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The only hope for Israel politically is… Palestinians

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It looks like the center is holding in Israel. Netanyahu’s Likud party is negotiating with Benny Gantz’s Blue and White for a national unity government that would join the two rivals in a power sharing arrangement.

The fascination of the election is the larger trends: Israel is more rightwing than ever, though the religious settler bloc has lost power to secular rightists. And by taking 13 seats and finishing third, the Palestinian Joint List has forced the Jewish parties to contend with Palestinians as a political force.

That last point is the one I keep harping on. We have seen unprecedented signs of Palestinian power in Israel. The president met with the Joint List. Benny Gantz called the Joint List. Its leader Ayman Odeh endorsed Blue and White so as to end the era of Netanyahu. The Joint List just might lead the opposition.

And yet, in the end, the Palestinians don’t count. They will almost certainly not be part of a coalition, even part of a non-governmental bloc that would vote to keep a centrist party in power. Jewish parties will combine in any number of ways to make a winning coalition, with even the far right joining the center-left, but no Palestinians are wanted. They are the “enemies,” says kingmaker Avigdor Lieberman.

And: Palestinians are THE most liberal faction of Israeli society.

That idea ought to provide a wakeup call to American liberal Zionists. Look at Israeli politics. The one party that is for “true equality” and dignity for all people is a Palestinian party. Dylan Williams of J Street makes the point:

The head of the slate of parties representing Israel’s Palestinian citizens, @AyOdeh, sets out a vision for Israel (and Palestine) matching the views of the vast majority of US Jews, while Netanyahu doubles down on his vision for an Israel defined by racism and endless occupation

Odeh laid out his liberal opposition to Jewish Jim Crow in a New York Times op-ed announcing his support for Gantz.

We call for repealing the nation-state law that declared me, my family and one-fifth of the population to be second-class citizens….

Israeli governments have made this rejection clear time and again, from the years of military rule imposed on Arabs in Israel from the founding of the state until 1966, to the longstanding attempts to suppress Palestinian culture and the continuing decision to occupy the lands and lives of our sisters and brothers in the West Bank and Gaza…

By choosing to recommend Mr. Gantz, we have proven that cooperation between people, Arab and Jewish, is the only principled political strategy that will lead to a better future for us all.

The irrelevance of the Palestinian parties in the coalition negotiations seems undeniable proof of the tragedy of Zionism. Palestinians are the one group in Israeli society that are not adherents of Zionism, and they are the most truly liberal. Even as Zionism shapes its adherents, Israeli Jews, into racists.

Last April, Dahlia Scheindlin polled Israeli citizens and showed just what Odeh is now demonstrating. Palestinians in Israel are surprisingly open-minded and regard Jews as potential partners. But Israeli Jews look on Palestinians with contempt. Don’t want them to have any political power!

[T]he poll also showed an uncompromising opposition among Jewish Israelis to their Arab compatriots acquiring certain forms of political power…Asked whether they would consider voting for an Arab political party if that party represented their views, 88 percent of the Jewish respondents said no. Only four percent said they would consider it..

Among Arabs, the picture is vastly different. Nearly half of the Arab respondents (47 percent) said they would consider voting for a Jewish party. A minority of only 19 percent stated they would not consider voting for a Jewish political party. ..

Intolerance on the part of Jewish Israelis, from Scheindlin poll. April 2019.

It’s the same story when you ask Israeli Jews and Palestinians about a Palestinian party joining the government. Scheindlin:

The most conspicuous example of Jewish Israelis’ lack of desire to advance equality on a political level, however, is their response to the idea of an Arab party joining Israel’s governing coalition. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) said that such a scenario is unacceptable..

The results among Arabs couldn’t be more different. Despite some calls to boycott the Israeli political system, 87 percent of Arab citizens support the prospect of their parties joining the country’s governing coalition.

Palestinians are far more liberal than their Jewish fellow citizens in Israel.

Well you can hardly blame the Israeli Jews now. They are on top. What incentive do they have to give up privilege?

Now reflect that Avigdor Lieberman is being cast as a “liberal” in this election and has many times said racist and repugnant things about Palestinians. And that Blue and White “almost reflexively rejected” the Joint List’s earlier offer to join a centrist government. Though Blue and White will entertain coalition-arrangements with rightwing Jews.

No Israeli leader is interested in Palestinian sovereignty, Daniel Levy writes at the American Prospect:

Both Likud and Blue and White (along with Lieberman) represent what has become the new center of gravity of Israeli politics, a politics that is significantly to the right. Neither is willing to countenance a sovereign and territorially viable Palestinian state and an end to occupation; neither is willing to take on and remove Jewish settlements in the occupied territories; neither has been supportive of U.S. negotiations with Iran or of the nuclear deal; neither is committed to taking on the deeply embedded structural discrimination against Palestinians who are citizens of Israel.

So that is Israel, a rightwing society formed by a religious nationalist ideology, Zionism. As Daniel Gordis opines in the New York Times, Palestinians need to accept that Israel is the Jewish state. And he acknowledges, Israel’s Jewish supremacist values could not be more different from American Jews’ values.

Palestinians political parties come much closer to liberal American values. The burden on American Jews is what we have said it is on many earlier occasions: Abandon Zionism, it’s a dead horse.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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6 Responses

  1. brent on September 25, 2019, 2:13 am

    Ayman Odeh has turned a page in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

    His list may not now become part of the Israeli government but he has enabled Americans, American Jews, and American politicians to appreciate that it is Zionism standing in the way of positive neighborly relations for the future.

    Odeh has laid the foundation, the narrative, upon which peace can build. He enabled Palestinians and Judaism to stand up by writing, “We will continue our work toward a better, equal future, and our struggle for civil rights, rooted in our national identity as Palestinians. There is room enough for all of us in our shared homeland, room enough for the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish and the stories of our grandparents, room enough for all of us to raise our families in equality and peace.”

  2. Misterioso on September 25, 2019, 10:50 am

    For the record:

    https://www.juancole.com/2019/09/netanyahu-government-palestinians.html

    “Netanyahu on Steroids: What a Gantz-led Israeli Government Means for Palestinians” by Ramzy Baroud, Informed Comment, Sept. 24/19

    (Middle East Monitor) – “Experience has taught Palestinians not to pay heed to Israeli elections. But to every rule there is an exception.

    “Although it is still true that no Israeli Zionist leader has ever been kind to the Palestinian people, the dynamics of the latest Israeli elections on September 17 are likely to affect the Occupied Palestinian Territories in a profound way.

    “Indeed, the outcome of the elections seems to have ushered in a new age in Israel, ideologically and politically. But the same claim can also be made regarding its potential influence on Palestinians, who should now brace themselves for war in Gaza and annexation in the West Bank.

    “Former chief of general staff of the Israeli army, Benny Gantz, who had orchestrated the destructive war on the besieged Gaza Strip in 2014, is likely to be tasked with the job of forming Israel’s new government. Gantz had recently boasted about sending ‘parts of Gaza back to the Stone Age.’

    “There is little discussion in Israeli, and, by extension, western media of Gantz’s numerous war crimes during the Gaza war. The focus is mainly placed on the fact that he seems to have finally dislodged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from a position he had held for nearly 13 years, a scenario that was, until recently, deemed inconceivable.

    “The leader of the Kahol Lavan (Blue and White) party had plotted the ouster of Netanyahu back in January 2018, when he formed the Israeli Resilience Party. Following several political mergers and a strong showing in the previous elections in April, the centrist politician has finally edged past Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party in the most recent elections.

    “With 33 seats in the Israeli Knesset – compared to Likud’s 31 seats – Gantz now needs a broad coalition to rule Israel. The vehemently anti-Palestinian politician has made it clear that he will not enter into a coalition with the Joint List, the alliance of various Palestinian Arab political parties. The latter has managed to achieve an outstanding 13 seats, making it the third largest political force in Israel.

    “But, according to Gantz’s previous statements, the inclusion of Arab parties in the coalition is out of the question, despite the fact that Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint List, had indicated his willingness to join a Gantz-led government.

    “It is now likely that Gantz will seek a coalition government that includes the Likud, along with Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu. The country’s former ultra-nationalist defense minister, Lieberman, with 8 seats, has restored his previous ‘kingmaker’ status. He, too, is keen on such a coalition. Gantz is open to such a scenario, with one condition: Netanyahu should stay out.

    “While the ‘king of Israel’ has finally been dethroned, however, Palestinians have little to rejoice over. True, Netanyahu has destroyed any chance of a just peace in Palestine through the entrenching of the illegal military occupation and inhumane siege of the West Bank and Gaza. However, future possibilities are equally, if not even more, grim.

    “Once upon a time, outright discussion of annexing large parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories were relegated to the margins of Israel’s political discourse. This is no longer the case. The call for annexing major illegal settlement blocs, along with the Jordan Valley, is now a common demand made by all of Israel’s main political parties, including Gantz’s own.

    “Gantz, possibly Israel’s next prime minister, has repeatedly made it clear that he would be strengthening, rather than dismantling, the illegal settlements in the West Bank, and has even attempted to take ownership of Netanyahu’s pledge to annex the Jordan Valley.

    “’We are happy that the Prime Minister has come around to adopt the Blue and White plan to recognize the Jordan valley,’ Gantz’s party said in a statement shortly before election day.

    “The annexation of these areas would amount to illegally seizing more than 60 percent of the West Bank.

    “Given that Israel has successively normalized the concept of annexation in its own, political discourse, and that it has already received an American nod on the matter, it is then a matter of time before such a step takes place.

    “The likelihood of it taking place sooner than later is that a broad, center-right-ultranationalist coalition would serve as an insurance to Israel’s leadership, in case of a political or security fallout once the decision is taken and enforced.

    “That political insurance simply means that no single party or official would bear the blame or shoulder the consequences alone, should Palestinians rebel or the international community push back against the flagrant Israeli violation of international law.

    “The same logic is applicable to the case of a future war on Gaza.

    “Israel has been itching for a major military campaign in Gaza since its last onslaught of 2014. Since then, Gaza has been bombed numerous times, and hundreds of innocent lives have been lost. But Netanyahu steered clear of an all-out war, fearing a high death toll among his soldiers and the blame game that often follows such military misadventures.

    “Mandated by a large coalition, bringing together Israeli army generals, right-wing politicians and ideologues, Gantz would feel far more empowered to go to war, especially since the former military chief has repeatedly accused Netanyahu of being ‘weak’ on Gaza, ‘terrorism’ and security.

    “If a future war goes as planned, Gantz would be happy to claim the accolades of victory; if it does not, due to Gaza’s stiff resistance, the political damage is likely to remain minimal.

    “When it comes to war, Gantz is Netanyahu on steroids. He has participated, orchestrated or led many military campaigns, including ones aimed at suppressing any resistance in Gaza, in Lebanon and during the previous popular uprisings.

    “For Gantz, war is the answer, as indicated by one of his campaign slogans, ‘Only the strong survive.’

    “While it is typical, and understandable, to dismiss all Israeli governments as one and the same, a Gantz-led government will possess the needed political legitimacy, popular mandate and strategic tools to achieve a job that Netanyahu himself couldn’t finish: a war on Gaza, and annexation of the West Bank.”

    Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=Y2sC0OVTfkI

  3. Mooser on September 25, 2019, 3:27 pm

    This morning I am seeing articles like: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been asked to form the country’s next government…”

    Looks like Blue and White and Likud found they occupied common ground.

    • RoHa on September 25, 2019, 11:13 pm

      ” occupied common ground.”

      Neatly done.

  4. wondering jew on September 26, 2019, 1:08 am

    Many of the Jews living in Israel deserve better than, “Abandon Zionism, it’s a dead horse.” I don’t imagine that Phil Weiss or the denizens of the comment section really care to hear that, but…

    those Jews in Israel who voted gantz and further left deserve an attentive ear from those who were Zionists until this point in time.
    I do not consider myself a Zionists compared to once upon a time. Once upon a time giving up Jewish sovereignty over the Temple Mount really rubbed me the wrong way. the echo of that is that I can understand where Temple Mount sovereignty people are coming from, but I prefer the direction of peace rather than the direction of Temple Mount sovereignty. And i realize that given the absence of peace, even as a long range target, to pine after a direction that is not being pursued has a strange effect of dissidence and dissonance and it puts me into a no man’s land.
    and to those who voted for likud because they fear hamas ruling the west bank, i accept their fear, but protest that the settler nature of the occupation has turned a dangerous situation (meaning a danger like that enunciated by yeshayahu leibowitz) into a horrible situation. and if hope is so distant that they deny that the lack of citizenship of an annexed population is horrible then that is horrible too.

    So there are some big questions that need to be asked. But they need to be asked by people who care and don’t disdain. And even then I have no answer, but there are people like Avraham Burg and Peter beinart who do care and we (former Zionists/still kind of Zionists) need to listen to their questions.

    • eljay on September 26, 2019, 7:40 am

      || wondering jew: Many of the Jews living in Israel deserve better than, “Abandon Zionism, it’s a dead horse.” … ||

      All of the Israelis living in Israel – as well as those Israeli refugees barred from returning to their homes and lands – deserve better than “Support Zionism, it’s alive and well.”

      You really can’t stop being a Jewish supremacist (Zionist) hypocrite, can you? (Rhetorical question.)

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