Israel Pulse

Netanyahu, a gift to Israel's enemies

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Article Summary
By perpetuating the occupation and the settlement enterprise, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is impairing the dreams of a Zionist state in Israel.

What do the leaders of Iran and Israel have in common? Both sides foresee a short lifespan for the Zionist state. On Aug. 25, Iran’s military chief of staff, Brig. Gen. Abdolrahim Mousavi, predicted, “Israel will cease to exist within the coming 25 years.” Two years ago, Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, said, “God willing, there will no longer be a Zionist state in 25 years.” Back in 2008, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had forecast, “Israel will be wiped off the map of the world,” with or without Iran’s involvement.

Iranian leaders do not hide their desire for Zionism’s demise, but they also do not identify Iran as what will actively bring about this demise. On the other hand, Israel’s leadership works diligently and effectively to accelerate the elimination of the Zionist state.

On Aug. 28, at a ceremony in one of Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared, “This is the heritage of our forefathers, this is our land. We came back in order to remain for eternity.” Using the biblical name of the northern region of the West Bank, the prime minister explained that Samaria is a strategic asset for Israel and further pledged, “There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the Land of Israel.’’

Netanyahu appears to have forgotten that Israel, according to his own supposed viewpoint, has no desire to control a large Palestinian population, to run their lives, to impose on them its own flag and culture. That was the “vision of peace” he articulated in his landmark speech at Bar Ilan University in June 2009. Now, in the summer of 2017, Netanyahu views the stillborn “vision” he described — “two free nations” living side by side in good neighborly relations and mutual respect — as heretical to the principles of the Zionist vision. He not only vowed to never evacuate a settlement in the occupied territories, he also announced to the celebrants gathered at the Barkan Industrial Park that he has plans to deepen Israel’s roots, to build, to strengthen and to settle even more Jews in the West Bank.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the pro-settlement HaBayit HaYehudi, was not to be outdone. “It cannot be that we [West Bank settlers] have been here 50 years, and we are still considered second-class citizens,” Bennett said on the same occasion. In a clear reprimand of Netanyahu, he added, “The time has come for you, Mr. Prime Minister, to apply sovereignty over Judea and Samaria from now on."

Imposing Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank and its residents would be the realization of a dream for the enemies of Zionism.

Imposing Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank and its residents would be the realization of a dream for the enemies of Zionism. A study by Sergio Della Pergola, a leading demographer, and Arnon Soffer, reveals that the Jews would constitute a minority in their state not within 25 years, but by 2025. According to their study, published by the Knesset’s Research and Information Center in 2011, Jews — along with non-Jewish immigrants, mostly from the former Soviet Union, and Israeli residents of other religions — will soon make up 44.9% of the population between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, while Arabs, Druze and Bedouins will constitute the majority. Even discounting the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip, Jews will only comprise 54% of the population, while 46% will be Arabs. This ratio does not compute with the Zionist vision, the essence of which is establishing a state Jewish in nature.

Imposing Israeli sovereignty over the occupied territories without granting its residents Israeli citizenship would be the final nail in the coffin of the Zionist vision. The frame of the coffin is ready and waiting in the Knesset’s woodshop: The Nationality Law being formulated by lawmakers to bolster Israel’s Jewish identity makes a mockery of the yearning — that Israel be embraced by the “comity of nations” — that is reflected in Israel’s core Zionist document, the Declaration of Independence (1948). What democratic state wants a family member that holds the principles of equality in contempt?

True, Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian lands does not bother Russian President Vladimir Putin. He is always happy to host Netanyahu and provide him with yet another platform to try to move the “Iranian threat” to the top of the agenda. Such was the case at their Aug. 23 meeting, after which Netanyahu told reporters that their conversation had largely been devoted to Iran's growing presence in Syria and Lebanon and Tehran's attempt to create territorial contiguity from Iran to Israel’s border. “We do not forget for a minute that Iran keeps threatening daily to annihilate Israel,” the prime minister said. “We will protect ourselves by all possible means against this threat.”

The most effective means against the Iranian threat is to isolate the Shiite regime, which is striving to expand its hegemony across the Middle East. Almost nothing scares the Iranians more than the prospect of a coalition between Israel and Sunni Arab states built on mutual defense, diplomacy and economic interests. A regional peace agreement between Israel and these states would result in the isolation of Iran and its allies that threaten Israel, led by the Lebanon-based and Shiite Hezbollah.

Tragically and paradoxically, Iran’s official organs attacked the Palestinians over their willingness to adopt the 2002 Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative. On the other hand, senior Palestinian officials speaking to Al-Monitor privately condemn the Iranians, who are willing to fight Israel to the last drop of Palestinian blood.

Running away from resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict threatens the Jewish national movement. It threatens it no less than it threatens the Palestinian national movement. Netanyahu-style declarations about deepening the occupation, and the type of calls issued by Bennett to annex the territories, are fodder for religious zealots, Jewish and Muslim alike.

To witness the demise of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, Iran does not need military bases in Syria, nor does it require nuclear arms. It need only arm itself with patience. Time and Israel’s leadership will take care of the rest. The snail’s pace at which the “peace process” is being conducted and accelerated settlement construction guarantee that Israel’s enemies will not have to wait 25 years for the elimination of Zionism. It will happen much sooner.

Akiva Eldar is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Israel Pulse. He was formerly a senior columnist and editorial writer for Haaretz and also served as the Hebrew daily’s US bureau chief and diplomatic correspondent. His most recent book (with Idith Zertal), Lords of the Land, on the Jewish settlements, was on the best-seller list in Israel and has been translated into English, French, German and Arabic.

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