-Mark Hage, Vermonters for Justice in Palestine
After ten long years of intensifying a brutal military occupation and expanding an illegal , Jewish-only settlement regime, laying siege to and savagely attacking Gaza, punishing the working class and poor, stoking the flames of racism and xenophobia, cozying up to central European anti-Semites, and enriching himself and his family, Benjamin Netanyahu may finally be on his way out of Israeli politics.
As Israel’s political elite wheels and deals, let’s review how Netanyahu played the cards he dealt himself to improve his chances of coming out on top in the most recent election. The summary below comes to us courtesy of Jonathan Cook, a superb British journalist and author based in Israel. He characterized Netanyahu’s last stand in the electoral arena as “by far the ugliest – and most reckless – campaign in Israeli history.”
Cook also reminds us that Netanyahu could likely be indicted in the near future on charges of fraud and breach of trust; this is more likely now that the political alliances he constructed and manipulated in the past to shield himself and his cronies from legal accountability are on the verge of collapse.
So how did Netanyahu try to retain his grip on power?
- The old-fashioned way: He attempted to launch a war on Gaza as a gambit to postpone the election. According to Cook, “Israel’s chief law officer, attorney general Avichai Mendelblit, stepped in to halt the attack when he discovered the security cabinet had approved it only after Netanyahu concealed the army command’s major reservations.”
- Netanyahu also dangled the red meat of annexation of much of the West Bank before the right-wing faithful. The attorney general Mendelblit declared that a violation of Israel’s campaign laws.
- Cook also notes that “Facebook was forced to shut down Netanyahu’s page on two occasions for hate speech – in one case after it sent out a message that ‘Arabs want to annihilate us all – women, children and men.’” (20 percent of Israel’s population, inside its 1967 borders, are Palestinian and citizens.)
- Netanyahu, Cook said, “even tried to force through a law allowing his Likud party activists to film in Arab polling stations – as they covertly did in April’s election – in an unconcealed attempt at voter intimidation.” Palestinians responded by voting in even larger numbers than the last time, which made the Joint List, a Palestinian-led party, the third largest in Israel.
- Finally, Donald Trump offered Netanyahu the possibility of a defense alliance that would obligate the U.S. military to come to Israel’s aid in the event of a regional conflict. But even this was not enough.
If the old Zionist boss loses his footing this round, rest assured that the new Zionist boss (or bosses) will be just as bad when it comes to Palestinians and the occupation, the plight of Gaza, economic inequality and the neoliberal order, the promulgation and enforcement of racist laws, the annual harvest of billions in U.S. tax dollars, and the slavish competition for Mr. Trump’s affections.
More on all that to come.