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Israel's next elections will be about who is more violent to Palestinians

The resignation of Defense Minister Liberman could very well trigger elections as early as next March. Many will be going the polls with one question in mind: how much force should we use against Palestinians?

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announces his resignation following the ceasefire with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, during a press conference in the Knesset, Jerusalem, November 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announces his resignation following the ceasefire with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, during a press conference in the Knesset, Jerusalem, November 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel appears to be going to early elections. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Wednesday announced that he is resigning from his post, and that his party, Yisrael Beytenu, will leave the ruling coalition over what he called Netanyahu’s “surrender to terrorism.” The surprise resignation came just a day after Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire, ending the most violent flare-up the Gaza border has seen since the 2014 war.

Immediately following his announcement, the right-wing Jewish Home party — Liberman’s main competition for the title of “most hawkish” in the government — released a statement that it too would leave the coalition unless party leader Naftali Bennett replaces Liberman as defense minister. It is unlikely Netanyahu will agree to such conditions, which means that his coalition will probably fall apart, ushering in early elections in the spring of 2019, instead of their original date in November 2019.

Liberman’s move makes perfect sense, if one considers that his party, which holds only five of 120 seats in the Knesset, might not make it past the election threshold, as several polls have indicated (Liberman, ironically, was behind the effort to raise the threshold in an attempt to keep Arab parties out of the parliament). Leaving office and blaming Netanyahu for being too soft on Hamas may just be his ticket for political survival.

Liberman also used his podium to attack Netanyahu for backing down on the demolition of Khan Al-Ahmar, allowing Qatari cash and fuel into Gaza, and the latest cease-fire. Less than a day after Likud supporters demonstrated against Netanyahu in the southern city of Sderot, demanding harsher retaliation in Gaza after over 400 rockets were launched from the Strip into Israel, Liberman is now relying on public resentment toward the prime minister’s “lenient” response – which had the support of all the heads of the security establishment.

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If this is indeed the launch of the 2019 national election campaign, it means Israelis could be going to the polls as early as March with one question before them: how much force should we use against Palestinians? Judging by the past 24 hours, the answers most political parties will offer will range from “a lot” to “a lot more.”

Liberman and Bennett weren’t alone in criticizing Netanyahu’s “caving in” to Hamas — supposedly centrist leaders such as Yair Lapid and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, alongside other members of the Labor Party, also attacked the prime minister for his conduct. Confronted by such hawkish responses from political adversaries right and left, Netanyahu might feel forced to initiate some sort of military action, either in Gaza, the West Bank, or on the northern front vis-à-vis Iran in Syria, or Hezbollah in Lebanon. As long as he can save face and maintain his image as a bold commander-in-chief.

Palestinians in Gaza look on at the remains of the Yaziji building in Gaza City, following air strikes by the Israeli Air Force. Yaziji served as both a residential and commercial building, and was home to around 40 families, November 13, 2018. (Mohammad Zaanoun/Activestills.org)

Palestinians in Gaza look on at the remains of the Yaziji building in Gaza City, following air strikes by the Israeli Air Force. Yaziji served as both a residential and commercial building, and was home to around 40 families, November 13, 2018. (Mohammad Zaanoun/Activestills.org)

Even if by some unexpected turn of events Netanyahu’s coalition survives the turmoil with a razor-thin majority of 61 (out of 120) Knesset seats, recent developments are still very indicative of the current state of affairs in Israeli political discourse. Besides Jewish Home, with its outspoken agenda of annexing the the West Bank, the left-wing Meretz party and the Joint List, which strongly support a two-state solution, the majority of parties in or running for Knesset do not have any platform for how to end the conflict with the Palestinians. None are seriously willing to support a two-state solution, including possible negotiations with either the PLO or Hamas, and an end to the occupation and the siege on Gaza. A one-state solution is not even in the cards.

The only option that most parties seem to agree on, even if unofficially, is maintaining the status quo with variable levels of settlement expansion in the West Bank, and the severity of the siege on Gaza. Even Liberman has nothing else to offer. The sad truth is that the Jewish-Israeli public is only really divided over the degree of violence to be used against the Palestinians — all while keeping the status quo intact.

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    1. Bruce Gould

      “.. the majority of parties in or running for Knesset do not have any platform for how to end the conflict with the Palestinians.” On that sentence, Yossi Alpher of Americans For Peace Now has a relevant comment:

      Israel indeed cannot negotiate peace with Hamas. Yet Netanyahu hopes the Qatari cash will help bring about a “hasdara” or short-term ceasefire with Hamas. Until, that is, the next round of heavy violence. The entire “cash in suitcases” affair with the Strip merely emphasizes that Israel not only has no strategy for Gaza, but it has absolutely no strategy and no intention to resolve the entire Palestinian issue.

      https://peacenow.org/entry.php?id=29435#.W-xPuZXQbIV

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Yossi Alpher is correct. Let me put it in terms of its full implications. Netanyhu’s unwaveringly rejectionist strategy (he has never had any other strategy) is clear. And it is shared more or less by all the Israeli leadership so if Bibi is forced from office nothing essential will change. The Israeli leadership is determined to prevent a Palestinian state at all costs on the one hand, and to prevent a state of all its citizens at all costs on the other hand. What they aim for, at best, is an entity with semi-autonomous enclaves in Gaza and small parts of the West Bank, with Area C, at least, fully annexed and ethnically cleansed—leaving a bantustanized statelet, over which Israeli has control in terms of borders and “security.” This would essentially be an apartheid variant. None of the leadership wants a two state solution, at all, under any conditions, and they work day and night to thwart every attempt at one. They think they can buy off the Arab states and that they can wear down the Palestinians and the rest of the world. They are playing a long game, over generations, and will thwart every attempt to broker a genuine final status accord. They don’t want one, no matter how loudly they proclaim otherwise. Anyone who buys a message to the contrary is a simply a freier and the Israelis know it. Nothing the Israeli leadership does makes sense except in light of this strategy.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Lewis from Afula

      How can you violent towards a non-existing, fictional people ?
      The question does not makes sense.

      Reply to Comment
      • john

        individuals are killed, and you say they aren’t people. this dehumanization is one of the things ‘never again’ was supposed to cover.

        Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Lewis: I’m glad you’ve brought up the topic of nonexistence, it’s an interesting idea that needs to be explored:

        https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/the-twisted-logic-of-the-jewish-historic-right-to-israel-1.6654428

        Our political culture insists on seeing the Jews as the direct descendants of the ancient Hebrews. But the Jews never existed as a ‘people’ – still less as a nation…The founding myth of Zionism…acts as the principal ideological glue for the nation’s everlasting unity, and today more than ever. The justification for Zionist settlement/colonization (choose your preferred term – they mean the same thing) is the meta-paradigm that is expressed in the declaration of the establishment of the state, namely: “We were here, we were uprooted, we came back.”

        Reply to Comment
        • itshak Gordine

          All you write is the rhetoric of the far left in perdition. The great Jewish sages say the opposite and an overwhelming majority of Israelis approve of them. All the rest is only blah blah

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            In my view, Halevy, it is “the rhetoric of the far left in perdition” only inside your tiny right wing extremist mind. As Sand says, “the Exodus from Egypt never happened and that the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Judah were not exiled by the Romans.” And there never was a Jewish nation in the simplistic dumbed-down, history-distorting, land-grabbing, human-rights-denying, people-dispossessing, real estate-entitling, ol’ Joshua on the march with trumpets blaring way you and others go on about. As Ariel Sharon, no less, said in a different context, “What you see from here, you don’t see from there.” You in a cult-like, ultra-religious-nationalist, “our great sages say,” modern science denying sort of way (I can find great Jewish sages who say that opposite, what of that?), others from secular-nationalist-racist ways, others from mere “everybody knows” laziness and smug racist overlordism while trafficking all sorts of distortions. And it is all smug, and it is all racist, the religious and non-religious varieties, people picking and choosing chapter and verse they like and denying the ordinary reality of the occupation and its appalling day-in-day-out human rights violations and de facto apartheid.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            I repeat:
            How can you be violent towards a Pretend, fictional people ?

            Just repeatedly stating that “Fakestine” existed will never make it so.
            Like if enough people state that Narnia existed – will that prove that Narnia existed ?
            ISRAEL captured those lands from JORDAN. A historically inconvenient fact that all 972 degenerates like to ignore.

            Reply to Comment
          • john

            your non/acceptance of another person’s identity has no bearing on the violence your government inflicts. people are arrested and tortured in your jails, schools are drone-bombed regardless of what you call your neighbors in hebron or rafah.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            My solution is eventual repatriation of the Fictional non-people back to Egypt.
            Their roots are there and so is their destiny.

            Reply to Comment
          • john

            i know your positions: really trite stuff.
            palestinians will stay and want what they will, while calling themselves what they please. ‘non-person’ labels and your ‘solution’ only vividly remind me of jewish history and the fragmentary injunction to ‘never again’.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Lewis, there is ordinary dehumanizing, a common enough Israeli right wing practice that +972 Magazine has addressed intelligently in any number of essays; and then there is stupid, asinine dehumanizing, which needs not be addressed at all just because it is so stupid on the face of it that it auto-discredits the practitioner of it. Yours is the latter.

            Reply to Comment
          • itshak Gordine

            Even Yasser Arafat admitted that the “Palestinian people” is a myth

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            And Shlomo Sand argues that “the Jewish nation” is a myth. How about that? And Sand, unlike you, actually makes an intelligent argument. Halevy, you definitely belong with Lewis in the second of the two categories of dehumanizer that I outlined to Lewis. If you have some Joshua-on-the-march, real estate theft-justifying point you think you are making, you have some explaining to do, which explaining I assess as way, way above your capacities, but don’t let me stop you. I’ll be more than happy to scrutinize your argument. But, Halevy, just so you know, “our great Jewish sages tell us” is not an argument and will not be taken seriously as such.

            Reply to Comment
          • No, Ben. I attach great importance to what our Sages have said and written. This allowed the Jewish people to survive in the midst of persecution, to return to the ancestral land, to make it an ultra-modern country and to defend against the counterfeiters of history who want to steal it. You understand that faced with these facts, fruitless discussions are useless.

            Reply to Comment
          • john

            political judaism is as poisonous as political islam. your sages have no relevance outside of a theocratic mindset.

            Reply to Comment
          • john

            dictionary definition, on which you premise your present day ‘democracy’: “a system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god.
            • (the Theocracy) the commonwealth of Israel from the time of Moses until the election of Saul as King.”

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            @Halevy: A transparently preposterous explanation–a counterfeit historical and political bill you are trying to pass here. The founders of the modern Israeli state were secular, determinedly so. It is your type that wants to hijack it to one extremist fundamentalist sect of Judaism. The messianic national religious extremists took Ben Gurion’s compromise with the religious (a mistake, in retrospect) to get their foot in the door after the state was in place and then given an inch took a mile, and another mile, and another mile….

            “faced with these facts, fruitless discussions are useless.”

            Never mind the redundancy of fruitless and useless, what you are trying to pass off here is a fanatical religious sect interpretation of history as a set of objective historical “facts.” That is counterfeit.

            And by the way, you and your sect do not own history, and another people practicing self-determination cannot “steal” history from you. Land, however, can be owned and it can be stolen, and that takes us back to the subjects +972 Magazine writes about (I recommend to you Meron Rapoport’s explanation (“Netanyahu is stuck with Hamas, and he likes it that way,” November 15).

            Reply to Comment
    3. Bruce Gould

      For those folks who think the West Bank was ‘Jordanian’:
      There’s fictional history – black and white, clear cut and immutable – and then there’s actual history, which is fuzzy and complicated:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Bank#20th_century

      In 1950, Transjordan annexed the area west of the Jordan River, naming it “West Bank” or “Cisjordan”, and designated the area east of the river as “East Bank” or “Transjordan”. Jordan ruled over the West Bank from 1948 until 1967. Jordan’s annexation was never formally recognized by the international community, with the exception of the United Kingdom.

      Reply to Comment
      • itshak Gordine

        This territory was British protectorate before its annexation by the Hashemite Kingdom. This kingdom lost this territory following the 6-day war. Since 1967 it is an Israeli territory with 700’000 Israeli inhabitants who have a birth rate much higher than that of the Arabs. That being said, there has never been an Arab State of Palestine there or elsewhere.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Let me translate the Halevy-ese here.

          Halvey: “What this means to me is that the fact that is is an illegal occupation recognized by no one except the GOI and its fanatics means nothing to me, and we get to rule over three million Palestinians (and counting) indefinitely because the Bible and my nifty ‘sages’ tell me that because of my genes-ethnicity-religion I own the place, and ‘the foreigners’ can ‘stay’ if they ‘respect our sovereignty’ and yes, this is a de facto apartheid but it’s all ok because I’m Jewish and Jews rule and as far as I’m concerned it’s the 18th Century now, or if it isn’t the sooner we get there the better–except for nifty 21st Century high tech. Ancient religion and 21st Century high tech–I pick and choose what elements of ancient religion and modernity I like and screw other people and their concerns. It’s really neat. And screw everybody else because goyim are second class people anyway. My ‘sages’ tell me so and they even say it publicly but I don’t mention that very often. I keep it on the down low. And the birth rate statistics tell me that increasingly no political solution is possible and I love that because I want violence to dictate matters and the last thing I ever want to do is peaceably share. It’s all mine. Because I’m a Jew.”

          Reply to Comment
          • itshak Gordine

            Ben, in Judea Samaria there are 1 million and 800,000 Arabs (not 3 million), most of them in Zone A (Ramallah authority). They live under Arab rule and are governed by it. They come to work in Israel, hence their relative prosperity. Judea and Samaria are an indefinite territory because it was taken in 1967 to an occupier (Hashemite Kingdom). It should be remembered that there has never been in history any “Arab state of Palestine” in this region, and Israel has no intention of managing the lives of the Arab inhabitants of Zone A. More than 700,000 Jews living in this region under Israeli rule Many Jews consider Judea and Samaria as the cradle of their people. Why denying the Jewish people the right to live on these lands that they consider sacred? Why this discrimination? Why do you insist so much on making this region Judenrein? As for the rest of your argument, it concerns only you.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Halevy, what right do you have to tell others who they are? By what right do you tell Palestinians that they don’t exist while at the very same time complaining of “discrimination? The mind-boggling arrogance of this is striking. The obtuseness, for which you have set world records here, is impressive.

            You caricature yourself, Halevy. Just listen to yourself and see how easy it is to turn around back at you what you say and then one understands that the smug, easy, overlord justifications of yours are the most casual racist entitlement, sanctimonious emanations from an upside-down world in which the brutal occupier complains of “discrimination,” in which persons’ value and the human rights accorded them is entirely tribal-ethnic-religiously defined as if nothing else matters and as if millions of people’s suffering does not matter because they are not Jewish. Just change the terms and you see how preposterous your casual, drive-by, far right extremist visitations on this page actually are:

            Halevy, in Arab Palestine there are nearly 3 million Arabs. There are 700,000 Jews in Area C (illegally transferred in by the occupier in violation of the Geneva Conventions) living at the expense of indigenous Arab persons supposed to be protected but not only not protected but actively un-protected (treated brutally and cheated at every turn). The whole A, B, C thing, it turns out, was an Israeli trick called the Oslo Accords. The Arabs of Area A and B and C do not “live under Arab rule,” they live under Israeli Jewish and proxy-PA-as-corrupt-security-contractor-rule, and it is utterly preposterous, and insults our intelligence, to say otherwise, as you do. They live under Jewish rule. You would not actually have it any other way but you won’t simply state the truth. They come to work in Israel because they have no other choice because Israel has strangled them economically. “Judea and Samaria” are occupied territory according to every reigning legal authority and are recognized as occupied territory by the entire world. It should be remembered that there has never been in history any “Israeli nation state of the Jews” ever and there has never been an Israeli state of any kind prior to 1948 in this region; and Israel has every intention of managing the lives of the Arab inhabitants of all the Zones as long as it can in order to carry out a creeping annexation, but it realizes the organized crime aspect of this so it sneaks around and never does anything above board and in the light of day. More than 3 million Arabs living in this region under Israeli rule consider Palestine as the cradle of their people. Why deny the Palestinian people the right to live on these lands, that they consider sacred, in a river-to-sea democratic non-race-based, non-Judeo-supremacist state of all its citizens? Why this discrimination? Why do you insist so much on making this region Arab-rein and Jüdisch-regiert? As for the rest of your argument, it concerns only you and the cult that spares you from thinking any original or uncomfortable thought.

            Reply to Comment
          • itshak Gordine

            Several Arab leaders have said that the “Palestinian people” do not exist:
            https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Zuheir_Mohsen
            You are truncating the numbers by mixing the inhabitants of Gaza with the Arabs of Judea and Samaria. Examine the statistics.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Halevy, thanks for the isolated quote from 1977 from some apparatchik wanting to make his own point at the time for whatever reasons and whom you’ve elevated to timeless god-like spokesperson for the Palestinian people in perpetuity. Should I do the same for some leftist Israeli? Because, you know, I could do what you do in reverse and dehumanize everyone Jewish and see them all as one faceless mass. What is it about self-determination and identity formation that you do not understand? Palestinian identity has been forming and solidifying since the late 1800s. To deny this is just more of the same dehumanizing and contempt, for which you already have a considerable reputation.

            As for numbers, you want to split off Gaza as part of your ruthless divide and conquer strategy. I don’t as much. It’s all occupied, they’re all Palestinian. As usual, you try to sneak in unexamined assumptions, just as Israel always does with the occupation. Why not try honesty for a change?

            By the way, you say you “attach great importance to what our Sages have said and written” but obviously you cherry pick and choose what “Sages” you want and what they say in order to support your nationalist-religious extremism. So you can’t invoke “Judaism” to back you up. It won’t wash. There is no monolithic, single, authentic form of Judaism.

            Take a look at what some Jewish “Sages” in New York are saying, Halevy:

            War Breaks Out in New York’s ultra-Orthodox Community Over Measles Outbreak
            Unique aspects of Haredi culture have led to an anti-vaxxer movement developing in the community. As senior rabbis issue contradictory rulings, medical experts are using informal gatherings to try to spread the word about the importance of vaccinations
            Debra Nussbaum Cohen New York
            https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-war-breaks-out-in-new-york-s-ultra-orthodox-community-over-measles-outbreak-1.6675883

            I trust you would not attach great importance to what these particular anti-vaccination “Sages” have said and written on not vaccinating your children? I hope so, anyway, for your childrens’ sake–and other childrens’ sake in the larger society (but then you would have to feel some concern for children outside your ethnic-religious in-group, wouldn’t you?).

            Reply to Comment
          • itshak Gordine

            No, Ben, not an isolated apparatchnik, Yasser Arafat and many others said the same thing: There has never been in history either “Palestinian People” or “Arab States of Palestine”. These are stratagems to strip the Jewish people.
            https://www.wnd.com/2002/07/14501/

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            My longer reply to you seems not to have transmitted. But thanks for the musty quotation from 1977 (LoL) by some apparatchik making his own self-interested point at the time, and whom you appoint as the god-like spokesman in perpetuity for an otherwise apparently faceless mass of Palestinian untermenschen you deny any right to self-determination all the while naturally seeing your own as having a supreme and sacred, all-transcending right to self-determination. As Peter Cohen said over at Dahlia Scheindlin’s article:
            “zionists…share an ideology. The ideology makes it possible to ethically cleanse a territory for the Jews. All ethnic nationalisms share this ethnic ‘we have a right’ idea, that people with the same ‘blood’ have right to a ‘soil’. This idea was very widespread in the 19th century and gave rise to all sorts of Blut und Boden movements, usually with sordid outcomes.”

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            It’s interesting to look at your trashy far right websites (that throw all sorts of trashy popup ads too) to get a glimpse inside the xenophobic right wing extremist echo chamber you live inside of, Halevy. Thank you. An eye opener. The same site throws up utter trash, Trump-trash, about an “invasion” of Latin American immigrants planning to “stampede” the border. And other Fake Fox News. It is a window inside your frankly racist mind, Halevy. I understand you now just one bit better than before. And your site quotes the same apparatchik, not somebody else, and the quotation of Arafat does not support your thesis at all. I stand by all the statements to you I have made here and your replies counter none of it. Have a nice day.

            Reply to Comment
          • itshak Gordine

            Ismael Haniyeh, head of the Hamas political bureau, has said today: Our goal is the total liThat’s why a majority of Israelis scorn youberation of “Palestine”. And people like you, Ben, are their accomplices.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Haniyeh Shmaniyeh. You’re on the run and changing the subject. You, like Liberman and the rest of the far right, reserve far more hostility and contempt for Abu Mazen than Haniyeh. You secretly love Haniyeh. Meron Raopoport explains:

            Netanyahu is stuck with Hamas, and he likes it that way
            https://972mag.com/netanyahu-may-lost-gaza-winning-war/138688/

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            My solution is to mass repatriate the foreign Arabs.
            In other words, free Gaza as well as Judea & Samaria from illegal squatting by aggressive foreigners.
            Compensation for their property left behind ?
            They will get the same amount as Mizrachim got when they were expelled in the 50s & 60s.
            FAIR IS FAIR.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            I agree with Ben.
            We need to add up the moneys confiscated and determine who owes money to whom.

            Reply to Comment
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