After nine years in power, three wars in Gaza and endless missed opportunities to renew genuine negotiations with the Palestinians, there is no need to guess what the policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are. One needs only to observe, analyze and think straight.
Netanyahu has implanted policies aimed at preserving a weak Hamas regime in Gaza and a castrated Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. In his view of Israel, a divided Palestinian political house with a regime in Gaza considered to be unacceptable to much of the world, and a Palestinian Authority with very limited authority in the West Bank, completely delegitimized in the eyes if its own people, is the perfect pretext for Netanyahu not to have to negotiate with the Palestinians from any side. The scenario works. The Palestinians, he claims, are not under Israeli control, they have their own government in Gaza and their own government in the West Bank. There is only minor resistance by radicals and Islamic fanatics who are committed to Israel’s destruction. There is no pressure for him to negotiate land for peace, there is no peace process. Israel does whatever it wants in the West Bank and in Gaza, and he gets away with it.
Netanyahu has succeeded in forcing Palestinians to leave Area C in the West Bank, demolishing homes, wells and communities – and this is in 62% of the West Bank. Netanyahu has succeeded in expanding the Israeli population in settlements throughout the West Bank – especially outside of the so-called settlement blocks. He has succeeded in expropriating more Palestinian land in the West Bank, gaining support of the Knesset and the courts. He has convinced donor nations – the United States the most important among them – to reduce financial support to the Palestinian Authority, bringing it dangerously close to bankruptcy.
At the same time, Israel continues to coordinate security with the Palestinian security forces, while arresting Palestinians every night from their beds, and almost no one in Israel, or around the world lifts a finger or shows sign of even caring. Palestinian building on their own private land in Area C is deemed illegal by the occupation authorities and Palestinians have no recourse anywhere to prevent this.
Netanyahu has succeeded in increasing the demolition of more Palestinian homes in Jerusalem and forcing more Palestinians out of their homes in Jerusalem, enabling Jewish settlers to take over properties in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods. Netanyahu and his regime have changed the consciousness of perhaps most Israelis regarding one of the largest Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem (Silwan), virtually erasing its dominance over the landscape in favor a story of 3,000 years ago. He has legalized and finances a private extremist right-wing political foundation (El’ad) to be in charge of one of the most historic and sensitive parts of Jerusalem as the arm of the National Parks Authority of the Government of Israel. He finances another settler organization (Ateret Kohanim) in Jerusalem, which works to displace Palestinian families all over Jerusalem and place right-wing religious Jewish families in their place and then charges the taxpayers millions to provide those Jewish invaders private security services.
Netanyahu has succeeded in keeping two million Palestinians in Gaza constantly just on the brink of humanitarian disaster. He has held Gaza as the world’s largest open-air prison, preventing the movement of people, the flow of electricity and water, freezing the economy there. While terming the Hamas government of Gaza the front line of Iran in the region, he has indirectly repeatedly negotiated cease-fires with them. He has successfully strategized and implemented a situation of mutual aid and support between his own government and Hamas, constantly marginalizing and delegitimizing Palestinian moderates in favor of the extremists.
Netanyahu has succeeded in enabling a policy that prevents critics of Israel from entering Israel – regardless of their nationality and religion – including Jews. This prime minister has turned support for Israel into a partisan issue in the US Congress, putting his support behind the Republican Party and losing support for Israel among Democrats at an alarming pace. He has succeeded in convincing Israelis and Jews around the world that criticism against Israel’s occupation policies is equal to being anti-Israel, to delegitimizing Israel’s existence and even to being antisemitic (which it is not).
Netanyahu has alienated millions of American Jews who identify with the Reform and Conservative movements of Judaism. He has supported policies that deny non-Orthodox forms of Judaism legitimacy and equal rights in the State of Israel.
From day one in office, Netanyahu has incited against the Palestinian citizens of Israel. He has called them terrorist arsonists. He has alienated 1.5 million Israeli citizens from their state. He has downgraded the Arabic language, which was never treated as an official language to begin with. He has continued the policies of not building a single new community for this population of Israeli citizens who continue to contribute to the State’s economy and its society, despite Netanyahu and his right-wing regime.
Netanyahu has succeeded to be in office for nine years without presenting a single Israeli peace initiative. He has succeeded in reducing the chances of ever being able to create a two-state solution between the river and the sea. In what was called the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people, Netanyahu has succeeded in solidifying the non-validity of both of those pillars of Israel’s identity. In the real Israel of 2018, the territory under Israel’s control between the river and the sea, at least 50% of the people do not enjoy democracy, nor are they Jewish.
What does that make Israel, Mr. Netanyahu?
Our collective tragedy is that in the years to come we will probably see more of Netanyahu’s successes pile up.
The writer is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to the State of Israel and to peace between Israel and her neighbors. His latest book In Pursuit of Peace in Israel and Palestine was published by Vanderbilt University Press.