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Gantz is no better than Netanyahu when it comes to Palestinian freedom

Media Analysis
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Yesterday, Benny Gantz, the “liberal” rival to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, announced his vow to annex the Jordan valley if elected. The move would be a war crime, and finally cement in Israeli law the encirclement and Bantustanization of Palestinian enclaves in the Occupied West Bank.

The two have been competing on who is to be credited for the crime involving a third of the West Bank. Netanyahu had vowed to make the move in September, ahead of Israel’s second elections within five months. When he announced his plan, Gantz’s Blue and White Party responded by saying that Likud has stolen their idea.

Now, ahead of Israel’s 3rd elections within a year, Gantz is trying the trick. Netanyahu’s response:

Why wait until after the election if we can apply sovereignty over the Jordan Valley right now with broad consesus in the Knesset? Benny Gantz, I expect your answer by tonight, unless Ahmad Tibi vetoes you.

Netanyahu was referring to a Palestinian member of the Knesset, the co-chairman of the Palestinian Joint List, whom he regularly uses as his “Arab” mocking-puppet, saying that Gantz depends upon Arabs for political survival, as in slogans like “a vote for Gantz is a vote for Tibi”. Read: Gantz needs Arabs, we don’t.

Gantz appears desperate to bring in more right-wing votes. After all, Blue White is a kind of Likud-light party for all practical purposes, and if they can offer the same ‘benefits’ without the problem of Netanyahu’s criminal corruption, then why not?

Yossi Alpher, interviewed by Americans for Peace Now just ahead of Gantz’s announcement, said:

Blue-White, now assured that it will have a Zionist partner to its left for a coalition, has begun moving politically to the right to try to poach votes from Likud. Lately it has dropped hints about considering or advocating Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley “in coordination with the international community”. Annexing the Jordan Valley is a Likud platform plank designed to dovetail with a Trump “peace” proposal that just may be unveiled by the administration in Washington before March 2. The idea is that Israel’s right-religious mainstream, which likes Trump and his initiatives regarding Jerusalem and Israel’s borders, would interpret Trump’s endorsement of Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley as significant support for whichever candidate, Netanyahu or Gantz or both, aligns with this position.

Indeed, when Gantz was asked yesterday about Trump’s deal of the century, he was impatient:

I hope that President Trump will hurry and release his plan. Several weeks have passed. Many dramatic things are happening in the Middle East, and I’m looking forward to the plan’s release.

Those “dramatic things” appear to have been happening in the past two weeks alone, because earlier in the month Gantz claimed that release of the Trump plan ahead of elections would constitute “outright intervention” in Israeli politics.


A long history of annexation

Despite the competition over which party should be credited for the idea of annexation, it has a very long history, at least from the time that the two Benjamins were kids. In the immediate wake of the 1967 war, where Israel territorially completed the “unfinished job” of 1948, Labour Minister Yigal Allon introduced what became known as the Allon Plan. The plan was basically about annexing the Jordan Valley, the West Bank’s breadbasket, for supposed “security reasons”, and slicing the remaining western portion of the West Bank into two. The plan started with a “Palestinian option” meant to create a Bantustanized Palestinian autonomy under Israel, then morphed in 1968 into the “Jordanian option” in which a corridor to Jordan was added, so that Jordan would have control over the Arab population enclave.

The whole guiding notion of this was the Zionist equation, as voiced in more recent years by Blue White co-leader Yair Lapid:

Maximum Jews on maximum land with maximum security and with minimum Palestinians.

The plan did not get realized as such, but the notion of it has guided Israeli politicians ever since. And bear in mind, Yigal Allon was a Labor leader.

Under the Oslo Accords of the early 1990’s, the Jordan Valley was included in Area C (over 60% of the West Bank) under temporary yet complete Israeli control. Even under Ehud Barak’s “generous offer” to Arafat at Camp David in 2000, the Jordan Valley featured as a separate item which would remain under Israeli control for 6 to 21 years. The Palestinian rejection of the “generous offer”, which initially consisted of 77% of the West Bank going to a Palestinian state that amounted to a Bantustan, was cited by Barak and others to claim that there was “no partner for peace”.

Unilateral Israeli annexation of occupied territory in the wake of the 1967 war has, nonetheless, occurred. Israel annexed East Jerusalem (expanding municipal bounds tenfold) and the Syrian Jolan (Golan), cementing these two annexations in quasi-constitutional ‘basic law’ in 1980 and 1981 respectively. These acts are war crimes. The seminal UN Security Council Resolution 242 made in the wake of the 1967 war, notes already in its preamble:

“Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war”.

No Israeli internal legalizations could change the fact that these annexations are “null and void” under international law – yet the Trump administration has shown that it can flout international law and create a new “reality”, one guided by Israeli aggression. Hence the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem and the recognition of the Syrian Jolan as Israeli territory in the past few years.

These de-facto subscriptions to Israeli war crimes play an important role in the public consciousness. People get used to the new borders as “facts on the ground”, and Israel knows this very well.

Look, for example, at how Democratic Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren avoids suggesting that she will move the US embassy away from Jerusalem. It’s all about balancing things from there:

As president, I will take immediate steps to fix the damage caused by Donald Trump’s reckless policies. I will welcome the Palestinian general delegation back to Washington. And I will reopen an American mission to the Palestinians in Jerusalem. I will make clear that in a two state agreement, both parties should be able to have their capitals in Jerusalem.

So, the famous “two state solution” will somehow even things out. But “fixing the damage” caused by Trump no longer includes moving the embassy back to Tel Aviv. Let’s reflect that the Jerusalem Embassy Act was passed first in 1995 under Bill Clinton with wide support in both houses (Senate 93-5, House 374-37) and Clinton declined to veto. Its realization was averted over the years by three Presidents signing a National Security Waiver on the law– until Trump stopped signing.


The language of force

This is the language of force, the one that Israelis love to chide Arabs for being the only one they can understand. Benny Gantz has entered politics with a video campaign boasting of how he returned Gaza to the “stone age” as army chief of staff, boasting his extrajudicial assassinations which he promised more of if elected.

There is not even a hint of “two state solution” in his rhetoric, and his recent vows make his intentions ever more clear. In his Blue White camp there are a few who ostensibly support “two states for two people” – from Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid faction, under that notion of “minimum Palestinians”. But otherwise it’s an idea that is hardly uttered in the Zionist spectrum anymore, even on the left.



The International Criminal Court has recently announced its decision to investigate Israeli war crimes (pending a pre-Trial chamber decision on the “territories” at hand). Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda noted in particular Netanyahu’s recent election vow to annex the Jordan Valley. Gantz responded to the court decision with derision, calling it “a political decision, not a legal one,” adding that “the Israeli army is one of the most moral militaries in the world”, and that “the Israeli army and State of Israel do not commit war crimes.”

Now, the ICC should update its concern. Both PM candidates are vowing to commit war crimes.


US Democrats need to update rhetoric

The ICC is not the only body that needs to update its concerns. Democratic leaders need to update themselves that annexation is not a “Netanyahu thing”, it is an “Israel thing”. Elizbeth Warren:

But let’s be clear, we can speak out against the far rightwing policies of the Netanyahu government like annexation and settlements, while supporting Israel, just as we speak out against President Trump while supporting the United States.

Warren is suggesting that these “rightwing policies” are not representational of Israel as a whole. But Gantz’s statement confirms that they are.

Bernie Sanders has also made such claims, that it’s really about Netanyahu. He called Netanyahu a “racist” in December and pointed to the premier’s corruption cases, thus making the case that you can be “pro Israel”, but also “pro Palestinian”.

This notion rests on the idea that there are other forces that one can support that arc towards peace, as it were. But for all of Netanyahu’s corruptions and racist expressions, what difference does it make in terms of real policy? What is the real difference between the two Benjamins? And does it really matter that one is more crass than the other? That one jokes about “Arabs” while the other returns Gaza to the “stone age”?

It doesn’t really matter. In terms of actual politics, Likud and Blue White are just about even. The two could make up a unity government (the option that appears to be most viable at this time) and do just fine.

And annexation is the buzzword. Because a Greater Israel is something that unites the nation. Make Israel Great Again.

Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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8 Responses

  1. Talkback on January 22, 2020, 10:22 am

    “Maximum Jews on maximum land with maximum security and with minimum Palestinians.”

    Reminds me of maximum Germans on maximum land with maximum security and with minimum Jews.

    “adding that “the Israeli army is one of the most moral militaries in the world”, and that “the Israeli army and State of Israel do not commit war crimes.””

    What Jewish racists want to tell us is that an illegal annexation is not a war crime, if commited by Jews, but the most moral thing to do.

  2. eljay on January 22, 2020, 12:37 pm

    Every flavour of Zionism – from “do the dirty work” hard-core to “hold their noses” liberal – is all about the “right” of people who have chosen to embrace the religion-based identity of Jewish:
    – to be supremacists;
    – to have as large as possible a religion-supremacist “Jewish State”; and
    – to do “necessary evil” unto others.

    Zionists may believe in justice, accountability and equality in certain situations but when it comes to I-P they adamantly, steadfastly and hypocritically do not.

  3. Misterioso on January 22, 2020, 4:05 pm

    File this under “Israel, a light unto nations [NOT.]”

    “Sealed Off and Forgotten: What You Should Know about Israel’s ‘Firing Zones’ in the West Bank,” by Ramzy Baroud, Counterpunch, Jan. 18/20

    “A seemingly ordinary news story, published in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, on January 7, shed light on a long-forgotten, yet crucial, subject: Israel’s so-called ‘firing zones’ in the West Bank.

    “’Israel has impounded the only vehicle available to a medical team that provides assistance to 1,500 Palestinians living inside an Israeli military firing zone in the West Bank,’ according to Haaretz.

    “The Palestinian community that was denied its only access to medical services is Masafer Yatta, a tiny Palestinian village located in the South Hebron hills.

    “Masafer Yatta, which exists in complete and utter isolation from the rest of the occupied West Bank, is located in ‘Area C’, which constitutes the larger territorial chunk, about 60%, of the West Bank. This means that the village, along with many Palestinian towns, villages and small, isolated communities, is under total Israeli military control.

    “Do not let the confusing logic of the Oslo Accords fool you; all Palestinians, in all parts of the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the besieged Gaza Strip, are under Israeli military control as well.

    “Unfortunately for Masafer Yatta, and those living in ‘Area C’, however, the degree of control is so suffocating that every aspect of Palestinian life – freedom of movement, education, access to clean water, and so on – is controlled by a complex system of Israeli military ordinances that have no regard whatsoever for the well-being of the beleaguered communities.

    “It is no surprise, then, that Masafer Yatta’s only vehicle, a desperate attempt at fashioning a mobile clinic, was confiscated in the past as well, and was only retrieved after the impoverished residents were forced to pay a fine to Israeli soldiers.

    “There is no military logic in the world that could rationally justify the barring of medical access to an isolated community, especially when an Occupying Power like Israel is legally obligated under the Fourth Geneva Convention to ensure medical access to civilians living in an Occupied Territory.

    “It is only natural that Masafer Yatta, like all Palestinians in ‘Area C’ and the larger West Bank, feel neglected – and outright betrayed – by the international community as well as their own quisling leadership.

    “But there is more that makes Masafer Yatta even more unique, qualifying it for the unfortunate designation of being a Bantustan within a Bantustan, as it subsists in a far more complex system of control, compared to the one imposed on black South Africa during the Apartheid regime era.

    “Soon after Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, it devised a long-term stratagem aimed at the permanent control of the newly-occupied territories. While it designated some areas for the future relocation of its own citizens – who now make up the extremist illegal Jewish settler population in the West Bank – it also set aside large swathes of the Occupied Territories as security and buffer zones.

    “What is far less known is that, throughout the 1970s, the Israeli military declared roughly 18% of the West Bank as ‘firing zones.’

    “These ‘firing zones’ were supposedly meant as training grounds for the Israeli occupation army soldiers – although Palestinians trapped in these regions often report that little or no military training takes place within ‘firing zones.’

    “According to the Office for the UN Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Palestine, there are around 5,000 Palestinians, divided among 38 communities that still live, under most dire circumstances, within the so-called ‘firing zones.’

    “The 1967 occupation led to a massive wave of ethnic cleansing that saw the forced removal of approximately 300,000 Palestinians from the newly-conquered territory. Many of the vulnerable communities that were ethnically cleansed included Palestinian Bedouins, who continue to pay the price for Israel’s colonial designs in the Jordan Valley, the South Hebron Hills and other parts of occupied Palestine.

    “This vulnerability is compounded by the fact that the Palestinian Authority (PA) acts with little regards to Palestinians living in ‘Area C’, who are left to withstand and resist Israeli pressures alone, often resorting to Israel’s own unfair judicial system, to win back some of their basic rights.

    “The Oslo Accords, signed in 1993 between the Palestinian leadership and the Israeli government, divided the West Bank into three regions: ‘Area A’, theoretically under autonomous Palestinian control and consisting of 17.7% of the overall size of the West Bank; ‘Area B’, 21%, and under shared Israeli-PA control and ‘Area C’, the remainder of the West Bank, and under total Israeli control.

    “This arrangement was meant to be temporary, set to conclude in 1999 once the ‘final status negotiations’ were concluded and a comprehensive peace accord was signed. Instead, it became the status quo ante.

    “As unfortunate as the Palestinians living in ‘Area C’ are, those living in the ‘firing zone’ within ‘Area C’ are enduring the most hardship. According to the United Nations, their hardship includes ‘the confiscation of property, settler violence, harassment by soldiers, access and movement restrictions and/or water scarcity.’

    “Expectedly, many illegal Jewish settlements sprang up in these ‘firing zones’ over the years, a clear indication that these areas have no military purpose whatsoever, but were meant to provide an Israeli legal justification to confiscate nearly a fifth of the West Bank for future colonial expansion.

    “Throughout the years, Israel ethnically cleansed all remaining Palestinians in these ‘firing zones,” leaving behind merely 5,000, who are likely to suffer the same fate should the Israeli occupation continue on the same violent trajectory.

    “This makes the story of Masafer Yatta a microcosm of the tragic and larger story of all Palestinians. It is also a reflection of the sinister nature of Israeli colonialism and military occupation, where occupied Palestinians lose their land, their water, their freedom of movement and eventually, even the most basic medical care.

    “These harsh ‘conditions contribute to a coercive environment that creates pressure on Palestinian communities to leave these areas,’ according to the United Nations. In other words, ethnic cleansing, which has been Israel’s strategic goal all along.”

    Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, London, 2018). He earned a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, UCSB.

  4. RoHa on January 22, 2020, 8:29 pm

    “Gantz is no better than Netanyahu when it comes to Palestinian freedom”

    Did anyone expect otherwise?

  5. Kay24 on January 23, 2020, 2:58 am

    Macron yells at Israeli security for entering a Church in Jerusalem, that belongs to the French.
    Ah those zionists, always there in places they are not wanted….

    • Misterioso on January 23, 2020, 10:21 am

      @Kay24, et al

      We can be certain that behind the scenes more and more decent politicians and peoples around the world, including Jews, are becoming increasingly disgusted with and enraged at “Israel” as it descends faster and deeper into the pit of racism and fascism. Time is not with the Zionists!!

      BTW, re Macron, he did not apologize!!

      “France Denies Israel Police Claim Macron Apologized for Yelling at Israeli Security Guards” Haaretz, January 23/20, by Noa Landau

      “Contrary to the Israeli police statement that the French president apologized, Elysée Palace responded saying there was ‘no presidential apology.'”

      “France made it clear early Thursday that contrary to an Israeli police statement, there was no ‘apology’ on their part after French President Emmanuel Macron confronted Israeli security guards in the Old City of Jerusalem on Wednesday.

      “‘There was no presidential apology to the Israeli security forces,’ French officials told Haaretz.

      “According to the Élysée Palace, Israeli security forces tried to enter the common ground of the French-owned church space and President Macron responded to a dispute that arose between French and Israeli security.

      “‘St. Anne is a French national domain in Jerusalem. It is the role of France in this city to protect these places. The Israeli security forces wanted to enter it while security was provided by French security. The president reacted to an altercation between the Israeli and French security forces at the time of entering St. Anne in order to end it and to recall the rules that apply. He recalled that everything had gone well so far in the visit and that no incident should be created. Everything is in order. Nothing serious,’ said the officials.

      “A video that captured the incident shows Macron raising his voice at Israeli security forces, ordering them not to enter the Church of St. Anne. ‘Everybody knows the rules…Outside, please,’ he can be heard yelling.

      “After the incident the Israel Police said in an official statement that following Macron’s departure from the church, his team apologized and the French president shook the hands of the Israeli security forces at the scene.

      “The Church of St. Anne is a Roman Catholic church located in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, and belongs to the French government.

      “The French president is in Jerusalem for the World Holocaust Forum, marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.”

    • echinococcus on January 23, 2020, 11:50 am

      It also says: “Wednesday’s clash bears a strong resemblance to an incident in 1996 when then-French President Jacques Chirac was also filmed in heated exchanges with Israeli security during a visit to the same church.”

      Which means that the Zionist beasts are knowingly, intentionally provoking and maintaining a low-level conflict even with their own best allies who keep recognizing the Jerusalem status. In all aspects of their culture and behavior there is only one political group in the past that is comparable to them.

  6. Ossinev on January 23, 2020, 7:34 am

    “Macron yells at Israeli security for entering a Church in Jerusalem, that belongs to the French”

    Would you Adam and Eve it? Macron an Anti – Semite ! Not quite in the Corbyn class as yet but how long can the Zios tolerate such behaviour in their ancient historic blah blah blah blah ?

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