Ramzy Baroud writes that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s naked personal ambition for power has resulted in him ripping off the veil that covered the ugly realities of Israeli policies that enabled the leaders of Israel and the US to claim that they shared common values and allowed them to stall indefinitely on giving Palestinians their rights.
Netanyahu’s speech to the US Congress without being invited by the White House and his open attempts at working with Republicans to sabotage the negotiations with Iran were bad enough. The last straw was the openly racist appeal that Netanyahu made during the last days of the election that enabled him to attract enough votes to retain his job, coupled with his flatly ruling out a two-state solution, all tactics that caused anger and consternation in the White House.
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.
Using an imagined Arab threat as a fear-mongering 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.
Baroud points out that Netanyahu’s main rival Isaac Herzog was little better and explains why Washington was upset with Netanyahu while ignoring Herzog.
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 program 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.
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 program 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. [My emphasis-MS]
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.
By explicitly ruing out a separate state for Palestinians, Netanyahu has exposed the reality that the so-called ‘peace process’ was always a sham, just a means of buying time to continue its Israel’s expansionist policies of annexing Palestinian land and giving them to settlers, suppressing the basic human rights of Palestinians, treating the Israeli Arab population as second-class citizens, maintaining apartheid-style policies by keeping Palestinians herded into cantonments that require them to pass through checkpoints to move from place to place, periodically launching massive assaults like the one in Gaza eight months ago, blockading Gaza and limiting basic food and medical and other supplies into the area to try and starve the population into submission, and all the other tactics that oppressive regimes perpetrate.
The recent outbreak of racist violence involving Ethiopian Jews that is being described as similar to the way that minorities are being treated by the police in Ferguson, Baltimore, and other US cities is just another manifestation of that widespread repressive attitude.
The Israel lobby in the US has its work cut out for it to try and create a new veil to cover the ugly reality that Netanyahu has now made plainly visible.