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Netanyahu's Enduring Legacy Is Stifling Talk of the Palestinian Issue

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Amit Segal.
Amit Segal.Credit: Arik Sultan
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Finally, some pertinent comments about Benjamin Netanyahu, by a person who knows him: Amit Segal, senior commentator for Channel 12 TV. At last, we have an analysis that does not diagnose the former prime minister as a weak individual who was under the thumb of his wife. We now encounter respect that is not adulation and does not rely on fragmentary facts.

Over the weekend, Segal gave an interview to Yedioth Ahronoth. The Channel 7 news website sorted the wheat from the chaff for us, quoting comments by the political pundit regarding Netanyahu’s achievements as a statesman. In my own words: The man had a plan and he fulfilled it, by burying the Palestinian issue. Every right-wing person should bless him and every left-wing woman should warn everybody else about his dangerous legacy.

And now to the quotes themselves: Based on hundreds of hours of conversations with Netanyahu, as attested to by Segal, the commentator determined that “Netanyahu is a great ideologue. People said he was zigzagging, but he did so until he got what he wanted.” And what did he want? “Netanyahu has a mega-target: to smother the Palestinian idea, and on the way there he has paid a price. But look at Tel Aviv, the leftist bastion. Who’s talking about this issue there? Netanyahu succeeded in stifling any talk about the Palestinian problem.”

Segal wasn’t asked to elaborate, perhaps because what he meant was clear enough. After all, we are experiencing this reality, even if some of the words describing it are inaccurate. The journalist imbibed his right-wing settler ideology with his mother’s milk, and it’s only natural for him to describe Tel Aviv as a leftist bastion. But a locale boasting a liberal, secular atmosphere with a proud LGBTQ presence is not enough to make its residents leftist and anti-colonialist.

Another incorrect choice is of the words “the Palestinian problem,” while the problem rests with the occupation and Israeli settler colonialism. This problematic term, attesting to linguistic insensitivity, has been used by many people for many years, so we won’t blame Segal for repeating it. More than anyone else, however, we Jews should understand why it is a problematic term, one that is hurtful and deceptive.

In previous centuries it was customary to talk about the so-called Jewish problem, instead of defining antisemitism and the idea of the purity of a nation-state as the problem. Likewise, in America, they talked about the “Indian problem.” To define as the problem the party that is being wronged by the imbalance of power in a historic, social or economic process, is to agree and accept the attendant violence while entrenching the harm it does.

Despite this, the message expressed by Segal is clear: The Palestinians strive for independence, for Israel’s acknowledgment of its responsibility for the Nakba and for the refugees’ return; the Palestinian Liberation Organization relied on the Oslo Accords for bringing about Israel’s withdrawal from all the territories it conquered in 1967 and was convinced that Arab states and the West would ensure the implementation of those accords.

But then, during the multiple tenures of Netanyahu, the Gaza Strip evolved into a separate issue. Even the return of shepherds’ communities in the Jordan Valley to their lands seems delusional now, after violent settler outposts have wrested control over them. The Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank are black holes in the vast expanse that is undergoing an ongoing process of Judaization and Israelization. The Abraham Accords, the inflated international preoccupation with the alleged rise in antisemitism, and the abundance of warmth being showered upon us by Europe – all these only serve to tighten the noose.

In his sober comments, Segal nevertheless ignored the debt Netanyahu owes his predecessors: prime ministers who worked diligently to shatter the Palestinian national project while pretending to work for peace: Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, who opposed a Palestinian state; Ehud Barak, who said there was no partner; Ariel Sharon, who accelerated the isolation of Gaza (a process that began in 1991); and Ehud Olmert, who imposed a cruel siege on the Strip.

All of them initiated, enabled and expedited the expansion of the settlements, including in Jerusalem. The Bennett-Gantz government has no intention of acting otherwise, as was evident in the recent meeting between the defense minister and Mahmoud Abbas.

P.S. The talk about them may have been stifled in Tel Aviv, but the Palestinians are here to stay, with their ideas and ability to resist.

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