Netanyahu Proved Israel Doesn't Want Peace

Netanyahu shows to the world that Israel wants neither an agreement nor a Palestinian state, and for that matter not peace, either.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

On Friday night Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once again proved himself to be an excellent elucidator, this time in the service of the Palestinians: He demonstrated to the world, better than even Mahmoud Abbas, why they had no recourse but to appeal to the United Nations. If there is one clear take-home message from his Hezekiah and Isaiah speech, it is this: The Palestinians (and the world ) can no longer expect anything from Israel. Nothing.

Netanyahu was particularly persuasive when he explained that a Palestinian state would endanger Israel - narrow waist, just hundreds of meters from Israeli cities, thousands of rockets - one giant blah-blah that willfully ignores the possibility of peace. A Palestinian state, perhaps, but absolutely not in our time, and not in our school of thought.

Our school of thought seemed especially deluded Friday night. Every decent Israeli must be ashamed of their prime minister, who stands before the world and tries to sell it the same old shopworn, even rotten goods that are long past their expiration date, expounding on ancient, irrelevant chapters of history and attempting to market cheap sentimentality like a beggar who exposes his wounds, both real and imaginary, to passersby. And the beggar is in fact a regional power.

Netanyahu, peddler of emotions, did not shrink from or forget anything, save reality. Abraham the patriarch, Hezekiah, Isaiah, pogroms, the Holocaust, 9/11, the children, the grandchildren and, of course, Gilad Shalit - all fodder for the tear wringer that assuredly didn't bring forth a single tear anywhere on the planet, with the possible exception of a few Jewish nursing homes in Boca Raton, Florida. There, perhaps, people were still moved by this kitschy death speech.

Netanyahu needed thousands of years of history to obscure reality, but Abbas' sense of history proved to be much more developed: He had no need to call up distant memories to elicit sympathy; all he needed was to soberly depict current events in order to attempt to shape a new history. The world and the auditorium cheered for Abbas because he spoke like a 21st-century statesman, not like a co-opted archaeologist of centuries past. Abraham or Ibrahim, Hezekiah or Netanyahu, Benjamin or Jacob-Israel, Jew or Judea - our prime minister's Bible and Holocaust stories should have made Israelis sitting down to their Friday night dinner feel awkward and uncomfortable. Is that all we have to sell to the world? Is that all we have to say? Is that what is being said on our behalf? Is that what we look like?

The faces said it all. Sitting around the table of Netanyahu's cheerleading squad (all of them Ashkenazi men, of course ) were two kippa-wearers, two generals, two former Russians, three current beard-wearers - a depressing and threatening group portrait of Israel's extreme right, class of 2011. The table of the Israeli delegation, even more than Netanyahu himself, revealed the true face of the most denounced country in the world today, with the exception of Iran and North Korea. They clapped, politely and obediently, not including Avigdor Lieberman and his loyal servant, Daniel Ayalon.

Israel's real face was also seen in Israel; Lieberman wasn't the only one to call Abbas' judicious, impressive address an "incitement speech." Joining the chorus, as usual, was Tzipi Livni - the Israeli alternative - who "didn't like the speech."

What was there not to like about Abbas' speech, apart from his silly mistake in failing to mention the Jews, together with the Christians and Muslims, to whom this precious land belongs? What in his speech was anything but true and very painful? "Enough" of the occupation? Ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley? Obstructing checkpoints on the way to the hospital, and settlements that are a barrier to peace? What was incorrect, damn it? "A difficult speech," the chorus of Israeli commentators sang immediately afterward; indeed, a difficult speech describing an even more difficult reality - but what do they know about reality? And not a soul asked: Why isn't Israel reciting the travelers' prayer for the Palestinians, for their journey to statehood.

On Friday night the final curtain fell on Netanyahu's masked ball of a two-state solution. Hiding behind the curtain are darkness and gloom. And in that lies an event of historical performance: It proved to the world that Israel wants neither an agreement nor a Palestinian state, and for that matter not peace, either. See you at the next war.