Opinion |

Netanyahu, a Master of Humiliation

Carolina Landsmann
A Palestinian child stands near a donkey with pictures depicting UAE's crown prince and Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest in Kafr Qaddum, the West Bank, September 18, 2020.
A Palestinian child stands near a donkey with pictures depicting UAE's crown prince and Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest in Kafr Qaddum, the West Bank, September 18, 2020.Credit: Majdi Mohammed/AP
Carolina Landsmann

It’s impossible to share the joy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his followers over the agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, because their joy is schadenfreude over the Palestinians: Look at how your brothers betrayed you.

The Arab boycott, the threat of international sanctions on Israel and its moral ostracism from the club of Western nations were the only cards the Palestinians had to play in their nonviolent struggle against the occupation. Now, they don’t have any cards left. Netanyahu, backed by , has pushed them into a fateful decision – complete capitulation or a return to armed struggle.

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and his disciples aren’t rejoicing only at the Palestinians’ misfortune, but also at that of “the left.” Look at how Bibi managed to sign peace accords with Arab countries, with no state and no terror. Netanyahu’s big achievement, as he himself tells it, isn’t the peace itself, but the fact that it was “free.” Peace for peace.

This is conceptual trickery and a denial of the history of the Israeli-Arab conflict. The blood shed in the wars and the courageous agreements signed in their wake are the historic “price” that enabled the progress whose fruits he is now enjoying.

But that doesn’t interest Netanyahu. He has ostensibly shattered the paradigm that reigned until now, in which solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a necessary condition for comprehensive peace with .

Humiliating those who adhered to that paradigm is an essential component of the celebrations. Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was a present absentee at the ceremony in Washington. Look, Rabin, this is how you make a “secure peace.”

This was another opportunity to inculcate Netanyahu’s rewriting of his biography and of history as someone who always claimed that “Rabin isn’t a traitor, he’s mistaken.” Had Rabin the “loser” just listened to Netanyahu, not only would he still be alive, but there also would have been no bombed buses, we would have conquered Jerusalem, would be in our hands, and so would the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – and all without paying any price in blood. There would have been peace without wars and wars without casualties.

It wasn’t the Palestinians alone who tasted the depths of humiliation. Netanyahu’s decision to keep his senior partners in the government, and Gabi Ashkenazi, unaware of the emerging agreement for fear that they would leak information sent a humiliating message to the entire “anyone but Bibi” camp: Netanyahu isn’t impressed by your rank, your degrees, your status in the courts and academia. The fact that you were former military chiefs of staff is nothing.

Even U.S. officials , David Friedman and Avi Berkowitz have a higher security clearance than you do. The implication is that their role in keeping Israel strong is no smaller, and perhaps even greater, than that of the people belonging to the anti-Netanyahu bloc, greater even than that of former chiefs of staff.

Netanyahu’s humiliating treatment of his partners, who entered the government with the stated aim of “bridging the gaps among all segments of the people and the country ... with a view toward national reconciliation” attests to Netanyahu’s character and the qualities he admires in others. When he talks about strength, he isn’t only talking about the Arabs, but about domestic power struggles as well.

When Gantz and sacrificed their pride to help carry the stretcher, in Netanyahu’s view, they forfeited their honor. And with no honor, no ability to pose a threat and no power, all they deserve is humiliation. It’s not possible to reconcile with Netanyahu, only to kneel before him.

In this sense, Netanyahu did to Gantz and Ashkenazi what Israel has done to the Palestinians for decades. The Palestinians are only good for security coordination and fighting terror. Netanyahu’s respect for Hamas, which fights him, is second only to his contempt for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who abandoned terrorism.

As Netanyahu said, “In this region, only the strong survive.” Don’t you get it? How is it possible to respect an enemy that doesn’t fight you with all his might?