Last week the Jerusalem city councilman and settler Aryeh King gave a presentation at a private apartment in New York, and having signed up with Americans for a Safe Israel, I was supplied the address by telephone and attended. The gathering was in a sprawling apartment over Central Park. On one wall was a full-length oil portrait of the owner and his wife and on another was a pastel drawing of the wife in a cloche hat and scarf. The portraiture was endearing but slightly out of date. That is the most comforting fact about hard-right Zionist events; everyone’s older than me, and I’m 60.
Aryeh King stood out because he has real energy. As I sucked down red wine from settlements (Beit El and Gush Etzion), my eye was drawn to him at once. At about 45, with a barrel chest and a balding bulletshaped head topped by a yarmulke, he looks like he could be a bouncer, but he’s got a verbal bullish charm and could draw people almost anywhere. When he began speaking, he didn’t stop for two hours (as Alex Kane found when he met him last year). Ritual fringes hung from the hem of his open purple shirt over brown dungarees; and a lot of his speech was religious. He calls Netanyahu the “most dangerous prime minister” for Jerusalem because he is aiming to cordon off neighborhoods to prevent Jews from moving into them, he dismisses Naftali Bennett as “Bibi in a kippa,” and he derides the Jewish National Fund as a “post-Zionist” organization because it has allowed 750 Arabs to live on lands that it should be giving to Jews.
King was in the U.S. to energize the “Jewish nation” on behalf of the Jewish state, he said, and much of his talk described meetings with rich foreign Jews who are buying up land in occupied territories. He is good friends of the Florida settler baron Irving Moskowitz; King told of two rejected offers he carried from Moskowitz to buy land in East Jerusalem (from the JNF and from Hebrew University). He talked about his work with the Australian tech magnate Kevin Bermeister to expand Jewish Jerusalem in all directions. The night before he had met with the Lubinskys in Brooklyn to discuss efforts to Judaize the Mount of Olives.
That’s where King lives. When he told us that his neighborhood had grown in 15 years from a few families to five kindergartens and 500 Jewish children, the audience of 40 broke into applause.
The racist element of King’s message was unapologetic. “We want maximum Jews to own maximum land,” he said, and warned that Jerusalem has gone from 70 percent Jewish to 62 percent Jewish in the last 20 years or so. Seeking to reverse the trend, he showed us videos of himself working with the Israeli army to serve papers to evict Palestinians from houses built on “Jewish land.” The Galilee was even worse: “70 percent Arab. It’s much much worse than in east Jerusalem.”
In the American political context, such statements would be a third rail. In a Zionist context, they’re manna.
But give the devil his due, the most interesting part of the evening was King’s geopolitics. Let me relay a couple of his riffs.
The last time King had been in New York, his host said that he had been too pessimistic.
“I want to end with something optimist. I tell you that I really believe that it’s all depend on who is the leader. Not who is your leader— by the way. People say ‘Obama, Obama.’ Shtuyot. [Translating] Nonsense…. You can do in Jerusalem and Israel everything– and Obama if you’re asking me would not think about touching Israel. And I will explain you why. Today more than ever United States needs Israel more than Israel needs the United States. I will give you three examples.”
King’s three examples were, first, that the U.S. needs a military base in Israel as it never has before. “The US can depend on no country” in the region except Israel. “No Turkey, no Egypt, no one.” King said that all the arms the US supplies to Turkey, Iraq and Egypt are stored in Israel. “There is a town under the ground,” he said, controlled by the American army. And American ships used to be repaired in Egypt. Now: Israel.
The second reason was radar. The United States operates a radar that defends Europe from a mountain in southern Israel called Har Keren. “Israeli army cannot go there. To protect what? Europe– not Israel.”
The third reason was a train line that is being built for billions of dollars to connect Eilat on the Red Sea with Ashkelon on the Mediterranean. King said that the train construction began after the Muslim Brotherhood took over Egypt and the west feared it would lose access to the Suez Canal. And though the Egyptian dictator who knocked out the Brothers had expanded the Suez canal, “Today, it’s Sisi, tomorrow can be again [Mohammed] Morsi, and the brothers.”
It sounded a lot like Noam Chomsky and Jeff Halper’s analysis. King concluded by saying that this gives an Israeli leader autonomy, but he must wield that power on behalf of Jews.
Believe me, today America needs Israel more than in history… They don’t have anyone else to depend on…. I believe that if we have the right leader in Israel– someone who believe we own Eretz Israel and we own Jerusalem– not because of security reasons, not because of demographic reasons– but because we have a book that is saying it.
Someone then asked, Who would you vote for?
Whoever believe in God, I believe in him.
So to be clear, King believes as do many Zionists that the bible ordains the Jewish state, Zionism is inherent in the Jewish religion.
At this point, our host, Mark Langfan, interrupted to say that we all needed to convey a message about Muslim refugees to our neighbors.
“Today they’re bringing suitcases. Tomorrow, without Israel, they’re going to be bringing Kalashnikov’s. That’s all you say.”
Then Langfan handed out a map showing Israel standing between 11 million Christians in Greece and 300 million or so Muslims to the east.
I asked Aryeh King a question: The reason Netanyahu has disappointed you is that he is under great international pressure to do something that looks like he’s allowing the creation of a Palestinian state. And if Israel doesn’t do anything to enfranchise Palestinians, won’t boycott pressures just increase?
King said that he would give citizenship to Palestinians in Jerusalem, but that in Judea and Samaria– biblical terms for the West Bank– “We need to give them citizenship with Jordan.” Jordan is already 70 percent Palestinian, and if Israel (somehow) gives Palestinians Jordanian citizenship and gives them money –“each one of them, $100,000” — “they will go.”
He called this the “Hagar” plan. The bible records the Jews’ struggle for their land, he explained. In Genesis, Isaac fights Abimelech for land around Beersheba; and in the same book, God tells Abraham that he will make a nation of the descendants of Ishmael, Abraham’s son by his servant Hagar; but Abraham has to turn Hagar and the boy out. So Abraham gave bread and water to Hagar “and sent her away,” the bible says. Ishmael’s descendants became Muslims.
By sending the Palestinians to Jordan, King said, “we are helping out to build their country.”
And what about the boycott movement? I asked. King said boycott would “disappear.” By 2020, Israel will have much better and stronger allies in Europe. Another lesson in geopolitics–
“Paris was just the beginning,” King said. There will be many more attacks in Europe. And in the next few years, the army of a northern European country will open fire on Muslims inside its borders. How will that come to pass? A small European monarchy like Belgium, Denmark or Sweden will have greater autonomy to act than France, Germany, or Spain; and it will feel threatened by the Muslims in its borders, because in any area in which Muslims are a majority, from a street to a city to a country, “by law they must enforce the Sharia law on the rest of the city,” King said. “So that’s happening already.”
As I left the place, I reflected that many in Israel and ISIS really do share an interest; a religious war/clash of civilizations would actually be a boon to Jewish nationalists and Islamist extremists, and bind Israel and the west for another generation or so. I thought of the time a few years back that former Israeli admiral Ami Ayalon, a liberal Zionist matinee idol, told J Street that Israel had constructed a nationalist story to get the settlers to move to Jerusalem and the West Bank– well, he said, it could create another nationalist narrative to get them to move back into Israel. This is clearly not true. King has a religious story that precedes all that. He doesn’t plan on going anywhere.