Agreeing Among Ourselves

Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the press, September 10, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

We weren’t surprised to see Likud members serving as mute props in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign promise to annex the Jordan Valley. We were a little embarrassed for the ones who were photographed with the annexation map, but what was far more embarrassing was the response by members of the Kahol Lavan party.

They began a competition with Likud over who agreed with whom first and who agreed with whom more. Kahol Lavan has three generals at its head, a few more in the middle, and zero alternatives to the vision of apartheid that’s taking shape before our very eyes.

On the contrary, Kahol Lavan promised that it’s exactly like Netanyahu. And in truth, party leader Benny Gantz recently asserted that the Jordan Valley “must be an inseparable part of Israel.” This wasn’t a diplomatic platform, but more of a sign that he would agree to form a unity government with Netanyahu. A harbinger of four more years of the same thing.

>> Netanyahu’s 'historic opportunity' to annex Jordan Valley is just hysterical despair | Analysis 

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Netanyahu’s map didn’t show the Palestinian communities of Bardala, Ein al-Beida and Al-Farsiya, nor did it include any mention of the 65,000 Palestinians who live in the Jordan Valley. According to Gantz, they’re living in the second best place for Arabs in the Middle East. But in reality, they suffer from daily abuse – army exercises in their territory, demolition of their houses and violence by settler militias, with backing and assistance from the army.

The annexation vision entails a willingness to pay in blood, both ours and theirs. It’s ridiculous to talk about the Jordan Valley in strategic terms nowadays, when the likely threat from the east is high-trajectory weapons. The Jordan Valley offers no defensive buffer against missiles. Our strategic interest in the peace agreement with Jordan and the close security cooperation with its king is ten times more important to Israel than control of the Jordan Valley.

Like Netanyahu and Gantz, South Africa also claimed during its years of apartheid that it was a democracy, because the blacks had autonomy in their Bantustans – the equivalent of today’s Palestinian Authority. There, too, the subjects controlled the cleaning, education and sanitation services, while also providing protection services to the ruler.

Like Netanyahu and Gantz, South Africa also claimed that its blacks enjoyed the highest standard of living in Africa. If it speaks and acts like apartheid, evidently it is apartheid.

And in South Africa, too, there were white politicians who despaired of the struggle against apartheid and preferred to deal with other issues that were less important than the big, important battle. History doesn’t remember them. They have been forgotten. And rightly so.

Therefore, every vote must serve a double purpose. It must bring about an end to Netanyahu’s rule, but it must also reflect thought for the day after. A vote for Democratic Union is a vote for a party that won’t recommend Netanyahu as prime minister and will challenge him by saying that Israel’s biggest problem is the continued occupation and the destruction of democracy.

To fear such a statement is to show contempt for both Israeli citizens and the millions of Palestinians who aren’t citizens, but over whom Israel rules. A vote for a party that has no moral spine, that evinces moral, political and intellectual weakness, and that doesn’t clearly commit to ending the occupation constitutes active support for a moral disgrace, violence, theft and dispossession. But it’s also a form of self-delusion, of hiding one’s head in the sand.

Netanyahu and Gantz think it’s possible to continue ignoring millions of human beings and deciding what’s good for them without asking them. It’s nice that Israelis agree among themselves about the Jordan Valley; it’s nice that there’s a consensus on this issue. But a few hours after the prime minister’s announcement, the Palestinians removed him from the dais at a campaign rally in Ashdod and reminded all of us that an agreement has to be made with them, not among ourselves.