’s travails and misguidance go back decades. He is a blind ideologue and a revisionist Zionist who defied and denied the right of the Palestinians to a home of their own. As Prime Minister, during the past six years in particular, Netanyahu has caused more damage to Israel domestically and internationally than Israel’s worst enemies could have possibly contemplated.
Domestically, he did next to nothing to reduce the cost of living, housing became unaffordable, and hundreds of thousands of children joined the ranks of those living under the poverty line. He allowed huge corporations to monopolize major industries and did nothing to introduce education reform. Netanyahu deliberately undermined Israel’s democratic and human rights principles by allowing open-ended discrimination against Israeli Arabs in jobs, housing, funding for schools, infrastructure and the overall economic development of predominantly Arab villages and towns.
On the Palestinian front, he systematically pursued the expansion of settlements, expropriated increasing swaths of Palestinian land, enforced a brutal occupation regime and simply exploited Palestinian cooperation on security matters only to serve his own narrow interests. To make matters worse, he waged two wars against Hamas at extraordinary human and material cost, especially on the Palestinian side.
Moreover, his discriminatory policy toward the Palestinians and the continued occupation gave rise to increasing anti-Semitism around the world, making Israel appear ever more as a pariah state with no scruples about human rights violations, defying both the international community and Israel’s own moral principles on which the state was built.
Netanyahu has caused immense damage to relations with the United States, the most indispensable supporter of Israel on all fronts — militarily, economically, and politically — without which, Israel as we know it could not possibly survive. He has consistently lied to the U.S. about his intentions to negotiate with the Palestinians in earnest to achieve peace based on a two-state solution. He used the pretext of national security to stampede any efforts by the U.S. to ease the conflict with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu has undermined the U.S. efforts to reach an agreement with Iran’s nuclear program; time and again, he insulted President Barack Obama, especially when he accepted the invitation to speak at a joint session of Congress to challenge Obama’s potential deal with Iran.
To be sure, no leader of any country, let alone a close ally of the U.S., has weakened the U.S. standing and credibility among the Arab states more than Netanyahu. He abused America’s unfettered support of Israel, paying no heed to the fact that without the crucial political support of the U.S., Israel would become dangerously vulnerable to international political pressure.
In addition, due to his reckless policies toward the Palestinians and his inborn dishonesty and dismissive attitude, Netanyahu managed to alienate the entire European Union community, creating a situation where Israel will sooner than later be subject to intensified sanctions and further isolation. Meanwhile, he lost an unprecedented opportunity to work closely with the Sunni Arab states to bring about an end to the vicious cycle of violence with the Palestinians by embracing the Arab Peace Initiative.
Netanyahu’s election victory represents a horrifying development that will cause irreparable damage to Israel in every which way imaginable. In particular, he will scuttle once and for all any prospect of peace with the Palestinians, inviting them to seek an independent state though the United Nations and opening up the possibility that the Obama administration will no longer provide Israel with blanket political immunity.
As he will continue to expand the settlements, expropriate more Palestinian land, and impose ever-harsher measures that will be needed to maintain the occupation, it will be only a question of time when the Palestinians rise against Israel and plunge both sides into a major conflagration that will exact blood and treasure beyond anything that we have seen thus far.
In the interim, Israel will lose what is left of its legitimacy and will be treated as an apartheid state subject to international condemnation, sanctions and divestment. To be sure, the stakes for Israel have never been higher.
If Netanyahu wants his legacy as Prime Minister to be that of preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state, he has succeeded. In his wake, however, he will leave a troubled nation, a nation filled with anxiety and fear for the future.
Should the next government end up being led by Netanyahu (as now seems likely), every Israeli will live to mourn the demise of Israel as a democratic and Jewish state and the home of brave pioneers who made a millennium-long dream a reality.
Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies. firstname.lastname@example.org. Web: www.alonben-meir.com