Israel Election Results: Benjamin Netanyahu, Liberator of the 'Third Israel'

Carolina Landsmann
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Israeli Prime Minister and head of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement in Petah Tikva, March 7, 2020.
Carolina Landsmann

Might Benjamin Netanyahu not only just represent the “second Israel” – code name for Mizrahim in poorer communities – in its struggle against the first – code name for the Ashkenazi elite – but perhaps also be the liberator of the “third Israel”?

A historic irony is that the one who set the goal of snuffing out the Palestinian struggle may be remembered in the history books as a formative figure in that endeavor.

Bibi limps to election 'victory.' But he didn't win

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During his years in power, Netanyahu has sought to establish the concept that a two-state solution cannot be implemented. He has constantly incited against Israel’s Arab citizens and strived to undermine their right to vote and be elected to office. But what was he thinking? If the Palestinians can’t even dream of expressing their national aspirations through independent statehood, and if the nation-state law bans Israeli Arabs from finding a solution to their national aspirations inside Israel, and if at the same time they are excluded from the Israeli identity, which in effect overlaps with Jewish identity, what choices are they left with besides emigrating or committing suicide?

If violent struggle is rejected as terrorism and diplomatic struggle is rejected as “diplomatic terrorism,” then now that they have become a political force that can’t be ignored, the day is coming when they will be defined as engaging in “democratic terrorism.”

It appears that Netanyahu’s governments have acted as a historic trigger to change the course of the Palestinian national struggle, reminiscent of the key role that the Dreyfus affair played in crystalizing Theodor Herzl’s Zionist vision.

The baseless accusation of the Jewish officer in the French army, the treason trial, the humiliating demotion, the calls for “death to the Jews” all led Herzl to understand that the road to emancipation was blocked, and only the establishment of an independent Jewish state could resolve the problem of anti-Semitism – that is, a transition from emancipation to auto-emancipation.

And really, what has Netanyahu done other than block the Palestinians and push them off the auto-emancipation road to the road of emancipation?

A half an hour after Donald Trump made clear that the United States is not bound to the two-state solution, lawmaker Ahmed Tibi faced CNN’s cameras and asserted: “If there’s going to be one state, then I’ll be prime minister.” By means of Netanyahu’s friend in the White House and his “deal of the century” – which in effect proposes moving Israel’s Arab population to a state that will never materialize – the Palestinian national movement was routed to a new historic path, moving its center of gravity from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Joint List head Ayman Odeh.

The past year has been critical for Palestinian history. The three election rounds saw Israeli Arabs increase their political clout each time, from 10 Knesset seats to 13 and then to 15. It’s also worthwhile noting that Netanyahu’s insistence on publishing Trump’s peace plan before the election was almost like a subconscious effort on behalf of the Palestinian struggle: It made it clear to Israeli Arabs that the destruction of Palestinian nationalism does not give Israeli Palestinians a ticket to Israeli society, but puts them outside the borders, a humiliating clause registered in Netanyahu’s name.

Just like the Zionist founders, Odeh also succeeded in uniting the entire spectrum of Palestinian society under one roof. But just as Zionism wouldn’t have accomplished this without the “generous assistance” of anti-Semitism, Odeh also couldn’t have done it without the engines of racism and divisiveness that were provided by the most inflammatory prime minister in Israel’s history.

Who knows, perhaps in the future the Palestinians will decide to mark March 17, 2015, the Election Day that created the 20th Knesset, as a day of the Palestinian awakening: When he thought he was on his political deathbed, Netanyahu circulated that vile video in which he said that “Arab voters are heading to the polls in droves.” And the rest is history.

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