Netanyahu the Mythbuster: ‘Special Relationship' No More
05 April 2015
By Ramzy Baroud
Imagine if an American presidential candidate made a plea to his supporters
on election day with the following statement: ''The Republican administration
is in danger. Black voters are going en masse to the polls. Liberal NGOs are
bringing them on buses.''
Even in a country where Chris Matthews is a media celebrity and Pamela Geller
is an intellectual, the statement would be scandalous, a political death wish
even. In Israel, however, the opposite is true.
In a message delivered in a video on Facebook, incumbent Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a sinister call appealing to ingrained
racism in Israeli society:
''The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are going en masse to
the polls. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them on buses.''
Netanyahu's fight was not exactly against the Arabs. The Joint List, which
united various Arab parties as a response to new Israeli laws aimed at
reducing their representation in the Knesset, came third with 14 seats.
Though this is an impressive showing nonetheless, it falls short of being an
imminent threat to Netanyahu or the Labor (Zionist Union) Party.
Using an imagined Arab threat as a fearmongering tactic is an Israeli
political staple. It is a notion founded before the creation of Israel over
the ruins of historic Palestine in 1948. But what makes Netanyahu's latest
statement more important than usual is that the Israeli leader blew to bits a
well-guarded secret – at least in mainstream media – that Israel is a racist
country. Not only did Netanyahu make the racist call to save his career and
stay in the race, he actually won with a substantial margin precisely because
of that very call.
Indeed, racism was in fact the reason behind his ''surprise'' election
victory. He is now on his way to becoming a prime minister for the fourth
time, as his Likud Party secured 30 seats in the 120-member Knesset. The
supposed ''left'' mostly represented in the Zionist Union won 24 seats,
although their political programme was virtually indistinguishable from Likud.
For Netanyahu's main challenger, Isaac Herzog, Palestinians hardly existed.
The occupation was a non-issue for him and for most Israeli political rivals
for that matter. His foreign policy programme was either identical to
Netanyahu's or was largely based on deferring foreign policy issues to a
later date. The soft-speaking Herzog had no qualms about keeping the illegal
Jewish settlements intact – which stands at the crux of Israeli military
occupation of Palestine.
''No matter who emerges as the prime minister following the election and the
inevitable weeks of haggling and horse-trading that go into forming a
coalition,'' wrote Michael J Koplow, ''Israel's foreign policy on the big
issues will be marked by consistency rather than transformation.''
Although Netanyahu vowed to oppose a future Palestinian state – raising
concerns among his Western allies – Herzog, too, practically opposed a
contiguous and sovereign Palestinian state because no such state could
possibly co-exist with colonial settlements and military occupation.
However, the US administration and media pundits didn't seem to be bothered
by Herzog as they were by Netanyahu's grandstanding over Arab voters being
bussed in droves or his intentions to block a Palestinian state. If the
prospective foreign policy outcome of both leaders would have been the same,
why didn't the Obama administration object as strongly to Herzog's political
programme as to Netanyahu's racist rants?
One of the reasons is that Netanyahu deviated from an unwritten script that
sustained the Washington-Tel Aviv alliance for decades and has served as the
central discourse to the so-called peace process. According to that script,
Israel is allowed to virtually do as it pleases in Palestine as long as it
adheres to a strict, agreed upon narrative.
But in his hunger for power and in line with his unquenchable arrogance,
Netanyahu violated the code. For Washington, a red line is being frequently
crossed and it is becoming increasingly difficult for Washington to maintain
a special relationship with Israel, which, under Netanyahu is paying no heed
to the foreign policy interests of the United States.
Despite protest by the Obama administration, Netanyahu's triumphant speech in
US Congress on 3 March was perhaps the most humiliating political episode in
US politics in many years.
In the long run, that strategy could backfire. Netanyahu's antics are
increasingly denying the US administration a prolonged, tired and failed
discourse pertaining to the peace process, Israeli security, democracy and so
on, leaving the White House with two stark choices: to follow the lead of a
racist and obsessive Netanyahu (as many Republicans and Democrats have
already done) or to part ways.
Thanks to Netanyahu, some of the misleading Israeli myths promoted as facts
by Israel supporters are now falling apart.
First, Israel cannot be a Jewish and democratic state. There is no such
thing. Jewish democracy is as flawed as any democracy that promotes the
interest of any specific racial or ethnic group at the expense of all others.
The collective cognitive dissonance that has been streamlined into Israeli
thinking that democracy can be tailored to fit racial and ethnic needs is
completely unacceptable as a sensible democratic standard.
Democracy is grounded on pluralism and inclusion, not racial exclusion and
fearmongering about Arabs voting in droves. The fact that 4.5 million
Palestinians don't have the right to vote in an area under Israel control
says volumes. The fact that Palestinians who voted in a democratic
Palestinian elections in 2006 are still suffering a punishing siege to this
day because of that choice, is particularly devastating.
Second, Israel is not an American ally and there is no ''special
relationship''. Netanyahu's speech about Iran at the US Congress in defiance
of President Obama and declared US foreign policy on Iran's nuclear programme
was the last nail in the coffin of the tired argument that Israel and the US
are unified by a clear set of mutual interests. The ''tail wagging the dog''
argument is back in full force, and Americans must understand that their
country's political elites are torn between the interests of their country
and those of Israel. No amount of reasoning about the ''special
relationship'' will rectify the damage created by Netanyahu.
Third, the peace process was a farce from the start. In fact, it was designed
to be a farce, meant to manage but not resolve the conflict. The Americans
had come to terms with the idea that they cannot pressure Israel to alter its
policies, thus designed the peace process as a way to promote an illusion
that a two-state solution to the conflict is still possible, placing the US
at the helm of being a mediator between both parties.
It mattered little if the ''peace process'' dragged on for a century more, as
long as both parties remained verbally committed to the unfeasible idea of a
two-state solution. While Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas kept
reiterating his lines as requested by Washington – in exchange for money and
political support from the US and its Western allies – Netanyahu reneged, not
just unmasking Israel, but exposing the American-led farce altogether. With
no two-state discourse, there is no peace process, thus there is no American
strategy in the Middle East and this leads to the question: now what?
As for Palestinians, they are not exactly ''happy'' that Netanyahu has won,
but some see his victory as an important step towards confronting the 20-year
charade of the peace process. They are not ''relieved'' that a man with a
racist and bloody legacy will invite more terror and war, but they understand
that regardless of the outcome, their suffering will endure, as will the
siege and the occupation.
While there is little that Palestinians can learn from the outcome of Israeli
elections, there is much for Americans to think about.
- Ramzy Baroud – www.ramzybaroud.net – is an internationally-syndicated
columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of
PalestineChronicle.com. He is currently completing his PhD studies at the
University of Exeter. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter:
Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).