“From your perspective you have a simple formula, ‘If you haven’t evacuated [territories], you’ve done nothing.’” So Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insulted the left last week in the Knesset. Whoever considers himself worthy of replacing Netanyahu as prime minister should have responded: Netanyahu is right. Moreover, if an alternative to Netanyahu has any right to exist, it’s only through the internalization of this truth: If you haven’t evacuated, you’ve done nothing.
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Instead of rejecting the negative meaning that Netanyahu attached to the possibility of evacuating territories, opposition chairman Isaac Herzog (Labor) accepted it as a fact, and only chastised Netanyahu for having committed the same “sin.” “You evacuated Hebron and voted for the disengagement,” he yelled. He proceeded with prescribing the act of evacuating metaphoric significance, rather than political significance, “You evacuated residents from their homes in public housing; you evacuated the refrigerators you evacuated their pockets and their wallets.”
Herzog simply fell victim to the right-wing’s moral manipulation of the meaning of words. Like, for example, the right’s catchphrase “Oslo criminals.” Instead of applying this term to Yigal Amir, who murdered Yitzhak Rabin, or Baruch Goldstein, who massacred worshipers in the Cave of the Patriarchs, and their dispatchers, or to Palestinian terrorists, they use it to refer to Rabin and Shimon Peres.
It’s no coincidence that this government is falling apart to the background of the debate over the Jewish nation-state bill. What is the nation-state bill, if not an effort at self-recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refused to recognize it as such, a refusal that served as an excuse for Netanyahu to break up the peace talks. It’s as if Netanyahu was saying, “They won't recognize us as a Jewish state? Fine! We'll recognize ourselves."
Netanyahu tried to pull the same trick on Israelis that he tried to pull on the Palestinians, and got the same result. Because no matter how hard Netanyahu tries to circumvent Israel’s main problem, it remains; so long as Israel does not end its occupation of the Palestinians and doesn’t recognize a Palestinian state alongside it, it will remain trapped in a loop of violence with its neighbors and with itself – a loop that is costing it its very identity.
The public will soon be hearing the various forecasts for the distribution of seats among the parties and the possibility of combining them into a political bloc that can replace Netanyahu. But the truth is, the only sustainable constellation is made of those who understand that the fate of the state is bound to the fate of the Palestinians, and that the two societies will either be liberated together or enslaved forever.
Only an election that yields a coalition committed to resolving the conflict and setting a clear frontier between the two states would be justified. Otherwise, we will continue to bounce between a round of violence and a round of elections, and so forth. “If you haven’t evacuated, you’ve done nothing,” should be the campaign slogan of the Netanyahu alternative, and also its test: Whoever isn’t willing to say these words must be diagnosed as a carrier of the same disease that Israel is trying to recover from.
Democracy must be protected by actions, by ending the occupation and respecting the legitimacy of the political power of the Arab vote. To do this we must fight the brainwashing Israelis undergo from infancy, which accords the Arab vote unequal status. Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said after the last election that “We will not form an obstructive bloc with the ‘Zoabis,’ a reference to Balad MK Haneen Zoabi. Lapid’s racism, which reflects the racism of his electorate and of Israel’s democracy, is what dragged the country to the nadir in which it finds itself. Before the voters go from one sick political bed to another, they ought to make sure it isn’t infected with the same disease.