After the killings in a Tel Aviv market last night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called an emergency cabinet meeting for today, but what will he say? Surely that Palestinians as a whole have to be punished even more for acts of violence a few undertake. Look for more restrictions on the movements of West Bank Palestinians, more house demolitions of families related to assailants, more denunciations of Palestinian leadership.
But Israel is in the midst of a political crisis, with one military/security leader after another saying that Netanyahu’s government is inciting violence; and that without a path to freedom, Palestinians are bound to resist the occupier.
The latest is the former head of the Israeli intelligence service, Efraim Halevy, who said last week that the wave of Palestinian knife attacks was inevitable because of the occupation, and that Israel should stop demonizing Hamas because military leaders want to work with Hamas. Exactly the opposite of what Netanyahu has said.
Halevy was interviewed on Al Jazeera by Mehdi Hasan [part 1], and began by criticizing Netanyahu’s approach to alleged terrorism. Halevy said there are “various types of terrorism”– and some terrorists need to be bargained with!
I do not subscribe to the way that Netanyahu describes terrorism. I believe that there are various types of terrorism. There are certain groups in the terrorist world with which we should have a dialogue…
He criticized Netanyahu for getting angry at UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for saying that the occupation produced violent resistance.
I think it was a kneejerk reaction to a statement of the secretary general. I believe it was probably politically motivated. I personally would have avoided such a statement.
Asked if there is a relationship between Israel’s military occupation and the violence of some Palestinians, Halevy said Yes.
Unfortunately, yes. I think one has to admit that since we are in control of the West Bank and since there is no political movement to move the situation in the West Bank to somewhere else and to give it a different either status or whatever you like to call it, I think one should expect unfortunately that there will be people who think that they have to rise up and who have to fight against it. That’s why I believe that we always have to offer our enemies alternatives to violence and I think we have not been all that good in doing so.
This is just what Lt. General Yair Golan said in his Holocaust remembrance day speech that so angered the prime minister. Palestinians are normal people who are going to resist occupation, while Israel is exhibiting traits of Nazi Germany. “There is nothing easier than hating the alien. Nothing is easier and more simple than provoking anxiety and horror. Nothing is easier and simpler than brutalization, jadedness and self-righteousness,” Golan said, then a week later Moshe Ya’alon resigned as defense minister, warning about fascism in Israeli society, and Netanyahu appointed the rightwinger Avigdor Lieberman to replace Ya’alon.
Halevy said that Netanyahu’s days are numbered. These recent events
herald the beginning of the countdown to the end of the administration of Mr. Netanyahu. This is going to be the first shot in a series of events which I believe might come about in the next year or two which will bring the transition from the Netanyahu era to a different era.
The 82-year-old former spook further defied Netanyahu by dismissing the premier’s spirit of militant chauvinism. He said Hamas must be treated as a normal political force– and all the Israeli military brass know it. “You have to have a political policy and not just a military policy,” he said, a direct slap at Netanyahu’s policy of repressing Gaza.
Let me let you into a secret, OK? If you go now to Israel and speak to the commanders in the field of the IDF… Every brigade commander who has been commanding a unit opposite the Gaza strip believes that the best situation for Israel at this point in time is that the Hamas should be there rather than anybody else. They are there to stay for a long period of time… You have to have a political policy and not just a military policy.
Halevy said that Israel invades Gaza with a disregard for civilian casualties, and he approved of former American officials talking to Hamas.
Echoing Golan, he expressed the concern that “Jewish terror” is on the rise and has gained support from the Israeli public and ministers and politicians.
And meantime, Netanyahu is misusing the Holocaust to justify fearful policies, Halevy said. Because Israel’s security is assured “for 1000 years,” and Iran was never an existential threat.
I believe there is no existential threat to Israel from anybody in the world including the Iranians… The total of all our capabilities, both defensive and offensive, are such that we can be sure and assured, that the existence of Israel is assured for the next 1000 years….
I know many people in the establishment who believe what I’m saying, that we have sufficient capability to assure our existence. Why is fear being used as a tool to assure Israel’s support of one side or another? This unfortunately goes back to our recent history of the last 100 years. Because those who quote the existential threat also go back to the Holocaust. I believe there is no comparison between the Holocaust and what is happening now. Because in the Holocaust we were defenseless; and today we are the strongest military power in the middle east.
So all of Netanyahu’s ferocious bluster against the deal– paralyzing the entire world as it tried to achieve a breakthrough in diplomacy, by marshaling the U.S. Jewish community and Israel lobby behind him — was for domestic political consumption. Halevy described Netanyahu as a complete cynic:
Because.. look how silent most of the Israeli leaders are on Iran. Suddenly, it’s almost a deafening silence. Whereas before the deal was signed, almost every day people were railing against it and so forth, suddenly the tone has changed and suddenly it’s possible for the Israeli prime minister to go to Moscow, and to talk to the Russian president at the same time that the Iranians are coming to Moscow too, and they are now probably one of the biggest allies of the Russians in the Middle East.
The bottom line on this interview is that Halevy is trashing Netanyahu right and left on Al Jazeera and none of this is in the American press. Netanyahu is still treated as a sacred figure in our MSM, even after he insulted our president; and the head of a Democratic thinktank fawns over him like Ghandi or Mandela and Hillary Clinton says he’ll be coming to the White House if she’s elected in the first month. He is never questioned like a normal politician, while everyone in Israeli leadership knows him as the most cynical politician they have ever met. What contempt Netanyahu has for American politics.
Of course Bernie Sanders sought to end that bar in April when he said, “There comes a time when if we pursue justice and peace we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time.”
But no politician in the U.S. could make this series of honest accusations and criticisms against Netanyahu and withstand the storm of criticism that would follow. Clinton has yet to utter a word against him; and Donald Trump will be visiting Israel soon to get his photo-op with the leader called a fascist by the men who know him best.
This interview shows that the Israeli government has lost everyone at this point but the right wing and the American power structure: it’s lost Europe, it’s lost the American left, it’s lost young American Jews, it’s lost its own security establishment. And still it hangs on to our elites.
Look what happened to James Fallows a year ago when he dared to murmur what Halevy and other Israeli security leaders have said baldly, that Netanyahu is manipulating the Holocaust to oppose a deal that poses no risk to Israel and is good for the world. Tablet magazine’s James Kirchick jumped in to say that Fallows was an anti-Semite:
To be a warmonger out of unreasonable and misplaced fears that impel you to manipulate the entire world into wars is one thing; to do so out of sheer lust for power is straight out of Christopher Marlowe, or Henry Ford.
By such smears, the American discourse is twisted in the pro-Israel direction. But the propagandists cannot keep Israel’s political crisis from coming here. And its own leaders’ criticisms of Netanyahu begin the countdown to the end of an orthodoxy.