The world is trying to save Israel from itself. Will we listen?

As much as the the Right may deny it, the world is sending Israelis a clear message: the settlements are illegal and immoral. The faster we listen, the better off we will be.

By Alon Mizrahi

Right-wing Israeli settlers demonstrate after marching from Ma’aleh Adumim settlement to the E1 area on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem, during a protest calling for an expansion of Jewish settlements in E1, West Bank, February 13, 2014. (Activestills)
Right-wing Israeli settlers demonstrate after marching from Ma’aleh Adumim settlement to the E1 area on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem, during a protest calling for an expansion of Jewish settlements in E1, West Bank, February 13, 2014. (Activestills)

Let’s talk about the issue itself. The issue is not Israel’s reputation, not its legal status, nor the behavior of its right-wing government. The issue is settlements.

On this issue one must repeat today what was true yesterday, the day before, and every day since 1967: the idea of settling for the purpose of marking territory — based on a worldview based on belligerence and supremacy — while placing a civilian population under military rule, is ugly and unsustainable. This worldview has been held by decent, realistic Israelis for 50 years. There is no chance for the apartheid model as embodied by the settlements, which grant their Jewish residents excessive privileges over the Palestinians.

The greatest harm caused by the settlements is vis-a-vis Israelis and Judaism: they force the state to constantly deepen its hatred and fear of Arabs. Anger and fear, after all, are what raise a generation of soldiers and settlers who will maintain the mechanisms of settlement and occupation. Without anger and fear, there is nothing.

Beyond the issue itself, there is the story of the settlements and the coalition of Prime Minister Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, which decided in the past few years to break the rules of the game when it comes to the occupied territories. No longer does Israel tread lightly and form alliances to ensure a facade of the status quo. This approach, one of the defining characteristics of the Zionist movement since its inception, has been replaced with arrogant ranting and biblical quotes, all while showing the world exactly how powerful we are.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu crosses his arms as Education Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at a cabinet meeting, August 30, 2016. (Emil Salman/Pool)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu crosses his arms as Education Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at a cabinet meeting, August 30, 2016. (Emil Salman/Pool)

If Netanyahu and Bennett, and the forces propelling them, are not satisfied with condemning the dissidents inside the country — à la the Soviet Union and other fascist regimes — they are now forcing the biblical, ideological worldview of the religious Right onto the rest of the world.

Telling Israel that it is okay to settle, for the majority of the international community, is akin to tacitly agreeing that Jews are a superior race. It means to agree with the history that Israeli Jews tell themselves, and the rest of the world, to the point that it grants them carte blanche to do whatever they want. No lobby on earth will make this happen.

The Jews won the support of much of the world for establishing a national home in the Land of Israel, once the international community recognized the justice and objective need for doing so. There is no justice or need for settlements, and only those who have traded their integrity and conscience in exchange for blind support for an orthodox, militaristic, and separatist current of Judaism can support them.

On Friday, the UN Security Council reminded that current of the limits of its power.

Friday night’s resolution was an historic one. It respected the United Nations and its Security Council, while backing the position of Israelis who are not willing to take part in the oppression of Palestinians.

On the other hand, we have no idea what tomorrow will bring. A man like Netanyahu, who has invested his entire life in promoting the anti-Palestinian lie of the settlements will not become desperate from this point on. If we examine his behavior following previous failures, like his loss to Ehud Barak in the 1999 elections or the Ariel Sharon in the Likud during and after the Gaza disengagement, we will likely see that the opposite is true. The pain of his personal failure will cause him to go into attack mode, alongside his new, bizarre friend, Donald Trump.

Donald Trump poses for a photo with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York, September 25, 2016. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)
Donald Trump poses for a photo with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York, September 25, 2016. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

Netanyahu is building a Israeli-Trump alliance, a hasty move that ties Israel’s fate to an unpredictable man who lacks widespread, bi-partisan support. A man with a long list of enemies and who relies on the more extremist elements of the American public for support. Depending on a man like Trump means turning Israel into a controversial and partisan issue.

Netanyahu’s response to Obama (he accused the president of “ambushing” Israel), the peak of the prime minister’s scorn toward his American counterpart, will not be forgotten among Democrats. This approach toward the Democratic Party and its beloved president may actually bring about renewed thinking toward the Israeli-Palestinian issue in liberal circles.

As a result, Bernie Sanders’ position vis-a-vis the conflict, which views Palestinians as equals and deserving of justice and respect, may become the dominant one in the party. Democratic candidates in future elections will remember Netanyahu and his government’s response to Obama’s attempt to be a pro-Israel — yet fair — arbiter on the Palestinian issue. An attempt that ended in failure, due to the Right’s determination to take over the West Bank at any cost.

Young Jewish men pray at the Jewish settlement outpost of Amona in the West Bank, December 16, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Young Jewish men pray at the Jewish settlement outpost of Amona in the West Bank, December 16, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Partnering with Trump may end up being a serious mistake for the Israeli Right. It can no longer claim that it is interested in a humane, fair resolution to the conflict. Not after the  “Formalization Bill,” which would retroactively legalize over 100 illegal settlement outposts, not after rejecting France’s attempt to broker peace talks, not after Trump, who is supported by Sheldon Adelson, Netanyahu’s biggest sponsor.

The Israeli Right intends to entrench the occupation until a deal is no longer possible. This, at the very least, needs to be clear now.

As Israeli opponents of the occupation in Israel, we are in for a difficult period: it’s only a matter of time before we hear the lies about the Left’s involvement in the pressure being put on Israel. On the other hand we know that global opposition to the settlements survived the Cold War and the end of the Soviet Union. It survived the Yom Kippur War and the First Lebanon War. It survived China’s Great Leap Forward and the Arab Spring. We can say with a fair amount of certainty that it will survive Trump.

On Friday evening we saw the international community take a very clear stand against the Jewish-Israel grasp on the occupied territories. A traps that is neither moral nor truly possible. One can only hope the Israeli public that does not identify with the Right will get the hint, and extract itself from the dangers of the settlement enterprise.

Alon Mizrahi is a writer and a blogger at Local Call, where this article was first published in Hebrew. Read it here.

Newsletter banner