If This Is the Israeli ‘Opposition’

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Arab Israeli MK Aida Touma-Sliman was accused of disloyalty for criticizing Soleimani assassination.
Arab Israeli MK Aida Touma-Sliman was accused of disloyalty for criticizing Soleimani assassination.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Iris Leal
Iris Leal

How is it that as soon as he breathed his last, his assassination already had its supporters and detractors? The killing of Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani revealed that the gaps between those for and against the act in the United States and Israel are determined by party affiliation.

This is an election year in the United States and an unending election year here, and each has its political exigencies. So everyone fulfilled their obligation and called Soleimani a terrorist who deserved to die and then moved on to the legitimate question of where precisely the assassination would drag the United States and the Middle East.

One doesn’t have to be a major expert to understand that the American decision is quite a big risk, whose outcome will be felt in the Middle East. Not one even one commentator doubted that a violent Iranian response would surely come and that President Trump’s control over the implications of the killing, including war with Iran that would embroil Israel as well, is nil.

American public opinion is divided, but in Israel, as always, those who oppose the assassination or warn of regional deterioration are of course traitors who side with the enemy. That is what happened to Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman, who dared tweet that “the Trump administration is risking the lives of everyone in the Middle East – Iranians, Israelis and everyone in between. No to war!”

It seems to me that in comparison to the Democratic members of Congress, Touma-Sliman was moderate. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said that Trump had “tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox,” while Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren condemned the action and called it irresponsible. Luckily for them, they are not Arabs.

Kahol Lavan MK Yoaz Hendel trumpeted the reprimands he saves for such occasions; that is, a golden opportunity for him to pour populistic poison over 280 characters and push send. “Joint List MKs who blame the Americans for killing Soleimani have once again picked the wrong side. People who identify with the enemy anew every time strike a mortal blow against coexistence. Especially against the need of the state and its Arab citizens to integrate obligations and rights. Like an intentional poke in the eye,” Hendel wrote. This from a man who never found the courage to understand what is going on right under his nose and draw conclusions: “An Arab leadership is needed that acts for integration and not separatism.”

I am fairly certain that the reasonable reader doesn’t need my interpretation, but I can’t help myself: The legitimate claim voiced by most commentators and many members of Congress – that Iran would extract a heavy price for the killing and a military confrontation between Iran and the United States is a serious possibility – is identification with the enemy in Hendel’s eyes. And who identifies with the enemy? Of course, the Arab MKs, who are the enemy.

Because Hendel never was very sophisticated, his move – as an energetic supporter of the nation-state law and a lover of army life, coffee in the field and dusty uniforms – is transparent. But it also hurts. Not only because his populist use of minority groups as scapegoats is ugly, but also because of the critical dilemma of leftist voters. Kahol Lavan is the only party that can beat Netanyahu.

The polls that show the leftist parties teetering on the electoral threshold and the general feeling that they no longer represent values but rather political horse-trading has led many to waiver between Kahol Lavan and the Joint List. But Kahol Lavan is also Yoaz Hendel, not as the right flank signaling to voters who are sick of Netanyahu, but also as a faithful student of the latter’s methods.

The choice between Aida Touma-Sliman and Yoaz Hendel is not an agonizing one for me, but all those who are considering voting for Kahol Lavan, please tell them for me that until this campaign is over, they’ve lost the right to whine about incitement from Netanyahu.

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