This week we saw the actual beginnings of the court case against sitting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for various corruption cases.
The first hearing was on Sunday at the Jerusalem District Court. Netanyahu used the attention to conduct a rather astounding 15-minute televised address to the nation, right from the entrance to the court hall, flanked by his Likud sycophant ministers wearing coronavirus masks, and he denied any questions from the press.
Netanyahu berated the media and the justice system as the “just not Bibi” gang:
“[E]lements in the police and the prosecution joined forces with the leftist media — I call them the “just not Bibi” gang — to manufacture baseless and absurd cases against me.”
Netanyahu said he was not a poodle:
“The goal is to bring down a strong prime minister from the right wing and thus keep the right-wing camp away from running the state for many years. By the way, they would not mind if some cooperative poodle came along from the right — those are always around — but me, I am no poodle.”
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit stated at the opening of the trial that “[t]his trial will be handled like any other ‒ professionally and within the confines of the courtroom alone”, but Netanyahu was demanding irregular “full transparency”, ostensibly as someone who has nothing to hide, but really as propaganda rhetoric:
“Therefore, my first request from the court is full transparency. I ask for everything to be broadcast live. A continuous, uncensored livestream. The public should hear everything, and not via the skewed filter of the prosecution’s court reporters.”
This livestream reality show is of course not bound to happen – but the suggestion of it is another one of Netanyahu’s incitement tricks: he has turned the case against him to a J’accuse opportunity, where it is the whole system that is in the dark, while he is “transparent”.
At the end of his long televised address, Netanyahu even invoked the Holocaust:
I came now from the Prime Minister’s Office after we held a cabinet meeting at the Knesset. I met there with representatives of a thousand elderly Holocaust survivors, they brought me a thousand signatures of Holocaust survivors supporting me. One woman told me, “We were in the forests, we are praying for you.” Another told me, “Wolves are coming to devour you. You’re not alone, we’re with you.” They brought me to tears.
The forests?? The forests of WW2? People were praying for Netanyahu to save them already then? Wolves?
Let’s not try to make sense of it. It was poetic and some people almost cried there and then.
Netanyahu continued this massive propaganda session on the pages of the Sheldon Adelson funded free daily Israel Hayom, the biggest circulating paper in Israel, also known as the “Bibiton” (“Bibi’s-paper”).
“Give me a break”
In an extensive interview with Amnon Lord yesterday Netanyahu repeated many of the points made in his Sunday speech, and his message was “give me a break”:
“Day and night, incessant incitement against me and against the idea of the rule of law as it should be. With its checks and restrictions and protection of individual rights. This has been trampled to dust. When someone dares complain about these dubious methods – he is suddenly the threat to democracy. In English you say, ‘Give me a break.’ Who are you kidding?”
The Palestinians will have to concede
The Israel Hayom interview seemed to bring relief to Netanyahu in focusing upon many other issues than his corruption cases. Actually, its title was “The Prime Minister in a special interview to Israel Hayom: ‘We won’t concede, the Palestinians will’”.
Netanyahu was speaking about the planned annexation of nearly a third of the occupied Palestinian West Bank, and hailing the Trump ‘deal of the century’ as turning things around in Israel’s favor, as it were, since all earlier ‘peace plans’, were biased against Israel:
“Within this package is a historic opportunity for changing the tide of history, which was pointing one way. The whole time. All the diplomatic plans proposed to us in the past asked us to concede swaths of the Land of Israel, return to the 1967 borders and divide Jerusalem. To take in [Palestinian] refugees. This is a reversal. We aren’t the ones being forced to make concessions, rather the Palestinians are. Regardless of negotiations. If they see fit to meet and accept about 10 stringent conditions – including Israeli sovereignty west of the Jordan River, preserving a united Jerusalem, refusing to accept refugees, not uprooting Jewish communities, and Israeli sovereignty in large swaths of Judea and Samaria, etc. – the [diplomatic] process will move ahead.”
Netanyahu’s appraisal is Zionist-mythical, since Israel has never actually made any real concessions from its own territory – it only made concessions on what it coveted to maintain under its control, that is, territory it was occupying and wanted to keep. The Palestinians were always the ones making concessions from what they were entitled to by international law and UN resolutions. Negotiations were never supposed to entail “dividing Jerusalem” – Jerusalem was not supposed to be under Israeli sovereignty. Israel’s unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem is null and void in international law, so the “united Jerusalem” is another Zionist myth.
In Netanyahu’s rendering, like with his trial, Israel is a victim of unfair treatment, and it is finally getting an opportunity to be treated fairly. In the zero-sum logic of Netanyahu, “fair” means they lose, and we win.
“Call it what you want”
Netanyahu was countering Lord’s voiced concern, that the ‘deal’ might somehow include a Palestinian state of some sort. He continued to emphasize that Palestinians need to come to terms with full Israeli domination:
“They need to acknowledge that we control security in all areas. If they consent to all this, then they will have an entity of their own that President Trump defines as a state. There are those who claim and – an American statesman told me: ‘But Bibi, it won’t be a state.’ I told him, Call it what you want. At the heart of the Trump plan are foundations we have only dreamed about.”
Thus, the Emperor Trump calls something a ‘state’, and if the Palestinians play nice they can get this ‘state’, which is not a state but rather a completely controlled archipelago of Bantustans. And if anyone wants to call it anything else they’re welcome, but it doesn’t matter, because Trump calls it a state. How about we just call it Apartheid?
Annexed Palestinians will not become citizens
Lord asks whether the Palestinians who are in the annexed territories would become citizens: “Nevertheless, several thousand Palestinians live in the Jordan Valley. Does that mean they will receive Israeli citizenship?” (The “several thousand” are about 65 thousand).
“No. They will remain a Palestinian enclave. You’re not annexing Jericho. There’s a cluster or two. You don’t need to apply sovereignty over them, they will remain Palestinian subjects if you will. But security control also applies to these places.”
So, Israel wants the territory but not the people. This is essential Zionist logic. Even ‘liberal’, centrist lawmaker Yair Lapid, who is now in the opposition after having split from Gantz’s Blue White over the idea of serving in a Netanyahu-led government, has made this principle crystal clear in the past:
“My principle says maximum Jews on maximum land with maximum security and with minimum Palestinians”.
Yet sometimes Zionists have decided to make some concessions after all, when “absorbing” Palestinians. It is worth noting in this respect, that Netanyahu is apparently outflanking even former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked from the right. Shaked has been a prominent lobbyist for the annexation of the whole of ‘Area C’, which by the Oslo accords of the 1990’s covers just over 60% of the West Bank. In her earlier proposals last year, Shaked clearly suggested that the Palestinians residing in those areas would get full citizenship. She said that Israel can “absorb” them. Shaked counted the Palestinians living in those areas to be about 100,000, which is an undercount of the actual 300,000, but she stated the citizenship principle clearly:
“The position of the New Right is clear – asserting Israeli sovereignty on Area C exclusively. In Area C, there are 450,000 Israelis, about 100,000 Arabs who will get full citizenship. Israel can absorb them. And definitely not to assert sovereignty over Area A and B”.
That is the same person who incited genocide against Palestinians in 2014, posting an article that described Palestinian children as “little snakes” whose mothers should be killed before they give birth to them. This is the same person who opined, as Justice Minister, that “there is place to maintain a Jewish majority even at the price of violation of rights.”
So Netanyahu is going further than her. No “absorption” of Palestinians. Not 300,000, not 100,000. Will there be even one “absorbed”? It is doubtful.
Israel is not setting up a state here – it’s merely further consolidating its Apartheid. And there appears to be no need felt by Netanyahu to hide it, because you can “call it what you want”. He calls it “The Land of Israel”.
And you know what, maybe Netanyahu does have a point in all this, inadvertent as it may be. His corruption cases are perhaps relatively small and unimportant. Because the greater crimes that are being committed meanwhile, they are crimes that are on a national level, and they are subscribed to by a wide political spectrum – remember that the Israeli Labor party is in the government, and the government is based upon annexation. And there’s a much bigger court than the Jerusalem District Court looking at this issue: The International Criminal Court (ICC).
Lord asks about this matter. “You’ve mentioned that this process needs to be done wisely. What does this mean? I understand you are concerned this move will lead to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.”
Netanyahu makes the same essential claim about this being a “fixed game”, as with his corruption cases:
“Yes, but the court at The Hague has already decided we are guilty of war crimes. We are defending our homeland, but the soldiers, leaders, and clerks are guilty of war crimes because we dare build homes in Gilo or Beit El. It’s absurd. It’s a fixed game from the outset.”
“We are defending our homeland”, you see. It’s just homes, what’s the big deal. I think it’s time for a David Ben-Gurion quote on this matter, from 1938:
“When we say that the Arabs are the aggressors and we defend ourselves —that is only half the truth. As regards our security and life we defend ourselves… But the fighting is only one aspect of the conflict, which is in its essence a political one. And politically we are the aggressors and they defend themselves.”
Netanyahu wants everyone to give him a break. But there’s been way too much of that, and we haven’t even scratched the surface. Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s and Likud’s popularity are soaring – polls say the Likud is up at 41 seats, that’s 5 more than the 36 they got at the April elections. Netanyahu knows how to play it. And he’s certainly not a poodle.