The wolf no longer bleats


Those who despair at the strong likelihood that Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu has won himself a record fifth term in office are missing a key point. Without exception, each and every Israeli government, regardless of its political color, has quietly pushed the agenda of a Greater Israel, inevitably at the expense of the Palestinians.

Had the challenger Benny Gantz won the weekend general election, the tone of the government might have changed but its direction would have been the same. Different sheep’s clothing but the same wolf.

Therefore, all the talk of “right-wing” Netanyahu or “centrist” Gantz is meaningless. For years Netanyahu protested that he wanted a peaceful settlement with the Palestinians. Yet every time that peace looked in danger of arriving, he found some compelling excuse to walk away. Inevitably, it was more often than not some Palestinian attack provoked by increased Israeli oppression in the Occupied Territories. And there have been reasons to suspect that Israeli agents were involved in the timing of these events. Indeed, the long-range rocket attack last week, which devastated an Israeli home, came at an extraordinarily convenient moment in Netanyahu’s campaign to hang on to power. He was able once again to play the tough leader and send in his warplanes to launch deadly strikes on civilians in Gaza. And this was the more important since Gantz, probably Netanyahu’s most effective recent challenger, had been a senior military chief and intelligence specialist.

Netanyahu had a relatively difficult eight years during the Obama presidency. It was not that Washington’s slavish military and financial support for the state of Israel was particularly affected. It was rather that at Netanyahu’s first White House meeting with Obama, the Israeli’s arrogance and hectoring, coupled with an overheard racist comment by one of his aides did not endear him to the new president.

Nowadays, Trump’s Zionist son-in-law Jared Kushner is driving the administration’s Israeli agenda. The bitter fruit of this accelerated American support has been the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem and the financial clampdown on the beleaguered Palestinians. More worryingly, Trump has displayed total indifference to a just and lasting settlement to one of the key historic challenges in the Middle East.

So complete has White House backing become that Netanyahu could even make a campaign pledge to “annex” illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Not a peep was heard from anyone in the Trump administration that this would be yet another Israeli violation of international law and in complete defiance of the United Nations.

When the final election results are in, Israeli politicians will enter into the normal protracted squabbling as they bargain to form the next coalition government. Netanyahu will, of course, be looking for partners who will be prepared to try and head off his own prosecution for corruption. But it is remarkable that the startling allegations against the prime minister do not seem to have overly bothered Israeli voters. It is perhaps recognition of the fact that their state is itself built on theft, oppression and double-dealing and that he fully represents all three. The only positive from this election is that Netanyahu has finally thrown off his sheep’s clothing. No thoughtful outsider need ever again take seriously his phony bleating for peace.