Let’s connect the dots, like in the children’s game, at the end of which we come up with the whole picture: Benjamin Netanyahu is warmongering. Not only in the sense of being aggressive, or uncompromising, or intransigent, but in a clearer, broader sense. Since the election, the prime minister’s behavior has been that of someone who is preparing for war.
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Commensurate with his belief in war, he is amassing weapons, in part through the “special means” budget, which is immune to Knesset and treasury cuts. He entered and exited from the “Kerry blueprint” talks, or the Kerry initiative, without any intention of concluding an agreement – as he effectively declared when he demanded that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Netanyahu believes the Palestinians are bloodthirsty. He said so almost explicitly in his shameful prime-time speech, when it became clear to the public that the three young yeshiva students had been kidnapped last Thursday.
In practice, the Palestinians have surrendered. They have accepted occupation, loss of freedom, construction in the territories, exploitation of their resources, restrictions on movement, territorial compromise. They were vanquished with the aid of Israel’s military and economic might. Their turn to terrorism was a serious mistake. Violent protest is a serious mistake. Only negotiations and diplomatic activity will save the Palestinian people. But from time to time, there is an outburst of murderousness and brutal violence. In one such outburst, the three yeshiva students who were hitchhiking, were kidnapped.
Netanyahu’s expectation is that no settler in the territories will ever be harmed by any action resulting from Palestinian behavior. But to achieve that state of affairs he has to conduct negotiations. The key lies in an agreement with the Palestinian Authority, not in divide and rule.
But in prime time on Saturday, with the families of the youngsters in anguish, Benjamin Netanyahu took advantage of the moment to daub himself with war paint. Behold the man who is amassing weapons, ignores the rules of diplomacy, and whose one and only vision is to seize control of the territories of the PA based on an unequivocal working assumption that every Palestinian is suspect and violent. That is his vision.
And when the situation on the ground is terrible enough to seemingly confirm his preconceived notions, he positions himself in front of the cameras in order to say “I told you so” – to justify in retrospect his prophecy that there is no point in arriving at a framework for a final-status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
The settlements are an obstacle to peace. The settlements are a thorn in our side. The settlements are an act of plunder. And the settlements – Mr. Naftali Bennett, take note – are military camps in civilian disguise. Without Palestinian agreement to accept them – or their evacuation – the Palestinians’ suffering will continue. As will their resistance to the occupation. It is to be hoped that this will take a diplomatic and not a violent form, like the kidnapping last week (which does not have Abbas’ backing in an way). But suffering always engenders resistance.
It’s here that the danger inherent in Netanyahu’s speech lies. It’s dangerous not for the Palestinians – whom Bennett has already told “not to get mixed up” in his debased, violent language, which is ignorant of statesmanship, forbearance and human rights. Netanyahu’s speech is dangerous mainly for Israel.
Now it’s not rockets that justify aerial bombing, but the souls of three youngsters who attend yeshivas in the West Bank. Now it’s not only the Palestinians who in 2014 remain imprisoned in the Gaza Strip, and the Hamas government that represents them. Now all the Palestinians can look forward to collective punishment – which Netanyahu believes they deserve in any event, both because of their intrinsic character and their opposition to his settlements.
These are the words he should have begun his remarks with: “I have just spoken to Mahmoud Abbas.” But those are not the words he chose to utter.