Rivlin Smiles for the Extreme Right

The election of leading presidential candidate Reuven Rivlin would grant legitimacy to the occupation.

Sefi Rachlevsky
Sefi Rachlevsky
Tzachi Hanegbi and Reuven Rivlin outside a polling station in Jerusalem during the Likud's primaries, Nov. 25, 2012.
Tzachi Hanegbi and Reuven Rivlin outside a polling station in Jerusalem during the Likud's primaries, Nov. 25, 2012.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Sefi Rachlevsky
Sefi Rachlevsky

At the ceremony inaugurating residential building Beit Menachem in Hebron’s Tel Rumeida neighborhood, there were two main speakers. One was Rabbi Dov Lior, the rabbi of the Jewish Underground, who lauded Baruch Goldstein after he massacred 29 Muslim worshippers and has been fingered as the source of the religious rulings deeming it legitimate to kill former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The other was Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin.

Rivlin was the only Knesset member at the event. And that was no accident. He’s the most reliable supporter the extremist settlers of Hebron have.

Rivlin deserves much credit for his firm stance in the Knesset against a wave of racist and anti-democratic legislation. For this reason, he is obviously preferable to the thugs on the right. But a supporter of the Hebron settlers being elected president of the state? Him receiving votes from the non-right? Someone has gotten mixed up.

The occupation and the settlements aren’t just another problem. They pollute Israel. The attempt to ignore them is what created the disgrace of the current government, in which Finance Minister Yair Lapid took votes from the center-left and then embraced Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, chairman of the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party, while Justice Minister Tzipi Livni took votes from the left and then joined a government that is breaking records for settlement.

Israel has two main problems. And both are being perpetuated by the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party. The first is poverty and social gaps. When Netanyahu orchestrated the chants of “With blood and fire we’ll expel Rabin,” Israel was a relatively egalitarian country. But as a result of his systematic and deliberate policies, Israel has become a record-setter in inequality. The second evil is the occupation and the settlements. Rivlin has been a party to both these Likud evils, and an enthusiastic party to the second.

The confused people on the center-left who seek to crown Rivlin are repeating the fatal mistake of the 2011 social justice protests. There is no such thing as “apolitical.” We must not ignore Netanyahu’s responsibility for what is happening, and we must not ignore Rivlin’s statement in the settlement of Itamar: “The entire Land of Israel is ours.” We must not ignore the results of the occupation and the settlements. They are perverting Israel.

I’ve written in the past that on the list of Israeli public figures who have been convicted, the decisive majority are those who grew up in the settler Likud, which knows no borders. They were convicted for things they did while serving as representatives of Likud, and working on behalf of the party. This is the list: former President Moshe Katsav, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the family of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, former Finance Minister Abraham Hirchson, former Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai, former Justice Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and MK Moshe Feiglin. Rivlin has only been investigated about his ties with businessman David Appel.

Obviously, the issue isn’t Rivlin’s personal morality, but what the Likud regime of occupation, settlements, incitement, racism and violating borders is doing to Israel. Perhaps Rivlin is a righteous man in the settler Sodom, but his smiling face and friendly personality only grant legitimacy to Sodom. And certainly that would be true if he were president.

The problem isn’t just a binational state. Israel today is multinational, and complete equality of rights without distinctions of religion, race and gender, as guaranteed in the Declaration of Independence, is its most important task — especially considering the Jews’ own history of suffering racism and persecution.

Rather, the problem is that Rivlin’s smile is a fig leaf for the occupation. The regime of the settlers doesn’t think for a second about giving full rights, including unconditional voting rights, to non-Jewish residents. Anyone who gets confused about this doesn’t understand anything.

Israel is currently in the final moments in which it might — only might — be capable of saving itself from being swallowed up completely by the settlers’ messianism. But doing so requires two things: sobriety void of self-deception and mobilized unity among everyone who isn’t part of the settler right.

The settler right has 43 Knesset seats. That’s a huge number, but it isn’t a majority. What puts the settlement movement that is swallowing up Israel into power are the collaborators — the blind, the egoists, the participants in their own personal reality show. In this government, they are the parties headed by Lapid and Livni, and in the presidential race, they are the MKs from the non-right and the left who have gotten mixed up. Someone who believes in the Hebron settlement and cooperates with Rabbi Dov Lior cannot receive even a single vote from the non-right.

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