Netanyahu May Survive This Political Crisis, But Israel’s Left Will Not

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Above Photo:  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, June. 30, 2019. Oded Balilty | AP

As Benjamin Netanyahu closes ranks with Israel’s most far-right elements, the country’s already waning political Left struggles to survive

JERUSALEM, OCCUPIED PALESTINE — Like a pack of hyenas surrounding a weakened and wounded lion, Israeli politicians are ganging up on an injured, weakened Benjamin Netanyahu. With over ten years in office, Netanyahu is now the longest-reigning prime minister in the history of the State of Israel. Comparisons are being drawn between him and the man who is now second only to Netanyahu, the man considered to be the Founding Father of Israel, Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion.

Though coalitions have been created on both sides of the Israeli political divide, each wanting to strengthen its chances to be in power, one can rest assured that the one big elephant in the Knesset chamber will continue to remain ignored by lion and hyenas alike: no one will dare to touch on the fact that Israel was, is, and will continue to be an illegitimate, apartheid regime dedicated to the destruction of Palestine and its people. 

On the “Left”

When speaking of “Left” in Zionist terms, one has to remember that in the realm of Israeli politics left only goes so far. The newly united “Joint List,” for example, is considered extreme “Left.” It includes three parties that are predominantly Palestinian and one mixed Arab-Jewish party that is the successor to what used to be a Communist Party. The parties within the list include nationalists, socialists, liberal-democrats and an Islamist religious party. The common denominator is that they are made up of mostly Palestinians and discuss the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and the erosion of the rights of what was always an oppressed community, the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jarrar walks with Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, after her release from an Israeli prison, June 3, 2016. Majdi Mohammed | AP

But even the Joint List, which represents a variety of constituents within the Palestinian citizenry of Israel, cannot bring into question the legitimacy of Israel as the absolute master of the land. Balad, the one party that is considered an “Arab Nationalist” party, was nearly disqualified and prohibited from running because of its call to make “Israel” a state for all of its citizens, both Jewish and Palestinian. 

A closer examination of what a “state for all of its citizens” means in this context is worthwhile. Israeli Jewish citizens live throughout all of historic Palestine — between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. Jewish citizens of Israel can live wherever they want and they are full-fledged citizens. Palestinian citizens of Israel live only within the pre-1967 boundaries of the state. In other words, Palestinians who live in towns, cities, and villages within the West Bank, East Jerusalem or the Gaza Strip do not hold Israeli citizenship. 

The call for the state to be a state of “all its citizens” effectively means a state where Jews can live wherever they decide in historic Palestine but the Palestinians live only within the boundaries of the Israel that existed prior to 1967. In Israel even this is deemed to be unacceptable. This call — which seems like a fair and just idea until you look at what it actually means — is also asking for a symbolic gesture that will never be made by any Israeli government.

Israel’s other major left-leaning party is the Meretz Party, which calls itself Zionist Left. Meretz recently joined forces with Ehud Barak, a former Israeli prime minister and IDF chief who holds two distinct and dubious records: He was the most highly decorated soldier in the IDF, and he had the shortest tenure of any Israeli prime minister. The notion that Zionism and left-wing ideas can reside in one political party is absurd. Left-wing ideologies are associated with socialism, social justice and supporting struggles against injustice. Zionism, on the other hand, is the racist, settler-colonial ideology that created Israel, a state that has become an apartheid regime that is engaged in ethnic cleansing and genocide. How then can any entity claim to be both?

Mahmoud Abbas | Meretz party

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets with head of the Israel’s Meretz party Tamar Zandberg in Ramallah, March 10, 2019. Majdi Mohammed | AP

Some people may recall that Israel once had a powerful Labor Party. That party has been hearing its death knell, as several of its key members have left it to join the “Meretz”-led so-called “Left” coalition. It is not at all certain that Labor will be capable of passing the electoral threshold, and frankly the party has been irrelevant in Israeli politics for decades. At a recent press conference, party leader Amir Peretz said he would not rule out a coalition with what used to be Labor’s main rival, and today is Israel’s most prominent political party, the Likud. However, Peretz stated, Labor will never sit, or even negotiate, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

This is the same Israeli Labor Party that at one point represented the “Zionist Left” that was the most powerful political entity in the early decades of the State of Israel. It was responsible for the genocide and ethnic cleansing in Palestine and for the establishment of Jewish settlements all over occupied Palestine. It was also the Labor Party that instituted the apartheid regime that today rules over all of Palestine.

Blue and White

Like the red, white and blue that emblazon the U.S, flag, the so-called Blue and White Coalition represents Israeli patriotism, made in Israel. The coalition consists of three former IDF chiefs who joined with Yair Lapid to form a “Center-Left” party. The party has no characteristics of Left or Center. It is made up of racists and war criminals united by a hatred of Benjamin Netanyahu. They are totally secular, young, fresh, and they are “Not Netanyahu.” In the last elections, they came in neck and neck with the Likud. All of Blue and White’s main players swear that they would be happy to sit in a coalition with the Likud Party but not with Netanyahu and not with the settler-gangsters who currently reside in Netanyahu’s government.

Now Blue and White has become the “other” large political party. They are in fact a mix and match of politicians of all stripes and persuasions, who in the last elections, held in April of this year, came very close to forming a government but fell short. In fact, they announced they were perfectly willing to create a broad coalition with Likud, but without Netanyahu. Depending on what happens in the next elections scheduled for this coming September, they may not have a choice.

On the right

Netanyahu is without a doubt still the only candidate for almost anyone who leans right. He has created alliances with what can only be described as neofascist settlers. Their ideology, which is congruent with Netanyahu’s own political ideology, includes: declaring Israeli sovereignty over all of historic Palestine, including the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria as they call it; the forced mass exile of Palestinians; and the building of a Jewish temple in place of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, two iconic symbols that have crowned Jerusalem for over a thousand years.

Benjamin Netanyahu and John Bolton, back right, after a flight between Beit Shean and the Palestinian city of Jericho, June 23, 2019. Abir Sultan | EPA via AP

It was only recently that the major players of these right-wing parties formed a “Right Wing Front,” a coalition that includes religious and secular figures, all of whom share a single ideology. Many of the coalition’s members either currently sit in a Netanyahu government or have been part of one in the past. They support Netanyahu for prime minister and want to show a strong presence in the coming Knesset so as to ensure Netanyahu cannot be swayed to the “left.”

An injured old politician

Netanyahu has been around for a long time and has shown time and time again that he knows how to play the political game better than anyone. The coming elections may prove to be his final battle. If he can get Likud a few more seats in the next Knesset then he will once again be the prime minister and likely for a long time to come. If he does not, it is likely that his political career will be over.

The vicious attacks on Palestinians in and around Jerusalem are Netanyahu’s signal to the far right that he is their man and that they should vote for him by voting Likud. Not wanting to be beholden to any other party, he wants to make sure he gets enough votes to create the coalition that he wants without giving away the entire store. 

The recent home demolitions in Sur Baher and Wadi Humus were not a response to illegal building or security issues. The homes received permits from the Palestinian Authority, under whose control they were built. They did not pose any security threat either. However, over 900 troops were sent and the IDF Engineer Corps was tasked with the mission of sheer cruel destruction for no other reason than to serve Benjamin Netanyahu’s election campaign. Still, whether or not Netanyahu remains in power is of little significance to Palestine and its people. All Zionist politicians share the same ideology and support the ethnic cleansing, genocide, and apartheid regime with no reservations or exceptions.