The Israeli elections are tomorrow, and the growing odds in favor of Netanyahu returning to a fifth term, the longest any Israeli PM has served, is causing agony to American liberal Zionists– especially because he promised to annex the settlement blocs in the West Bank while campaigning this weekend. The warning that liberal Zionists have long issued– the Jewish state will no longer be a democratic state but will be inherently racist — has become impossible for even the warners to ignore.
Indeed, J Street promptly issued an urgent call on the American Jewish “establishment” and American politicians to condemn Netanyahu’s remarks. And Beto O’Rourke did so unequivocally.
The crisis of the two-state solution is on the front page of the New York Times today:
a stark, fateful and long-deferred choice has suddenly reappeared to confront [Israelis] after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s unexpected promise to begin extending sovereignty over the West Bank if he is re-elected.
Do voters want to make permanent their country’s control over the West Bank and its 2.6 million Palestinian inhabitants? Or do they want to keep alive the possibility that a Palestinian state could be carved out there one day?
David Halbfinger’s article is filled with quotations of concern from liberal Zionists like Michael Koplow of Israel Policy Forum, former US ambassador Dan Shapiro and Nimrod Novik, formerly an adviser to Shimon Peres. “It will be taken by the Palestinians, by the other Arabs and by the international community as an Israeli national decision to slam the door on a two-state solution, on a negotiated agreement,” says Novik.
(“This is a profoundly problematic article. So many liberal Zionists wringing their hands, now, as if no one saw this coming for years. It’s almost criminal,” Scott Roth notes on twitter.)
Roger Cohen is in genuine agony. His New York Times column has a doomsday feel. He writes from Tel Aviv that Netanyahu’s support “is fanatical” and “rabid.” I’ve never seen Cohen so frank about what Israel is.
Israel is a changed country. The land-for-peace left died. It broke as a political camp; the idea was orphaned. Separation supplanted peace as Israel’s aspiration. Palestinians, for many Israelis, continue their eerie passage into abstraction, a process cynically encouraged by the Trump administration… The one politician who put the peace issue front and center, the former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, dropped out — from the campaign and from politics altogether…
The country’s basic law that was passed last year declared Israel the nation-state of the Jewish people alone, despite the fact that Arab citizens make up a fifth of the population. When Netanyahu says, as he did this year, that Israel is “the nation-state, not of all its citizens, but only of the Jewish people,” he eviscerates the core idea of democratic citizenship. No longer is everyone equal before the law. What then are the others, second-class shadows?..
“The status quo is an illusion,” [former Netanyahu deputy Dan] Meridor told me. “It moves. You end up in one state that contains people who don’t vote, that is not Jewish in terms of numbers, and that is not democratic.”
Cohen endorses Benny Gantz as the last hope for Israel. “He’s no dove on Palestine, but I believe he would at least attempt to engage in serious negotiation with the Palestinians…”
Here is J Street’s statement condemning Netanyahu’s promise and Calling All Politicians and Jews.
[A]ll responsible American elected officials and presidential candidates must make clear that Netanyahu’s statement is dangerous and unacceptable…
All American Jewish organizations that claim to support a two-state solution must come together to unequivocally condemn the direction in which Netanyahu and his political allies are leading the state of Israel. At such a pivotal time, any silence or equivocation will be seen as condoning the prime minister’s vision of permanent occupation, unending conflict and a one-state nightmare.”
Netanyahu’s statement ends all doubt – the right intends to annex and occupy the West Bank permanently. They have no interest in peace, simply in Palestinian surrender. No more excuses for US politicians and American Jewish establishment. Time for loud, principled opposition.
(What will that mean in months to come? J Street has supported anti-boycott legislation.)
At least one US politician hears the liberal Zionists. Beto O’Rourke is running against Netanyahu in the Democratic presidential primary.
The US Israel relationship is one of the most important relationships we have on the planet. That relationship, if it is to be successful, must transcend partisanship in the United States, and it must be able to transcend a prime minister who is racist, as he warns about Arabs coming to the polls, who wants to defy any prospect for peace as he threatens to annex the West Bank, and who has sided with a far-right, racist party in order to maintain his hold on power,
Beto: “The U.S.-Israel relationship… must be able to transcend a Prime Minister who is racist… I don’t think that Benjamin Netanyahu represents the true will of the Israeli people or the best interest of the U.S.-Israel relationship.” pic.twitter.com/jFQ9lpD0TN h/t @AlonPinkas
— They call me Mr. Kornbluh ✍️ (@jacobkornbluh) April 7, 2019
CNN fills out the quote. Netanyahu does not represent “the true will of the Israeli people” or the “best interests” of the relationship between the US and Israel, O’Rourke said, then went on to endorse a two-state solution.
“We must… settle for nothing less than a two-state solution, because that is the best opportunity for peace for the people of Israel and the people of Palestine. It is the best opportunity for the full human rights of everyone who is living in that region.”
Bernard Avishai has a good analysis of Gantz’s possible path at the New Yorker. Avishai holds out the possibility that he will make a “blocking” arrangement with Palestinian parties.
If the rightist parties decide not to join him, he would have to form a minority government with Labor and Meretz, with the Arab members of Knesset provisionally voting with them from the back benches. (This was the arrangement that Yitzhak Rabin lived with during the Oslo process, before he was assassinated by a rightist zealot.) Gantz’s senior ally at the head of Blue and White, Yair Lapid, has dismissed this prospect out of hand. But the party may have no other choice, except to find some kind accommodation with the Likud
Avishai seems to believe that a right centrist government is most likely, formed with portions of Likud and Gantz’s party:
Blue and White leaders might break away and join Netanyahu without Gantz, or various Likud leaders might join with Gantz without Netanyahu. Rationalizations, from both sides, would not be wanting.
Lastly, can’t help noting that this is an important moment for the left, too. For it appears to utterly vindicate in the eyes of the world its understanding of the conflict. Amira Hass writes, “Israelis, You Are Scary,” in Haaretz:
Why is it a surprise that the Right is so strong? It is best at promoting the ideologies that justify the expulsions that have been and are still being committed by Israel. The right is best at promising to safeguard the spoils and booty and to continue the plundering and expulsion — to protect the purity of the nation, its mansions and its vacations abroad.
And here is Hagai El-Ad writing in the New York Times today, Israel is not a democracy, and the election will show it. The one-state “nightmare” would seem to be the only future, in his view.
We, the nearly 14 million human beings living on this land, need a future that is worth fighting for: one based on the common humanity of Palestinians and Israelis who believe in a future of justice, equality, human rights and democracy — for all of us.
Thx to Allison Deger and James North.