I am in Israel hoping to see the end of an era, the downfall of Benjamin Netanyahu. I hope that he is crushed in the election tonight. Many who care about Palestinians want Netanyahu to be reelected. They say that things must get worse before they get better, or that no one has done more to delegitimize the state of Israel in the eyes of the world than crude Benjamin Netanyahu the king of the Jews. True. Keep him in another couple of years, they say, and Israel will be discredited in more and more people’s eyes. I don’t support this view.
I look at everything Israeli first in terms of my interest, as an American who wants to end the Zionist captivity in the U.S. Wanting Netanyahu to stay in office is a little bit like saying, I want the neocons to stay in the thinktanks and influential posts and foment a war in Iran so that they will be fully discredited, and people will put their heads on pikes. That might be in my ideological interest, but it is nihilistic. The neocons have already done enough damage. If they aren’t discredited enough at this point, then you’re f’ing stupid. Walt and Mearsheimer’s worst charges against the Israel lobby have been proven, in the minds of reasonable people. I don’t want to win ideological battles at the price of a war that will hurt a lot of people I don’t know.
Another few years of Netanyahu will hurt a lot of people. It will hurt more Palestinians in the West Bank, force more people out of their homes in East Jerusalem, it will increase the likelihood of another Gaza war.
So you don’t think Labor Zionists will massacre Palestinians in Gaza? They have done so in the past, and the US Zionists have supported them. They cheered Cast Lead at J Street. And won’t a Herzog government just give the occupation a lease on life?
I’m a progressive and hope for reform. A Labor led government will be much more obedient to world opinion and to European opinion than Netanyahu. I was at Netanyahu’s rally in Tel Aviv the other night and saw fascist strains before my eyes, the racist binding of nationalists around a mythic past, people who were ready to spill blood and who deny Palestinian existence, let alone humanity. That’s not a healthy thing for any society. Their defiance of world opinion is dangerous. They have nukes (as William Greider reminded Nation readers the other day). They help to confirm everything bad we have ever said about Israel, but are you in this to win an argument? I’m in it because I want to end the Zionist ideology in the U.S. and free the Palestinians. And yes, the Zionist Camp in the context of the rise of the Joint Arab List is less likely to commit massacres.
Will they give the occupation another five years and sustain the myth of the two state solution?
These are the most important questions. Gideon Levy is certainly right that a Labor Zionist victory will cause dancing in the capitals of Europe and Washington too. At J Street’s conference next week they will be delirious. It will be the second coming. They will say Israel is great again, Israeli democracy has vindicated itself. And Look at the Arab List!!! OMG. A friend says we are about to see a great sickening wave of Israel-loving in the U.S.
There is no doubt about any of this.
But I will be happy because it is necessary that anti-Zionists be engaged with liberal Zionists, and let the better argument win. That is an important phase of this struggle. And that battle will be at hand.
Look at it like this: for years the liberal Zionists have said, Give Israel a chance. Israel can change, Israelis want a two state solution. They actually want a Palestinian state. You will see, just give us a chance.
Now they will have their chance. They will be in power at last, the moment they’ve been preparing us for will be here. The neoconservatives will have been driven from Washington. Bill Kristol will be thoroughly discredited. Not just wrong on Iraq and wrong on a war of civilizations, but wrong on everything that Netanyahu has done politically in the last couple of years and months. Kristol has the reverse Midas touch; everything he touches has turned to shit.
The neocon collapse will leave the anti-Zionists to battle the liberal Zionists at last. The liberal Zionists will have to engage the side that believes in equal rights. There will be an open debate. Jeremy Ben-Ami who had big public conversations with Jeffrey Goldberg (who served in the IDF and stoked the Iraq war) and Bill Kristol (who didn’t serve in Vietnam and stoked the Iraq war) and tried to pretend we did not exist will have to take us on. Because the rightwing Zionists will be irrelevant and Jeremy Ben-Ami and Peace Now will be the new AIPAC. They will be the lobby, they will inherit the crown. And they will have to engage us because we are inside the Democratic Party base now. There will at last be a real debate between these two sides. It will be Rebecca Vilkomerson versus Jeremy Ben-Ami. Ali Abunimah versus Lara Friedman. They won’t be able to marginalize us.
I write in good faith. The liberal Zionists will have influence in Washington at last and let us see what they can do. The first question Jeremy Ben-Ami will get at his victory bath next week in D.C will be, Well how much time do you give this government to make a deal? Two years, Jeremy? I am open to hearing what they have to say about ending the conflict. Myself I am not wed to a one-state or two-state program, and though I oppose religious states, I am tolerant, I don’t want to tell other people how to live. But we will demand that the liberal Zionists perform. And if they come up with a solution to end the occupation and give Palestinians sovereignty and resolve the right of return in a way that is acceptable to Palestinian refugees, I can imagine not fighting them. I want this conflict to be over and without massive bloodshed– as doubtful as that seems, given the Algeria-like materials that have been heaped up by the right wing that Netanyahu demagogued to in the last days of the campaign, and by all of Zionist Israel at Qalandiya crossing and the hateful wall.
We should be dubious about Herzog and the liberal Zionists. They’re not really liberals, actually (and how many years does Peter Beinart get to be in crisis before he resolves it?). And I will continue to support BDS because it is the only real pressure on a country that rubbishes Palestinian rights. But they will at last have their chance and depending what Herzog says in Washington, I might even wish him well. But they must produce.
So count me among those who can’t wait for the monster Netanyahu to be gone. Get him out of the picture, crush the Greater Israel lobby, put pressure on the settlement project, and clear the way for a debate between a “Jewish democracy” and equal rights. This will be an immensely clarifying moment. I can’t wait.