Opinion

In Netanyahu's Surprise Interview, Israel's Arab Citizens Slipped Through the Cracks

Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, without the Arab parties you are powerless. Salvation will come only if you join forces with us

File photo: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Jerusalem, March 20, 2019.
Jim Young/Reuters

I don’t want to reveal who said that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will eventually believe it’s the truth. But I would like to say that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who hasn’t, heaven forbid, said those words – is implementing this dictum in practice. And, as we saw in his interview Saturday night with Keren Marciano, he is doing so with no pushback about the significance of his terrible statements from people in the media, who are responsible for upholding the truth and are supposed to fight lies like lions.

Marciano indeed fought Netanyahu like a lioness, but despite this, she didn’t say a word when the concentrated evil sitting opposite her described the Arab parties as supporters of terrorism. I would have expected her to respond with shock – the same expression that was on Netanyahu’s face when she confronted him over legislation to grant sitting prime ministers immunity from prosecution – and say, “Mr. Prime Minister, how can you dare hurl such a blood libel at an entire community, citizens of Israel?”

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And if she still had any wind left in her sails, I’d have expected her to add angrily, “Isn’t it enough that you were party to the campaign of incitement that led to the murder of a prime minister? Did even the murder of that prime minister fail to satisfy your hunger for more and more incitement?”

Marciano, without blinking and with astounding glee, asked Netanyahu about every detail of his business dealings, which are steeped in greed and corruption. Therefore, in the face of his accusations against the Arab community, I expected her to tell him unequivocally, “Give me proof!” And then for her to continue the attack by pounding on the table and saying, “I won’t let this blood libel pass quietly. Either produce decisive evidence, or I’ll end this interview with you, because on my program, incitement and blood libels won’t be allowed to pass.” I also expected her to tell Netanyahu, with a pensive, sorrowful look, “My people, who suffered all the hardships of racism and blood libels, are crying, ‘Stop it!’”

But Marciano didn’t do what I expected her to do. Thus two million Arab citizens slipped through the cracks in the interview like sand, or perhaps like air. It’s too bad, Marciano, that the money the prime minister may or may not have stolen kindled your fury, but our blood, which is destined to be spilled in thousands of ways, didn’t move so much as a nerve in your face.

And now let’s move on to two pictures that transcend time and space, in which the Arabs’ fate and the Jews’ fate are tied together. The person who led the incitement campaign that culminated in a prime minister’s murder was the leader of the opposition, and the person now leading the incitement campaign that may lead to murder is the prime minister. But in both cases, it was Netanyahu. No position of standing can reduce the evil in his heart.

Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, take note: This evil man has woven our fate together with yours – even if you’re rightists, even if you toe his line on excluding the Arabs. Netanyahu has already convicted and sentenced you as the Arabs’ collaborators. Yes, you’re collaborating with terrorists.

Nevertheless, in one possible post-election scenario, you may yet come to us with great trepidation and ask us to bolster your bloc with our “droves.” And we will agree, because our hearts are as wide as the sea – hearts that at the moment of truth know how to do the right thing. And we won’t do this because we like cowards like you, but because the will to live, and the future of relations between you and us, requires us to focus on the essence rather than on secondary issues, even if they’re painful.

Really, where will you run to, Gantz and Lapid? After all, without us, you’re powerless. You can call us a curse or you can call us a blessing, but deep down inside, you know that salvation will come only if you join forces with the Arabs.

And to my Arab brothers, I say, enough of this self-indulgence about whether to vote in the election or not. When evil is knocking at the door, there is only one choice – to defeat it.