The name is Bennett, Naftali Bennett. And the blame is on Bennett, Naftali Bennett. Of course, he’s not the only culprit, far from it; the prime minister is above him, the right-wing ministers are beside him, and the ministerial collaborators of the “center-left,” the inflammatory media, and the indifferent public, all may be congratulated on having brought us to this point. But Bennett had a special role. We dare not forget this, especially not as we take the toll of damage and accumulating bodies.
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In early April the economy minister imposed the fateful veto on the release of 14 Arab Israeli prisoners who had been jailed in Israel for decades. That was the original sin in the current chapter of Israel’s generations-long obstinateness. He put the fear of God into the government with his threat to bolt, and Israel backed away from its commitment to the fourth round of prisoner releases that had been part of the deal that restarted the diplomatic process last year.
The process died, and the rest is history, part of the chronicles of the third intifada, or whatever they will call the next phase of Palestinian resistance, which never really ended.
This achievement bears Bennett’s signature; no one can take that away from him. Just in case, he also made sure to get the Basic Law on a Referendum passed, which sealed the end of the peace process. Not that the process had any chance, but its gravedigger accelerated its end and brought the uprising forward.
Bennett’s role didn’t end there, of course. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu squirms and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman curses, Bennett acts. The murder of the three yeshiva students in June provided the economy minister with the perfect excuse to push Israel into another war in Gaza. He has admitted this in private conversations. The kidnapping was the excuse; the camouflage was the tunnels; while the real goal was to deal another brutal blow to the Palestinians, just in case.
Bennett was the primary instigator during Operation Protective Edge. He viewed Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon as a sissy, and thought the Israeli military was too restrained. For the man who’s proud of having killed “a lot of Arabs,” the operation was not enough. If it had been up to him, it would never have ended with only 2,200 Palestinians dead.
What followed could have been written in advance; Israel ignoring its vague commitment to discuss the future of Gaza, its tightened grip on the West Bank, and mass arrests within the Green line of Israeli Arabs who dared to protest against the war.
The spirit is the spirit of Bennett, an evil spirit which has swept Netanyahu away. Bennett calls for the killing of “every terrorist,” including an Israeli fleeing police; Netanyahu wants to send them all to Gaza. The ministers and rabble-rousing MKs serve as the background chorus. You can discount all of them, but not Bennett.
In an op-ed piece Bennett wrote last week in The New York Times, he once again explained his diplomatic initiative, a carbon copy of his 2012 “plan to bring calm.” His solution is amazingly simple – an apartheid state. Without embellishment, guilt, or disguises. Apartheid. He calls for the unilateral annexation of Area C, (those areas under Israeli control), autonomy (including road improvements!) for Areas A and B, which are under partial or broad Palestinian control, while leaving most of the Palestinians in their current situation, lacking civil rights forever.
There was no mention of two states or one democracy. Apartheid. Because that’s Bennett, the techie from the elite commando unit and settler leader from Ra’anana, who says what he means and means what he says – a rare breed in Israeli politics. You won’t hear any Bar-Ilan-type promises or hollow talk of a new dawn or a new Middle East that no one has any intention of realizing. From him you will hear the truth: Apartheid.
Now he’s making his way up. The damage he’s causing is increasing, and he’s liable to be the next big thing. But his damage is nothing compared to the damage caused by those who led us astray, who brought us to where we are. With Bennett, both the world will know and Israelis will know what his goals are; with him Israel will no longer wear its lying, false, pretty face, which has allowed it to continue its policies. That’s why I’m for him.