“In our government there will be no Kahane and no BALAD,” said Israeli centrist contender Benny Gantz, in response to Netanyahu’s efforts to bring in the Jewish Power party (the ‘David Dukes’ of Israeli politics) to ensure a rightwing majority in parliament.
Surely, Netanyahu’s attempt is despicable – but what of Gantz’s comparison? BALAD is a predominantly Palestinian-Israeli party which seeks equality in a secular state.
BALAD responded to Gantz officially (Hebrew):
The announcement by Benny Gantz’s “Israeli Resilience” party, wherein he compares between BALAD, a democratic party which represents a large part of the Arab public, and the Kahanist mentors of Jewish terror, shows that Gantz – who not long ago glorified and boasted about the destruction he inflicted on Gaza – is no different from Netanayhu who incites against the Arabs and warns about their coming to vote in droves.
Balad is a moral party which promotes the most democratic platform – a state of all its citizens. We will certainly not join a Gantz government and he is barging into an open door. A democratic party like BALAD opposes not only Netanyahu, but also Netanyahu 2 called Gantz.
That’s a great statement. Benny Gantz is supposedly a rival of Netanyahu, but is really his alter-ego inside the Zionist spectrum. Not that there aren’t shades of gray in it, but here Gantz is clearly marking what he, and Zionism, consider completely out of discussion: a democratic, secular state of all its citizens. Such a suggestion is seen as akin to fascist exclusivist Jewish terrorism, because it will supposedly destroy the state from inside.
Such a view is mainstream in the Israeli left-center. The Labor leader Avi Gabbay said as much when he was elected to lead the party in summer 2017:
The Joint List’s current composition includes anti-Zionist elements like [Haneen] Zoabi and [Jamal] Zahalka, so we can’t cooperate with this composition.
(Gabbay was referring to the two BALAD leaders who won’t be running for parliament in coming elections).
This is a sad reality, and it’s not about Benjamin Netanyahu or Benjamin Gantz, Netanyahu 1 or Netanyahu 2. It’s really like Gabbay says – it’s about Zionism. Because equality is simply anathema to Zionism, no matter how much Zionist apologists point out that there are Arab citizens in Israel.
So when the Zionist leaders compete on who is more Zionist, they are bound to incite against those few who dare to challenge the Zionist model. And that puts them in the center, serving as an insurance against claims that they are “Arab lovers” (as former Labor leader Isaac Herzog warned).
The Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit) leaders are followers of Meir Kahane – former leader of ‘Kach’ party which was banned from running in the elections in 1988 and was designated as a terror organization in Israel, the U.S., Canada and the EU. The leader of ‘Kach’ Meir Kahane managed to get elected in 1984 and was boycotted by all the other parties in the Knesset. He tried to pass a law for stripping non-Jews from their citizenship, a law for separate beaches for Jews and Arabs and other racist laws.
These are the party leaders, as David Horovitz characterizes them in the Times of Israel:
– Former lawmaker Michael Ben-Ari. Interviewed on Army Radio on Wednesday afternoon, he was asked to disavow Kahane’s racist ideology. He ridiculed the notion. Kahane, he said, was his teacher, his rabbi.
– Itamar Ben Gvir, made headlines in Israel in 1995 when he held up the Cadillac insignia ripped from prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s car and bragged to a TV camera, “Just as we got to this symbol, we can get to Rabin” – merely a few weeks before Rabin’s murder.
– Baruch Marzel, a former top aide to Kahane known for organizing parties in celebration of Baruch Goldstein, who massacred 29 Palestinians at prayer in Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs in 1994.
– Benzi Gopstein, an ex-Kahane student and Kach activist whose Lehava movement works to prevent relationships — romantic and otherwise — between Jews and Palestinians.
These are the guys that Netanyahu was so bent on having alliance with, to secure his rightwing majority. The fear was that if Jewish Power didn’t make alliance with other right religious-nationalist parties, those parties might fall below the 3.25% Knesset threshold (the so-called blocking line of four seats in the parliament) and go to waste. Jewish Home had already made alliance last week with the National Union faction, but was still resisting pressure to merge with Jewish Power – until Netanyahu spearheaded a personal campaign for them to join forces.
Netanyahu promised to give the Jewish Home party the 28th spot on Likud’s candidate list in return for election merger with Jewish Power. This move is expected to secure the needed 4 seats for this alliance.
These are the sensibilities in the Israeli elections. Netanyahu will make these deals with the Israeli David Dukes, and Gantz will chide him for it, but in doing so incite against those who seek a liberal, democratic, state of all its citizens. In the end, Gantz’s party name “Israeli Resilience” really does translate to Jewish Power. Because that’s what Zionism is about – the “strong Jew”.
For the ‘liberal-Zionists’, the only question remaining is how to make that palatable to everyone else, how to make it sound democratic, how to make it seem liberal, how to make it look moral. But when it comes down to it, Zionists view equality as their destruction.
H/t Ofer Neiman