Israel’s colonial democracy has given birth to a potentially more extreme type of ‘Jewish state’ akin to a more sophisticated and modern version of the ‘Islamic state’. But unlike ISIL, which was conceived and defeated by war, Israel is the only nuclear power in the Middle East today.
The fanatics, fascists and far-right fantasists, who won this week’s elections in Israel, are about to form the most openly extremist government in the country’s history. It will surely include the Jewish state’s new rising star, Itamar Ben-Gvir, a radical who spits violence and hates Palestinians in whose support the government will stand.
A majority of religious nationalists and ultra-Orthodox parties in government, the first in Israel’s history, would like to transform the Jewish state into a theocracy that lives by halakhah (Jewish law) and finish colonizing the whole of Palestine, come what may. .
But could they? What can they actually do that their predecessors have not already done, in terms of demanding death and destruction, and further expanding the illegal Jewish settlement in Palestine?
Benjamin Netanyahu, who is likely to form and lead the new coalition government, knows from his experience as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister that there is a limit to how far Israel can go before it begins to meet fierce Palestinian resistance and Arab. A little more, and Israel could also lose support in Europe and the United States; support that is indispensable to its security and regional standing.
He has previously preferred gradual steps to sweeping moves that could alienate Israel’s main backers and its new regional partners. Therefore, Netanyahu may try to curb his partners’ drive to annex the occupied West Bank and ethnically cleanse it of its Palestinian inhabitants.
But then again, it is doubtful that he can tame these religious fanatics, knowing full well that they have control over his survival as prime minister; the only guarantee for him to stay out of prison, after being prosecuted for serious charges of corruption.
I think the genie is finally out of the bottle.
The elections have opened a Pandora’s box that may well lead Israelis to the dark side. They have exposed the fragility of Israel’s peculiar liberality as a colonial state and exposed widespread fanaticism among the majority of the electorate after decades of unrestricted military occupation.
The rebellious pronouncements of Netanyahu’s outrageous new associates reflect the prevailing beliefs among most of Israel’s right-wing parties, including his own Likud, that have ruled the country for decades. But now that they openly boast of Jewish supremacy, it is harder for Netanyahu’s hasbara to hide his racism from the rest of the world.
After all, it was Bibi, as Netanyahu is known, who in August brokered the union of two or three small fanatical parties to ensure that they maximize their number of seats and join his future coalition government. They did very well: the Religious Zionist Party won 14 seats. Its lawmakers include Ben-Gvir.
Netanyahu’s other two coalition partners, the ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties Shas and UJT, which are socially regressive and politically fanatical, won 18 seats. Together with the 32 far-right members of Likud, they have a comfortable like-minded majority of 64 seats in the 120-member Knesset.
Emboldened by the new mandate, the ever-smug Netanyahu could skip the incremental strategy he has adopted so far, in favor of a maximalist agenda. Domestically, that could include him trying to control the judiciary and other levers of state, and further marginalizing Israel’s Palestinian minority. At the regional level, it could mean annexing occupied territories and bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities, at the risk of international backlash and war.
But it will?
Perhaps the answer lies in his recently published autobiography, written with re-election in mind. In this 733-page monstrosity, Bibi: My Story, Netanyahu repeatedly stresses the Iranian nuclear threat to Israel’s security and the need to end it once and for all, and insists on marginalizing Palestine to normalize relations with the Arab world.
Like a broken record, he repeatedly dismisses the “centrality of Palestine” in resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict, and condemns all forms of nuclear diplomacy and any kind of normalization of relations with Iran as naive and reckless.
He makes it clear that he is cheeky Machiavellian; who worships power, hard power, and believes that superior military power is the only way to achieve peace or security. A cruel narcissist, he is ready to do anything to stay in office, including betraying his closest allies and associates.
Like all populists, he is quite delusional and conniving. Although he is the longest-serving prime minister in the state’s history, Netanyahu claims in the book that throughout his career, elites, the press, the judiciary and the deep state, even American presidents, have been trying to catch it. .
Bibi, the book, is all about chutzpah: where Netanyahu, the victim of countless conspiracies, tells tantalizing stories about Bibi, the victor and victor over all living enemies, real and imagined. But since the book is riddled with lies, exaggerations, and other mischaracterizations, it’s a safe bet that he’s also lying about himself and his family, allowing the reader to read between the lines and beyond.
In that way, one can deduce what this tenaciously ambitious political animal represents, but it is difficult to discern who it is; the real from the fictitious, the sacred from the hollow. It’s like there’s nothing really there; nothing beyond character and carefully packaged clichés.
Lacking any empathy, he won’t let anything or anyone get in his way. The experience does not humiliate Netanyahu. On the contrary: with each chapter, he becomes more arrogant and confident, talking about himself walking among the greats, going back and forth between Washington and Moscow, as if he were the prophet of Israel, leader of a superpower, as if he were invincible.
That mood, coupled with his new victory, may well entice Netanyahu to act ever more aggressively in Palestine, and toward Iran and the region, to make Israel reign supreme in the Middle East. As he sees it, America is stupid and President Joe Biden is meek and weak; the Arabs are divided and their leaders are cynical; the European Union is worried about Ukraine and Russia at war; and China is busy with, well, China.
But I have news for Bibi and her “baboons”, as the opposition referred to her supporters. Any overreach is a sure mistake that risks major setbacks on the military, political and other fronts. Palestine will always remain a holy symbol of injustice for the Arabs and central to resolving their conflict with Israel, even though some leaders have turned their backs on the Palestinians to appease Washington. And last but not least, arrogance invites disaster; any bombing of Iran’s nuclear facilities will only strengthen its regime and lead to a regional war with untold repercussions for Israel, the United States and the Middle East.
Always remember: the higher the ascent, the harder the fall.
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