As you read this, Israelis would’ve already gone to the polls on Tuesday to choose their next government. And as I write this, on Monday, I do not feel in the least disposed to speculate on whether Benjamin Netanyahu, yet again, will succeed in prolonging his tenure as prime minster — and avoid being sent into retirement and political oblivion — or Benny Gantz, the Blue and White party’s aspirant gunning for the job, will replace him.
It is pointless to tell apart Tweedledum and tweedledee.
Netanyahu we know. And Gantz? Well, you may recall him as the honcho who directed, with such sadistic vindictiveness, Israel’s war on Gaza in 2014, when that entity’s military forces rained fire and brimstone on the strip’s population, killing close to 3,000 people and maiming 12,000 others, including, by UN accounts, 3374 children, of whom over 1,000 were left permanently disabled. The destruction of property and infrastructure was so beyond the pale as it was so beyond comprehension that then American Secretary of State, John Kerry, was said to have privately exclaimed to aides campaign, “What the devil are they [Israelis] doing there!”, except he reportedly used a more pungent Anglo-Saxon term than “the devil” to express his outrage.
Subjugated in perpetuity
For Palestinians, as indeed for other Arabs, there’s no essential difference between these two expansionist hawks and right-wing ideologues, who, let’s face it, mirror the euphoric cockiness that defines Israel’s political culture in our time. They both share the same vision of Israel’s future, a future where the five million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza will be expected to remain a subjugated people in perpetuity, living under apartheid rule, as they will equally be expected to watch helplessly as their ancestral land and natural are progressively wrested away from them.
Israelis’ overweening intransigence derives from their confidence that the West will continue to have their back, economically, militarily and diplomatically, no matter what, now and always.
That political culture imbues a majority of Israelis the with conviction that whatever their government does to these unfortunates, their government will get not even a slap on the wrist from the US diplomatic establishment, that Israel can get away with whatever excesses it darn well pleases, knowing that not just the US but the Western world in general feel that those excesses derive from the private hurt and existential neuroses at the core of Jewish history. This fitful reflex of guilt was at one time codified in the Euramerican world’s public discourse and had endured from the very day Israel was grafted on Palestine in 1948.
Not nowadays. Not since the June War in 1967, when Israel turned into an occupying power lording it over another people, and most decidedly not since its 1982 invasion of Lebanon, when it began to earn a reputation as a lean, mean fighting military machine that ruthlessly killed, maimed and destroyed, often mercilessly and more often gratuitously.
The decline of the liberal order in Israel — the very order that drove people in the West to identify with it in the 1950s and early 1960s — became evident, say, after the passage in its parliament of the notoriously racist Jewish State Law last year, and the alliances its government has forged recently with right wing nationalists like Poland’s Viktor Orban and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro. That decline was reflected in the collateral decline in public support by the liberal populations of Western countries. More and more Europeans have turned against Israel as have more and more Americans, among whom now only Evangelical Christians remain as staunch, hard-core supporters.
Israelis’ overweening intransigence derives from their confidence that the West will continue to have their back, economically, militarily and diplomatically, no matter what, now and always. They have not heard the unthinkable being verbalised in Congress by a new generation of legislators prepared to defy their once powerful lobby. They have not considered the possibility that they, like other mortals, are subject to laws that historical imperatives dictate to all peoples. They refuse to be in possession of antennae which reach beyond the rim of the present and into time still to come.
An unusually long, 3-page analytical piece that appeared in the Washington Post last Sunday, written by Robert Kagan, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, about Israel’s looming existential crisis, was tellingly titled, “Could Israel Go it Alone?”
That is at once a loaded question and a pressing challenge to whoever finally gets to form a government in Israel in the coming days.
— Fawaz Turki is a journalist, lecturer and author based in Washington. He is the author of The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile.