Bennett’s Horror Show: Israel’s Retreat From the Civilized World

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Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi and the rest of Israel’s extreme right obviously has a new political plan: he’s in favor of Israel’s disengagement - not from the West Bank, but from the civilized world. Last week Motti Yogev from his party called the US Secretary of State Kerry an anti-Semite, and this week Bennett and his MKs storm out of the plenum in the midst of a speech by President of EU Parliament Martin Schulz. Motti Yogev, stars, once again, by shouting that Schulz is supporting someone who supports exterminating the Jews. Bennett doubles up in his Facebook page and emphasized that these words were said in German - picking up his cue from Likud MK Moshe Feiglin who said in advance that he would not attend Schulz’s speech because it would be held in German.

I would find this behavior somewhat comical and would speak of a lack of civility appropriate for a third world country, if this were not Israel. But because this is Israel I feel first and foremost humiliated and enraged by the fact that people serving in our parliament behave in a manner that simply shames the country. The Knesset’s new ethics code has not yet been passed, but I wholeheartedly support MK Itzik Shmuli’s complaint to the Knesset’s ethics committee about Bennett and his MKs having dishonored the Knesset, even if the complaint will have no practical consequences.

Martin’s Schulz’s speech was a declaration of friendship for Israel, and he said things that were certainly not easy for him. For example, he said that he felt personal responsibility for what Germany had done to Jews in the Nazi period. As such it was a speech that primarily showed the depth to which Schulz, Germany and the EU stand behind Israel - including that the EU is not considering boycotting Israel.

Yes, Schulz also criticized Israel. He emphasized the Palestinian right to self-determination, and reasserted out that the EU is highly critical of Israel’s settlement expansion, which it sees as an obstacle to peace.

In doing so he did something very important: he told Israel, as a friend, that the international community will never accept Israel’s colonization of the West Bank - all the while making clear that he stands behind Israel and its core interests.

But Bennett & Co. have a simple principle: Criticism of their views by Israel’s enemies is obviously irrelevant, because it comes from Israel’s enemies. And criticism from Israel’s friends is unacceptable, because Israel’s friends are supposed to applaud anything that Israel’s extreme right comes up with.

To be completely fair I need to point out that Schulz’s quoting a youth from Ramallah on a piece of information that he hadn’t verified about the use of water of settlers vs. use of water by Palestinians was unwise, even if he made clear that he hadn’t had a chance to check his facts first.

But it is clear that Bennett and the Israel’s far right were just waiting for the occasion to slam Schulz. After all he made clear that he, as well as Germany, the EU, the US and the rest of the free world are against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. That’s not exactly news - but it’s something Israelis need to hear, because the likes of Bennett make Israelis believe that if Israel just annexes area C and lets Palestinians run Areas A and B, Israel will not be accused of being an apartheid regime, while keeping control of roughly 60 percent of the West Bank.

Bennett and the rest of Israel’s far right do not realize something very basic: The holocaust does not morally require the EU and Germans who were born  decades after the Shoah to support Israel no matter what Israel does. Israel cannot expect to treat its European friends with such shameless lack of civility and expect this friendship not to be harmed.

Telling German politicians that they cannot criticize Israel in their language means that Israel’s rightists have lost touch with civilized reality altogether. Overplaying the Holocaust card has but one effect: Growing parts of the free world are coming to feel that Israel is no longer part of it.

Naftali Bennett speaking at the Knesset.Credit: Emil Salman

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