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The fall of Netanyahu is not meaningless 

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Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing the greatest political challenge of his life. After a close snap election, if he is unable to form a unity coalition in the next few days, for the first time in a decade he might be voted out of office and could becomea prisoner.

His potential successor, Benny Gantz, is not necessarily better. Gantz is a war criminal. He was chief of staff during the 2012 and 2014 attacks on Gaza and is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Palestinians. He is proud of this. His policies are vague and very similar to Netanyahu’s on most important issues. Clearly, these elections don’t represent a revolutionary turn in Israeli politics. But I think they do matter.

Change is the lifeblood of all progressive politics. No one understands this better than Netanyahu, a conservative politician whose reign has been marked by stagnation. His appeal is in maintaining the existing reality, bad as it is, against real and imagined calamities. His legacy is not in making dramatic decisions. It’s in successfully convincing the Israeli public that there’s no other option but the status quo, while slowly and surely sinking the country deeper and deeper into fascism, entrenching its racial policies and consolidating its control over the territory occupied in 1967.

Take the peace process for example. Netanyahu’s achievement is not in dealing it a fatal blow; this honor is reserved for Ehud Barak. By the time of Netanyahu’s current term, it was dead on arrival. His achievement is that he somehow managed to keep it seemingly alive. A decade of intentionally pointless demands, zig-zagging on a commitment to the two-state solution and blaming the Palestinians for everything has resulted in a very convenient impasse. Israel’s foreign allies can maintain deniability over their complicity in Israel’s international law violations by asserting that the regrettable situation is temporary.

Meanwhile, Israeli society has never been less interested in the Palestinian question. Fewer and fewer Israelis believe that any solution is possible, most of us solemnly accept as a rule of nature that there’s just no end to this. Older generations tended to yearn for peace, which at the very least meant that the next generation of Israelis will not have to pick up a gun at 18. Today more and more believe that, as Netanyahu said, “we will forever live on our swords.” The metaphorical swords, of course, include bombs dropped from airplanes into the densely populated Gaza strip every few years. “Mowing the lawn,” as one of his cabinet members called it. It’s as brutal as it’s endlessly repetitive. For the first time since the first intifada, Netanyahu succeeded in making the occupation boring.

With the occupation sidelined, Israelis turned to other issues. In 2011, a massive wave of social protests broke out against Netanyahu’s austere, laissez-faire economic policies. At their peak, the protests brought half a million Israelis to the streets against the high cost of living and the deterioration of Israel’s once-robust welfare system. Netanyahu withstood the storm until it subsided without offering any meaningful policy change. The social protest petered out and all we got was some new opportunist politicians to warm the Knesset’s seats and the notion that Bibi is undefeatable. Less than a year later he was crowned “King Bibi” on Time’s front page.

A generation of Israelis has grown from preschoolers to young adults knowing nothing but Bibi. In recent years we have seen an incredible wave of progress in Palestine-related politics here in the U.S., with young people more and more likely to oppose Israeli apartheid. Meanwhile, the Netanyahu generation in Israel is more right-wing, more entrenched and more racist than their parents. There’s no clearer indication for his success.

But now, as a result of corruption charges (minuscule in comparison to his war crimes) and petty sectorial politics, the king is shaking in his throne. The authoritative father figure is now running around hysterically trying to form an unlikely coalition to save his own skin. Whether or not he’ll manage to weasel his way out of this pit, his invincible days may well be over. Could Pharaoh be a mere mortal? He sure sweats like one.

Netanyahu’s carefully cultivated stagnation can only be disrupted by his removal. The change will not come from a Gantz administration, but by the end of the Netanyahu administration. It may allow Israelis to imagine again. I am not saying that Israelis will suddenly vote down apartheid, and Gantz himself surely has no intention of ending it. But it’s important to not underestimate the toxic influence of Netanyahu’s personal grip on power. His fall can set things in motion again, revitalize dormant Israeli protests and grievances, and bring back hope for change to the Israeli psyche. As it stands, presently the only segment of Israeli society that is optimistic about the future is the right. The Israeli people – rather than the Israeli regime – are necessary partners in any future solution. Their awakening from their Bibi-induced slumber will be a crucial wave of change in which we must recognize and take part.

Asaf Calderon

Asaf Calderon is an Israeli-American activist based in New York City.

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9 Responses

  1. Mooser on October 1, 2019, 1:48 pm

    “After a close snap election, if he is unable to form a unity coalition in the next few days, for the first time in a decade he might be voted out of office and could become a prisoner. ”

    One day, respected, trusted and with enough political support to be offered a chance to form a government. The next, off to the hoosegow? Sorry, can’t see it.

    • Sibiriak on October 2, 2019, 3:55 am

      Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu faces pre-trial corruption hearing

      Defence lawyers representing Benjamin Netanyahu are due to begin their arguments against looming bribery, fraud and breach of trust indictments as a long-awaited pre-trial hearing begins.

      Wednesday’s closed-door hearing, the culmination of three years of investigations, arrives at an especially fraught time for Israel’s longest-serving leader. Netanyahu is also fighting for his political life after failing to secure a clear win in two elections this year.

      Clinching the premiership for a historic fifth term is seen as a way to protect himself if indicted, as Israeli prime ministers are not required under law to step down unless they are ultimately convicted. That process could take months or even years.

      Political survival for Netanyahu is also potentially tied to his personal freedom as some of his parliamentary allies have suggested they would back laws to grant him immunity if he remains prime minister.

      Netanyahu has denied all allegations as a politically orchestrated “witch-hunt” to oust him from office.

      However, both the attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, and the police have already suggested indictments are likely in three cases, including multiple fraud and breach of trust charges, and a bribery charge.

      He could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of bribery and a maximum three-year term for fraud and breach of trust […]

      • Mooser on October 4, 2019, 1:07 pm

        I don’t see the man who gave Israel a US Embassy in Jerusalem going into gaol. My God, what would Trump say if Netanyahoo is arrested?

  2. echinococcus on October 1, 2019, 3:41 pm

    You failed to present even the start of an argument to make your point. Or perhaps I need new glasses. Or then, the mechanism by which “stagnation” is supposed to be “disrupted by removal” and that this would represent any meaning, or change, is left totally unstated. What is it that may justify the statement “The fall of Netanyahu is not meaningless”?

  3. wondering jew on October 1, 2019, 9:38 pm

    If there were (serious) negotiations with Olmert, which I believe there were, how can one say that Barak killed the peace process. The Rabin-Barak- Olmert efforts towards peace were halting and ultimately defeated by the election of Netanyahu in 2009. (one can say that their efforts were defeated by the will of the Jewish majority). This attempt to pin the halt of negotiations on Barak is false and I don’t quite understand the twisted logic. You don’t like Barak for x, y or z, but he did not destroy the negotiation process.

    • Mooser on October 2, 2019, 11:31 am

      “The Rabin-Barak- Olmert efforts towards peace were halting and ultimately defeated by the election of Netanyahu in 2009. (one can say that their efforts were defeated by the will of the Jewish majority)”

      ROTFLMSJAO! Why, yes, one can say that, can’t one? Good ol’ “Yonah” always ready to throw the Jewish people under the bus for his Zionist heroes.

    • DaBakr on October 4, 2019, 3:00 am


      A cloying response if ever there was one

  4. Misterioso on October 2, 2019, 9:47 am

    Off topic, but for obvious reasons, a very important development that must be causing “Israel” a great deal of concern:

    “Iran open to starting dialogue with Saudi Arabia: Speaker” Al Jazeera, Oct. 1/19

    “Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani tells Al Jazeera Tehran welcomes crown prince’s preference to resolve issues over talks.”

    “The speaker of Iran’s parliament has said Tehran is open to the idea of starting a dialogue with regional rival Saudi Arabia.

    “Ali Larijani made the comments in an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera that aired on Tuesday, days after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) told CBS he would prefer a peaceful resolution with Iran in settling regional security disputes, as opposed to military conflict.

    “‘Iran is open to starting a dialogue with Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region,’ Larijani said in Tehran.

    “‘An Iranian-Saudi dialogue could solve many of the region’s security and political problems.’

    “Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig, reporting from the Iranian capital, said the talks would be seen as a victory in the country.

    “‘They will see that Iran’s military strategy is working, that Iran is seen as a strong military power and countries that may not necessarily be friends with Iran favour dialogue over military conflict,’ he said.

    “No pre-conditions”
    “Larijani also said that Saudi Arabia does not need to rely or depend on its main ally, the United States.

    “‘Riyadh can submit its proposals to be discussed at the Iranian-Saudi dialogue table without pre-conditions from our side,’ Larijani said.

    “‘We also welcome what has been quoted that Prince Mohammed bin Salman wants dialogue, as perhaps it is good to know Saudi Arabia is thinking of the region’s interests first,’ he added, referring to the crown prince’s comments made in the interview with the CBS 60 Minutes programme that aired on Sunday.

    “Prince Mohammed pointed out that crude prices could spike to ‘unimaginably high numbers’ in case of armed conflict.

    “‘The region represents about 30 percent of the world’s energy supplies, about 20 percent of global trade passages, about four percent of the world GDP [gross domestic product],’ the crown prince said.

    “Days after visiting Saudi Arabia where he held talks with King Salman, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said it was in everybody’s interest to prevent further war in the region.

    “In an interview with Al Jazeera, which was aired on Monday, Abdul Mahdi said: ‘Nobody possesses the weapons necessary to deal their adversary a fatal blow. Chaos and destruction will hit the region in its entirety.’

    “Abdul Mahdi emphasised the importance of resolving the long-running conflict in Yemen as a prelude to achieving regional peace.

    “Truce in Yemen”
    “On his part, Larijani said that Iran has called on Yemen’s Houthi rebels accept any ceasefire agreement with Saudi Arabia, adding that this would also be in the interest of Riyadh.

    “The Houthis have been locked in a war with a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) since 2015.

    “The tension between long-time foes Saudi Arabia and Iran flared up recently following a Houthi-claimed attack on two key oil facilities in the kingdom’s east.

    “The US, European powers and Saudi Arabia blamed the attack on Iran, which denied any involvement.”

  5. Elizabeth Block on October 2, 2019, 10:32 am

    The last item is wonderful.
    For years, for decades, it has been axiomatic that the US needs to be involved in anything like this. Now the rest of the world is coming to realize: No. We can do it ourselves. In fact, if we don’t do it ourselves, it won’t get done.

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