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Agonized US Zionists — and O’Rourke — see doomsday in another Netanyahu victory

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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.”

Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street goes further on twitter:

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,

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.


Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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6 Responses

  1. Ossinev on April 8, 2019, 2:19 pm

    Perversely the best outcome for the Palestinians in this election would be the Yahoo emerging as Prime Minister but needing the support of the seriously looney Fascist right groups who will of course condition their support on him carrying out his promise to annex the settlements or more likely ( with a nod from Adelson puppet Trump) the entire West Bank. Bingo end of the 2SS status quo farce, end of the Quisling PA and full frontal Racist Apartheid on show for all the civilised world to see. And then the long process of full frontal South Africa standard BDS with a large proportion of the second passport holder Ziorats jumping ship before the Bad ship SS Zioland upends and sinks into the slimy sewer of history.

    And on a separate and selfish note here in the UK the end of the unending tedious and very very boring Stop Jeremy Corbyn at all Costs Campaign still being waged by the Zionist ” Labour” collaborators. Of note – for some reason they have decided not to criticise Theresa May for having direct Brexit talks with a “terrorist sympathising” “overtly anti – Semitic” politician. I wonder why.?

    Tick tick – but now louder than ever before.

  2. amigo on April 8, 2019, 3:44 pm

    Why is everyone so upset.

    This is just another example of Israeli Confidence building measures and no doubt the Palestinians will object.Just what do we Zionists have to do , to get the Palestinians to love us.

    Christ ,what,s a peace seeking Zionist to do.

  3. scott9854958 on April 8, 2019, 5:55 pm

    Would Beta ever take the next step and withhold aid to Israel if the racist gets re-elected? No he wouldn’t. Nothing to see here.

  4. wondering jew on April 9, 2019, 12:32 am

    It is a bit of a surprise the O’Rourke would make this his cause. i suppose that the hubbub surrounding ilhan omar alerted orourke to an issue which will attract the media. it will be interesting to watch.
    We’ll hear the Trump plan within weeks and the Netanyahu utterance, if it is serious, has the full blessing of Trump, you can be sure.
    if cynthia mckinney were running against trump it would be a tough decision, but orourke has my vote if he can win the nomination.

    • Citizen on April 9, 2019, 9:24 am

      Strikes me Beto sees great opportunity in Riding the anti-Trump, anti Netanyahu horse & he also banks on pretending to be the next Bobby Kennedy. His Camelot would see continued Israeli settlements, no threat to leverage the huge aid to Israel to end the occupation and continued slow ethnic cleansing. J-Street or AIPAC-Lite is his preferred bottle of coke.

    • Misterioso on April 9, 2019, 9:50 am

      “How the battle over Israel and anti-Semitism is Fracturing American Politics”

      New York Times, March 28/19 By Nathan Thrall

      MUST READ!!
      Too lengthy to quote in full.

      “On June 9, 2016, the committee tasked with drafting the new Democratic Party platform held its second day of hearings at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, in the upscale Woodley Park neighborhood of Washington. The platform, which is rewritten every presidential-election year, is meant to express a consensus among Democrats on the major issues of the day. The afternoon session, on ‘America’s role in the world,’ included discussions of platform language on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At stake was whether Democrats would reaffirm the party’s strongly pro-Israel position or make some concessions to the Palestinians.

      “Days before the hearing, The Associated Press declared that Hillary Clinton had crossed the threshold of delegates and superdelegates needed to secure the nomination. But Bernie Sanders had not yet conceded. And the Democratic National Committee, which normally chooses the platform-drafting committee, decided in May to allow the two leading candidates to select most of the committee’s 15 members: Sanders was allowed to pick five; Clinton, six; the D.N.C., the remaining four.

      “The group met in the hotel’s Palladian Ballroom, whose walls are covered in murals depicting Thomas Jefferson’s slave plantation, Monticello. The representatives chosen by Sanders who spoke during the Israel-Palestine hearing were all minorities, including James Zogby, the head of the Arab American Institute and a former senior official on Jesse Jackson’s 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns; the Native American activist Deborah Parker; and Cornel West, the African-American professor and author then teaching at Union Theological Seminary. The representatives selected by Clinton and the D.N.C. who spoke on the issue were all Jewish and included the retired congressman Howard Berman, who is now a lobbyist; Wendy Sherman, a former under secretary of state for political affairs; and Bonnie Schaefer, a Florida philanthropist and Democratic donor, who had made contributions to Clinton.

      “Sanders and Clinton each assigned one person to deliver expert testimony. Sanders’s expert was Matt Duss, who was then president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace and would go on to become Sanders’s foreign-policy adviser. Clinton’s expert, Robert Wexler, a former seven-term congressman from Florida who is Jewish, was introduced as ‘an outspoken advocate for the unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel.’ Wexler spoke in favor of a two-state solution and argued against including the words ‘occupation’ and ‘settlements’ in the party platform. He also spoke against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (B.D.S.) movement, which seeks to exert economic, moral and political pressure on Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian territories, grant equal rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel and recognize the right of Palestinian refugees to return. ‘While some proponents of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement may hope that pressuring Israel will lead to peace, the truth is outside forces will not resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,’ Wexler said. ‘Particularly when anti-Semitism is rising throughout the world, Democrats must condemn efforts to isolate and delegitimize Israel.’

      “The Sanders appointees had a different view. James Zogby took issue with Wexler’s opposition to mentioning the words ‘occupation’ and ‘settlements.’ In his opening testimony, Wexler called for a negotiated two-state solution in which Israel’s capital would be Jerusalem, long a flash point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, making no mention of Palestinian claims to the city, whose eastern and predominantly Palestinian half — including the Old City and the major Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites within it — has been occupied by Israel since 1967. Noting Wexler’s assertion that the platform shouldn’t include positions on which there still needed to be ‘delicate’ negotiations, Zogby asked pointedly: ‘Should we leave Jerusalem out of the platform? I think that would fit your notion appropriately.’

      “Wexler appealed to the longstanding U.S.-Israeli relationship: ‘Whether one agrees with Prime Minister Netanyahu or not, one point he always makes is that Israel is our one ally that never, ever has asked and I can’t imagine would ever ask for an American to do their fighting for them. Israelis fight for themselves.’ At this, an audience member called out, ‘With our money!’

      “Cornel West, a Sanders appointee, expressed concern that ‘for too long, the Democratic Party has been beholden to Aipac’ — the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the bipartisan pro-Israel lobbying group — which ‘didn’t take seriously the humanity of Palestinian brothers and sisters.’ He added that the party was now at a ‘turning point,’ which was why he supports the B.D.S. movement, disputing the charge that it’s anti-Semitic. ‘We’ve got to fight anti-Semitism, anti-Jewish hatred,’ he said, adding: ‘It’s wrong, it’s unjust. But that cannot be the excuse for in any way downplaying the unbelievable misery that we see in Gaza and the West Bank and other places.’

      “For the Democratic establishment, the conversation seemed to be going off the rails. Wendy Sherman, a Clinton appointee, affirmed the Democratic Party’s commitment to a two-state solution and declared, ‘Our differences are really with the Republican Party.’

      “Later that afternoon, Duss, the Sanders team’s expert, said that while ‘there is no question we should be and will be Israel’s friend in resolving this conflict,’ the United States must ‘recognize that Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territories and its daily restrictions on the most basic political and civil liberties of the Palestinian people run contrary to fundamental American values.’ He added that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict harmed American interests, citing remarks made at the Aspen Security Forum in 2013 by James Mattis, the former head of U.S. Central Command, who became Trump’s secretary of defense: ‘I paid a military-security price every day as the commander of Centcom because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel.'”

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