Shattering Israel's Image: The Raging Turmoil Throughout The Middle East
02 January 2015
By Alon Ben-Meir
No Israeli government has shattered Israel's
international image more than the Netanyahu government
has over the past six years. Not only have Netanyahu
and his cohorts systematically been engaged in
rancorous public narratives against the Palestinians,
but they have taken action that could only attest to
his unwavering commitment to expand the settlements
and prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Although the Palestinians have also contributed to the
enmity and distrust between the two sides, the conduct
of Netanyahu and company has left Israel isolated and
scorned while dramatically shifting international
public opinion in favor of the Palestinians.
To promote his political scheme, Netanyahu has
skillfully linked every conflicting issue with the
Palestinians to Israel's national security. He
masterfully manipulated public opinion over the years
to justify his misadventures and continued occupation
in the name of national security, while bringing the
peace process to a grinding halt.
He has engaged in double talk; on the one hand, he
publicly endorsed the two-state solution, yet on the
other hand he missed no opportunity to proclaim
Israel's inherent right to the whole ‘biblical land of
Israel,' which makes the establishment of a
Palestinian state a farce.
He, like many of his predecessors, continued the
expansion of settlements, except that Netanyahu went
about it with zeal, gradually diminishing the prospect
of a Palestinian state while defying the international
community's plea to halt this illegal enterprise.
While Netanyahu and his friends publicly and routinely
charge the Palestinians of hating and resenting
Israel, he conveniently forgets that the Palestinians
are under occupation, where Israel often exercises
unrestrained measures to reign over them. He also
forgets that every Palestinian under the age of 48 was
born under occupation, and their behavior and the way
they feel is a natural reaction to their sense of
victimhood and despair.
Netanyahu masterfully uses Hamas' acrimonious
narratives and violence against Israel to paint all
Palestinians in the same light. Instead of praising
the PA for forsaking violence and their full-fledged
security cooperation with Israel, he capitalized on
the fissure between Hamas and the PA to hold the peace
process captive to Hamas' whims.
Netanyahu manipulated the peace negotiations to create
deadlocks. He repeatedly accused the Palestinians of
being untrustworthy, but then he insisted on
continuing settlement expansion during the
negotiations, making it extremely difficult for the
Palestinians to negotiate "in good faith" while
witnessing their territory being chewed up inch by
I do not suggest here that the Palestinians have had
the best of intentions to coexist with Israel in
peace. There is no doubt that over the years they have
sought to undermine Israel, if not eliminate it
altogether. And I do not deny that there is still some
residue of that within the Palestinians.
That said, the Israelis must recognize that times have
changed; Israel must distinguish between Hamas and
other jihadists, who represent only a small minority
of Palestinians. Today there is an absolute majority
of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza who want to
live in peace, without necessarily falling in love
with Israel. They are sick and tired of their
never-ending suffering and humiliation.
Ending the occupation and establishing a Palestinian
state is certainly good for the Palestinians, but it
serves Israel's needs and future wellbeing far more so
than the Palestinians. Every Israeli who bought into
the argument that the Palestinians are an irredeemable
foe must now reexamine the falsity of this belief.
The old and tired narratives Netanyahu and his
emissaries keep promulgating about how untrustworthy
the Palestinians are—about their bad intent, about the
Gaza experience, about the Palestinians' perpetual
hatred, about their long-term strategy to destroy
Israel, and about Israel's constant and grave security
concerns—no longer resonate.
It is time for the Israelis to ask themselves the
simple question: what is really best for us? Where
will the continuing occupation lead us? What will
happen to Israel's national character and identity?
Can we maintain our democracy and freedom, can we have
peace while keeping more than five million
Palestinians hostages, can we live with our conscious,
and finally, can we afford to forsake our core moral
values and still live with ourselves?
The collapse of the Netanyahu government did not come
one day too soon. It is time for Israelis to take
stock of the damage he caused to the image of the
country, to its moral standing, to its place among the
nations, to its future as a Jewish state, to its
friends and ties with other nations (especially that
of the United States), and to its prospect of living
in peace and real security.
The Israeli elections offer a momentous opportunity
for all Israelis to change course and rid themselves
of the clowns that have been running the country
asunder. They must begin by disabusing themselves of
the notion that Israel is beleaguered and under a
constant Palestinian threat.
The Palestinians will never be in a position to
threaten Israel's existence. Israel is threatened from
within. It is threatened by its political factionalism
and dysfunctional political system, it is threatened
by egomaniacal politicians whose thirst for power
trumps national interest, it is threatened by the
hypocrisy and bigotry of its corrupt, incurable
political leaders, and it is threatened by misguided
leaders who have no clue what tomorrow has in store.
Will the Israeli center and left look at themselves in
the mirror for once and ask: what is our real
responsibility to the nation, to its preservation, and
to its very existence? After nearly seventy years,
hasn't the time come to face the inevitable and seek
peace with dignity?
The upcoming elections offer all these splintered
parties an opportunity to coalesce around a leader
(without the absurdity of rotating the premiership a
la Livni and Herzog) and once and for all defeat the
chauvinistic and blind ideologues who are leading the
country toward the abyss.
Those Israelis who claim that, given the raging
turmoil throughout the Middle East, Iran's nuclear
threat, and the future uncertainty, Israel should
focus on its security than take a risk with the
Palestinians, are dead wrong.
Nothing will provide Israel greater security than
peace, and there is never, ever a bad time to make