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It's not Netanyahu — it's a country drunk on power

Even if Netanyahu’s corruption scandals force him out of office, Israeli politics will still be guided by the idea that Palestinians must be pummeled into submission.

By Marzuq Al-Halabi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his wife Sara stand alongside Likud party members at a rally in his support, as he and his wife face legal investigations, Tel Aviv, August 9, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his wife Sara stand alongside Likud party members at a rally in his support, as he and his wife face legal investigations, Tel Aviv, August 9, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

It’s easy to understand the expressions of joy and hope emanating from the broad spectrum of Israelis who are fed up with the Netanyahu government and its misdeeds, particularly in light of the reports that police suspect the prime minister of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust. It’s also natural to nurture illusions imagining the possibility of this saga — of a racist, right-wing government, corruption, and discourse of hate — coming to an end.

Of course, any further examination leads us back to the feeling that the end of the Netanyahu regime won’t really change or lives or propel us into some utopia. I think we need to look beyond the names in the headlines, beyond the right-wing’s “fake news,” which has been trying to take advantage of Israel’s “strategic structure,” which engenders precisely this kind of government.

The victory of the Zionist enterprise

In order to understand the political reality, we must analyze the strategic structure between Israel and what we call the “Arab world” — including the Palestinians — which has developed here over the past few decades. The strategy is a balance of power after 100 years of conflict between the Jews who came to historic Palestine and the nations that lived in the region, including the native Palestinian people.

Israel’s strategic situation vis-a-vis the Arab world is the best it has ever been since the establishment of the state. It enjoys military and economic superiority, as well as an advantage in its non-military strength. Israel’s power is measured in its economic and social might, and its strategic strength is a result of alliances and understandings (both explicit and implicit) with regional actors, its place in the international system, and the fact that it faces no external existential threats. Israel surpasses its neighbors in all these aspects.

On the Arab side, we are witnessing a collapse: states are coming apart, and bloody civil wars have created millions of refugees and the destruction of major Arab cities. Major hubs of Arab life have ceased functioning, and their political significance has all but disappeared. In Syria and Iraq, entire armies have disintegrated.

Looking back over the past 100 years, one can safely say that the Zionist enterprise has defeated that of the Arabs. The victory is not only clear to experts in intelligence and strategy, or to academics and the military establishment. It is a fact, so much so that it has become part of the consciousness of Jewish-Israeli society, which feels not only pride and satisfaction in its accomplishment, but superiority vis-a-vis the region. Zionism’s historic victory creates different kinds of politics and political needs when facing a challenging reality.

Likud party supporters at a rally in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as he and his wife face legal investigations, Tel Aviv, August 9, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Likud party supporters at a rally in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as he and his wife face legal investigations, Tel Aviv, August 9, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

That victory, however, has come to erase the Green Line and create a demographic tie-game between the river and the sea. The Israelis will not be able to make the Palestinians disappear, nor will the Palestinians be able to “throw the Jews into the sea.” Israel comes at the demographic draw through a near-total position of power and a sense of victory, expressed through belligerence and racism, preferring to pummel Palestinians into submission than reach a deal with them. This is the point of departure for all the lofty ideas floating around these days, which run the gamut from population transfer to territorial swaps. It is also the underlying reason for the disappearance of the Left’s idea of two states for two peoples and the right-ward intellectual drift among Israeli elites — including those who only recently were considered libertarians or democrats who would never have voted for the Right.

Demography doesn’t just disappear

This is also what has led the Israeli middle class to come to terms with the settlement enterprise in the occupied territories and partially what has caused the non-Zionist ultra-Orthodox to make peace with the Zionist state. Even the change from a largely secular society to a religious-Zionist one reflects deep changes that are a result of these strategic shifts.

When we add all this to the colonial ideology and practices of settling and redeeming the land, through ethnic cleansing and occupation of territory from native Palestinians, it becomes clear that the present situation is not the result of right-wing policies alone. In fact, much of the Right’s policy is a result of this strategic structure. The Right, we must admit, has successfully appropriated and emboldened this structure. Just look at the fear- and hate-mongering against Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Even if Netanyahu goes, we will still find ourselves with a political situation that is nourished by the same strategic situation. Even if Bibi goes, Israel and Israeli politics will be stuck with a demographic draw. And if he does go, what do we do with that draw?

Marzuq Al-Halabi is a jurist, journalist, author. He writes regularly for Al-Hayat. This post was originally published in Hebrew on Local Call.

Correction:
This article has been corrected to reflect that police have named Netanyahu as a suspect. There has been no police recommendation to indict at the time of writing.

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    COMMENTS

    1. israel people will always choose a radical leader in my opinion,
      it doesn’t matter who come next.
      who come across as someone who attached so mucch to the bible and cannot negoiate with the palestine will be chosen.
      but i wish peace of course and hope the things to change.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      Israel is a Jewish and Zionist country. The foreigners can stay in our country if they respect the laws. Some Arabs living in Israel begin to have a bad reputation because they perpetrate terrorism. If they are not happy in the Israeli hell, they can easily move to an Arab or European paradise.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Lewis from Afula

      “Fakestinyans” are just Jordanians that strategically renamed themselves after losing a war (1967) that they themselves started.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Ben

      You two Jewish supremacists give away the game with this far right tap dance. The prim Halevy starts you off with calling indigenous natives “the foreigners” in “a Jewish country” and uses euphemisms such as “respect the laws.” (Believe me, the South African apartheidists and the German National Socialists passed plenty of laws that people were forced to “respect.”) Then Lewis abandons all pretense and propriety and drops the fig leaf for full frontal racism and pseudo-historical revisionism. A burlesque.

      Reply to Comment
      • Lewis from Afula

        Ben:
        The Fakestinyans = Jordanians.
        They went to sleep as the latter and the day after the war, they woke up as the former.
        Its Fakestine Magic

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          The Palestinians did nothing the Israelis did not also do, overnight. And being indigenous for generations, they did it to a markedly lesser degree than the Israelis.
          Invention. Aka self-determination. The whole Israeli name changing game is testimony to that invention. Or “magic” as you would have it. Ben-Gurion, Barak, Netanyahu, Perez, Ya’alon never existed prior to 1948–were all invented by Gruen, Brog, Mileikowsky, Perski, and Smilansky. Overnight. They too went to sleep as the latter and woke up as the former.
          This can’t be any plainer or more self-evident. There’s nothing more that can be said. That you refuse to see it testifies to a strikingly willful entitlement and to a striking set of double standards to which you cling.

          Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Ben:
            Gruen, Brog, Perski, Mlleikowsky et al, were named that way by German, Austrian and Slavic Kings in the 18th and 19th centuries. Your a total moron if you don’t even know those basics of Jewish history.

            Go and read some history, you might learn something. Them, come back and see if you can contribute positively to this site.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Sorry Lewis. You have no argument. Historical tidbits about kings assigning names do not make up for your lack of substance. That the Mileikowskys came out of Belarus, Lithuania and Poland after many centuries and then overnight reinvented themselves as the Israeli Netanyahus is every bit as much an invention as the local Arabs of Palestine becoming Palestinians. Both peoples have engaged in self-determination. You want to disparage one side’s self-determination as a “fake” invention but not the other’s. This is a classic having it both ways. It’s dishonest.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            I guess you feel its OK for Gruen, Brog, Perski, Mlleikowsky et al., to passively accept their slavic / germanic-imposed names. I disagree with you.

            In contrast, the fakestinyans had nothing imposed on them. They were South Syrians, then Jordanians and after 1967, Fakestines. These identities were chosen by themselves. That’s the difference between the 2 groups.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            You’ll notice that I said that both sides have exercised self-determination aka “invention.” You seemed determined to edit my “both sides” into “one side” but people can read, Lewis. You want to transmogrify my “both sides” into “one side” because you want a straw man to attack and you want a foil to match your one-sidedness. For you to dismiss the generations of Palestinian indigenes’ close attachment to and identification with their land as meaningless, and for you to concoct a sentence like “the Palestinians have had nothing imposed on them after 1967” (I cleaned up your rude language) says all that needs to be said about how there is no reasonable conversation to be had with someone like you. You show a fatal self-centeredness and lack of empathy and a fatal extremism.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Ben:
            The real “invention” was to take a Jewish person called lets say Aaron Ben Yosef and forcibly change his name to Aaaron Brog or Aaron Perski.
            That is the real invention.
            Why should Jews accept this invention?

            In contrast, the Arabs decided to change their nationality 3 times to stop the creation of someone else’s country.

            Can you see the difference ?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            ​You still don’t get it, Lewis. For you, Jews are both real persons, individuals, worthy of infinite empathy, and players in your hypernationalist game. But for you, Palestinians are only faceless pawns in your hypernationalist game and not real persons and individuals worthy of empathy. You only see them as ciphers, placeholders for a contest of sovereigns and nationalisms. You only see them as names and nationalities that the local transitory “kings”–Syrian, Jordanian, and now Israeli , attach to them. You don’t see real people who have lived in and on this land for centuries and are attached to it, who are indigenous inhabitants for generations, with all the rights that attach to that history, regardless of what names transitory kings attached to them. They are not inventing that. It’s real and authentic. But for you, non-Jews do not have the same rights of self-determination and the same right to resist tyranny as do Jews. It’s very callous and aggressive. I feel it is very racist supremacist. It is reinforced by a selective attention to history. +972 Magazine on the other hand has an unstinting focus on human rights for all, Arab, Jewish and otherwise, and a much more balanced view of history. This is the real clash going on here. This is why you never make any headway here. It’s why you always seem a little or a lot off.
            Gideon Levy wrote something meant for you:
            http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.807833

            Reply to Comment
    5. Firentis

      Yep. Zionism was about building a Jewish state in the Jewish homeland. The Palestinian national movement was about preventing the creation and then fighting against the existence of a Jewish state in any borders.

      Zionism won. The Palestinian national movement lost. It is time for the Palestinians to accept the idea of living in peace in their own state next to a Jewish state of Israel. That begins with a Palestinian acceptance of the principle of two states for two peoples, something that the Palestinian leadership has never done and is still unwilling to do because it means facing the fact that it has permanently failed to destroy the Jewish state. As long as that remains the case there isn’t much to be done but continue to grow Israel’s strength while continuing to demonstrate how futile and misguided are the Palestinians attempts to destroy Israel.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Nonsense. Zionism was also about ethnically cleansing Palestinians either slowly or quickly in order to try to make actual reality match the fiction of “a land without a people.” Zionism in fact will not accept that it “won” 78% of historic Palestine but is instead dead set on grabbing the other 22%. And in the process it creates deceptive fictions, sleights of hand, such as: “Unless the Palestinians recognize the nation state of the Jewish people and formally consign Palestinians within Israel to permanent underclass status, then that means the Palestinians want to ‘destroy’ Israel.” Bunk. Netanyahu’s devious trick fools no one. Just as his devious personality fools no one inside or outside Israel. It is nothing more than an artful restatement of the usual excuses for refusing a two state solution. Netanyahu’s devious personality is emblematic of the whole criminal occupation enterprise. It is organized crime. That Netanyahu is likely to be indicted on a whole range of criminal corruption charges is a fact that does not exist by itself—it is part and parcel of the whole settlement enterprise he represents and his whole approach to life.

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          Ben:
          The phrase “a land without a people” is a bullshut phrase that was fabricated by mid-19th Century Christians in Britain and America. Actually, the real indigenous people were the Jews who had lived in that Land for 3000 years.

          You must read more hstory or else your postings will end up ridiculously absurd.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I never said the early Zionists invented the slogan or used it publicly–they certainly knew very well there were people in the land–but in fact, Lewis, the slogan describes exactly your delegitimizing intentions towards the Palestinians.

            Chaim Weizman in 1914: “In its initial stage Zionism was conceived by its pioneers as a movement wholly depending on mechanical factors: there is a country which happens to be called Palestine, a country without a people, and, on the other hand, there exists the Jewish people, and it has no country. What else is necessary, then, than to fit the gem into the ring, to unite this people with this country?”

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            There were no “falestinyans” in 1914. They had not yet been invented at that stage of history. Hence, there was nothing wrong at what Chaim Wietzman said.

            You must read more history or else you risk sounding like a total idiot.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Lewis, there were no “Israelis” in 1914. They had not yet been invented at that stage of history. You must read more history and admit to its truth and complexity or else you risk sounding like a one-sided fanatic, a simple-minded one-note-Charlie, in addition to being very coarse and uncivil.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Ben, did I say “there were Israelis in 1914”?
            Stop putting words in my mouth.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            ​Lewis, I never said you said it. If I implied anything, i implied that you *didn’t* say it. I didn’t put words in your mouth. I noted their absence from your mouth.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            So why did you bring the statement up?

            Reply to Comment
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