We can all agree that this is the chain of events in Israel over the last eight momentous weeks:
- An Israeli medic executes a wounded Palestinian prisoner lying on the street in Hebron and a video of the shooting goes around the world.
- Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his cabinet defend the murdering medic; Netanyahu even calls the medic’s family to offer support. The army brass is angered by the politicians’ apologia for the killing. This culminates in deputy chief of staff Yair Golan giving a speech on Holocaust remembrance day likening Israel to Nazi Germany and Netanyahu summoning Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, who stands up for Golan.
- Yaalon is fired/quits, and warns of fascistic strains in Israeli society.
- Avigdor Lieberman is named to replace Yaalon. Lieberman’s Israel Home party is in negotiations to join the Netanyahu coalition.
Everyone is diagnosing the problem. Those who have been spinning for 30 years continue to spin. Here is Netanyahu mentor Moshe Arens blaming a couple of bad apples for all the trouble.
The two hyperactive Likud politicians who put together the plot to unseat Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and replace him with Avigdor Lieberman have a myopic view of Israeli politics….
And even non-hyperbolic observers– Chemi Shalev of Haaretz — are getting very specific indeed about 1930’s analogies.
Instead of reining in the radical right, Netanyahu kowtows to it. He may not like analogies to Germany of the 1930s but he might find himself one day being compared to Franz Von Papen or Kurt Von Schleicher, the conservative German chancellors who thought they could rein in the Nazis by coopting them: they were ultimately devoured by the monster they helped create.
Some don’t want to let Netanyahu off the hook so easily as saying the “monsters devour”. Ronen Bergman in his New York Times op-ed placed the blame for these “disturbing trends” squarely on Netanyahu’s shoulders. The only question his article leaves is what exactly is wrong with Mr. Netanyahu. Why is he doing these things over and over again year after year, that everyone agrees are terrible for the security and the mental and moral health of the state of Israel? Will Lieberman “ruthlessly squash” the opposition? Could there even be a military “coup”?
Finally the New York Times is putting its two cents in. The Times editorial board has had enough! But wait, what is the story here? Titled “A Baffling, Hard-line Choice in Israel,” the editorial bewails Netanyahu’s decision to “shore up his coalition”: that for “political needs” he offered the second most powerful position in the Israeli government to someone like Lieberman. Netanyahu “seems to think that bringing peace to his shaky coalition” is worth Lieberman in defense.
What is the paper of record telling its readers has been going on in Israel the last couple of months? Nothing more than a political reshuffling. No mention of Yair Golan’s Holocaust Nazi talk. Nor of Netanyahu’s urgent meeting with Yaalon about it. Nothing about fascism and coups. The whole editorial is bemoaning the old Kissinger “Israel has no foreign policy only domestic policy” syndrome.
So Netanyahu is going to get his usual mild tongue lashing. The NYT has run the same tsk tsk editorial about Israeli government decisions for 40 years. What is it going to take for them to write about Israel as if it were any other country? Will the Times even run an editorial if there actually was a coup in Israel? Or will it make some vague reference to Israel’s “tumultuous and unruly” democracy? What will it take for the NYT to stop making the most preposterously generous interpretation of everything Israel ever does?
For Americans, this was the most insulting paragraph in the editorial:
Mr. Netanyahu may think his political needs are more important than relations with the soon-to-end Obama administration, relations that are already severely strained by the nuclear agreement with Iran. But the administration had at least established a working relationship with Moshe Yaalon, the tough but pragmatic defense minister who resigned once the offer to Mr. Lieberman became known. The timing of this changing of the guard is particularly sensitive because a critical 10-year defense agreement establishing new levels of American military aid for Israel is in the final stages of negotiations.
Is that really what strained the relationship, the Iran agreement? The strain had nothing to do with Netanyahu’s conduct over the last year?
As for the” particularly sensitive” timing of this “changing of the guard,” because of a critical defense agreement…. Listen to what the Times is saying. What are you doing Netanyahu! Why bring in Lieberman — who the Obama administration didn’t let into the White House– because hey, it’s just not in Israel’s interest what you’re doing? You’re so close to reaching an agreement!
The Times needn’t have worried. Five minutes after Netanyahu got rid of Yaalon, the US put out a statement saying this won’t affect our negotiations over aid. Netanyahu understands the “special relationship” just a wee bit better than the NY Times does.
As for the beginning of this drama, did the Times mention the murdering medic? Of course. It found its way into the editorial:
“Mr. Lieberman’s ties with Israel’s own military establishment are frayed, [my emphasis] most recently by his defense of an Israeli soldier arrested for executing a wounded Palestinian”
Wow, NY Times editorial writer, that story sure sounds interesting. Is that the really only connection between the murdering medic and the story you’re telling us about Lieberman?
This editorial is retelling the last act in a play and it is baffled, baffled that nothing makes sense.
There is a war going on in Israel right now over the very nature of the Jewish state, and this misleading NY Times editorial is an embarrassing and obfuscating contribution to the discourse.
I will continue to track the writers’ responses to these dramatic events. And while I am no expert on Israeli political reality, now and then I will put in my own pessimistic view: I wonder if the problem is a lot bigger than Netanyahu, the problem is Israeli society. And just as more “facts on the ground” make a 2 state solution less and less likely, so too do “myths in the mind” make any peaceful solutions to this political crisis impossible. Have Netanyahu and people like him poisoned and incited the Israeli mind against the Palestinians to such an extent, that the “end of the conflict” will never be the end of the conflict? Is it too late for Israelis to be told that Palestinians are not Nazis? Will it be enough to announce, “The hasbara campaign claiming that the Palestinians just wanted to kill Jews has been a rousing success, it has allowed us to kill and destroy far longer than we could have otherwise; however now we have peace, and that’s all ancient history, and they are no longer Nazis?”
And meantime, the world’s biggest expert on Israel still remains silent. Jeffrey Goldberg, please help us understand: what’s going on in Israel!