Opinion

What Lies Behind the Absurd Claim That Netanyahu Is Good for Israeli Arabs

Netanyahu gives a press conference in Jerusalem, June 24, 2019.
Marc Israel Sellem

At first I chuckled. The column was pretty amusing. The writing was a bit awkward, the irony was heavy, but the idea wasn’t bad.

The gist of it was that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeks to market himself to Israel’s Palestinian citizens through his loyal lackey, Nathan Eshel (“The right must stop splintering,” Haaretz, June 18).

“Netanyahu is good for the Arabs,” Eshel explained to them sweetly, but he was essentially saying that now the Arabs are good for Netanyahu.

>> Read more: Israel's right must stop splintering - and reach out to the Arab community | Opinion

Because his electoral prospects are looking shaky. Because Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman has abandoned him. Because the right-wing bloc is unraveling. So, Netanyahu is now hoping that “the Arabs” will return to the polls in droves, but this time in buses financed by right-wing organizations.

A skilled hand could turn this sloppily written text into a pretty amusing skit. But then my eyes began to widen in shock. This wasn’t meant to be humorous at all. It’s real. This is really Nathan Eshel, who was ordered by his master to market this bizarre nonsense in complete seriousness.

But then I began rolling with laughter, full of true rejoicing and effusive joy. Netanyahu is anxious. He’s hysterical. He’s having a panic attack.

How deliciously ironic; the man for whom “Arabs” was a curse word is now seeking their mercy. The worst inciter against them is begging for their votes. The fraudster who used them as the bogeyman to terrorize his boorish voters is sending his faithful servant on a slimy campaign to flatter them, urging them to join him (and his Kahanist allies) to save him.

Oh, how sweet and delightful this small poetic justice is. If for nothing else, it was worth printing Eshel’s piece in Haaretz, despite his indecent hobbies.

But even as they beg for their lives, Netanyahu’s envoys never forget to be arrogant, haughty and rude. “Most of the Arab community is interested in three things: education, the economy and personal security,” he wrote. And that’s it. That’s everything. Not, God forbid, equal rights, solidarity with the oppressed members of their nation, the objectionable nation-state law, racism, exclusion, discrimination, the endless theft of their land and property, apartheid laws – no, no, no. None of this. Only “budgets and respect” interest them, as Eshel put it, in his divisive, ingratiating way.

He was not only crass; there were simply lies. “We, the center-right bloc, constitute about 65 percent of the electorate,” Eshel stated with a confidence and groundlessness that wouldn’t embarrass his master. 65 percent? Really?

Here are the correct figures: The Israeli electorate comprises 6.34 million voters. All the right-wing parties – including those that didn’t pass the electoral threshold – got 2.4 million votes in the last election. That’s nowhere near 65 percent. That’s not even 40 percent. It’s barely 37.8 percent. How did they become 65 percent? Only God and Eshel know.

But even they don’t know how the two million people who didn’t even come to the polls would have voted. Is Eshel trying to base his bluff on their unknown votes? That’s a bit much, I would say.

I could continue to rummage through the piece to find even more pearls of ignorance, inaccuracy, flattery, deception and demagoguery. But I don’t have space, so I’ll suffice with one more sample. To support his argument, Eshel brings a cutting piece of evidence: “Representatives of the Arab community didn’t attend the funeral of left-wing President Shimon Peres because they had received nothing from him. On the other hand, many Arab citizens felt a need to console President Reuven Rivlin on the death of his wife Nechama, even though he’s a Revisionist.” Now, wasn’t that in good taste?  

To conclude, I would ask Nathan Eshel to pass the following message on to his master: When Netanyahu treats the Palestinian public with the same fairness, honesty and equality with which President Rivlin treats them, they’ll be happy to come to his funeral, too.