Netanyahu Is Exposing His Nationalist Face to the Public

After the prime minister's string of statements over the past week, it seems he has decided to take off the statesmanlike mask he has donned for the past few years.

Haaretz Editorial
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, November 9, 2014.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, November 9, 2014.Credit: AP
Haaretz Editorial

Benjamin Netanyahu is against the State of Israel.

That’s the only way to describe the string of statements the prime minister has made over the past week. It seems he has decided to take off the statesmanlike mask he has donned for the past few years, and now he’s exposing his nationalist face to the public.

Netanyahu’s modus operandi is always the same: He does everything in his power to torpedo any possible agreement with the Palestinians, and then exploits the frustration created by his rejectionism to inflame the atmosphere. He sets absurd preconditions for beginning negotiations (like recognizing Israel as the Jews’ nation state), and then, after the Palestinian frustration has become tangible in the streets, “invites everyone who demonstrates against Israel and in favor of the Palestinian state to move there; we won’t put any obstacles in your path.”

Netanyahu systematically reverses cause and effect. His goal is to portray the aggressor as the victim and the victim as the aggressor. He refuses to discuss substantive issues like borders, dividing Jerusalem and the right of return, then, after anger erupts on the Palestinian side and spills over into Israel’s Arab citizens as well, he instructs his interior minister to look into revoking the citizenship of Arab Israelis who demonstrated against the state or attacked policemen.

Instead of being the prime minister of all the state’s citizens, 20 percent of whom are Arabs, Netanyahu has a completely different goal: realizing the dream of the entire Land of Israel. That’s why he invests enormously in what he considers the most important resource of all: time. He knows that the more time he buys – from the Palestinians, the Americans and the world – the more crushing the blow will be to the chances for an agreement.

En route to realizing his dream, Netanyahu systematically unravels sensitive seams in the fabric of Israeli life. He weakens Arab citizens’ feelings of Israeli identity and also demonizes Jewish citizens who want to solve the conflict by dividing the land (“for you, the only initiative is to jump off a cliff and capitulate”). The Netanyahu of the last few days is an even more violent, harmful version of the Netanyahu of 1996-99 (“the left has forgotten what it means to be Jewish”; “they are a-f-r-a-i-d.”)

It doesn’t make any difference if this is a campaign strategy. The question of whether Netanyahu is trying to outflank Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett on the right is irrelevant. A prime minister who treats hundreds of thousands of citizens – Arabs and Jews alike – as excess baggage and enemies in disguise cannot be the leader of their government.

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