Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at the Oct. 12 opening of the winter assembly of the Knesset reminded me of the “blood, sweat and tears” speech delivered by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the House of Commons in May 1940. “We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering,” the British leader said then. “You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”
Netanyahu also promised victory on Monday. Victory at any costs, however long and hard the road may be. “We will also vanquish this current wave of terror,” promised the prime minister. The man who sees himself as Churchill's match promises Israeli citizens blood, sweat and tears in a war waged by an occupying nation against a people that has been striving for nearly 50 years for freedom, justice and equality.
Churchill's iconic speech was delivered in the midst of World War II, when the immense army of the Third Reich conquered nation after nation across Europe and threatened to attack Britain’s coast. In the Blitz, 43,000 British citizens were killed and a million homes were destroyed.
Netanyahu's promise to Israeli citizens is a victory by the strongest army in the Middle East in a war against children armed with stones, women armed with knives and youth armed with cars.
Since the prime minister does not do face-to-face interviews with journalists, there is no choice but to send him, by means of this column, some of the questions the Israeli public deserves to have answered and that haven’t been in his Churchillian speeches.
Mr. Prime Minister, at your speech to the Knesset you said that terrorism doesn’t stem from frustration at the lack of progress in the diplomatic process, but from the desire to destroy us. Why, then, did you hold a diplomatic process with the Palestinians? What moves you even today to offer to restart the diplomatic process with a neighbor who seeks to destroy us? Why have you called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to "Sit with me" and "Try and advance the issues on the agenda?"
You said that in any peace arrangement the Palestinians would have to relinquish the right of return and to recognize the nation-state of the Jewish people. But even if Abbas relinquishes the right of return and duly recognizes Israel as a Jewish state, how many ministers in your government and your party (including yourself) would vote in favor of a decision to recognize an independent Palestinian state and to evacuate tens of thousands of settlers?
You said that Israel is a country of laws and promised, “We will not allow any party, any side, to break the law.” Are you aware that the chance that a complaint filed by Palestinians against settlers who harmed them or their property will end with a criminal conviction is approximately one in 13? How many settler outposts established on private Palestinian land have you evacuated as of today, and how many have you recognized? After all, following an order by the Supreme Court, one outpost was relocated to a nearby site, while 25 out of 100 West Bank outposts were recognized or are in the midst of a process to legalize them.
You promised to carry out the full extent of the law against “anyone who lifts their hand against innocents, Jews and Arabs alike.” One law for the Jew and the Arab. Really? How much time would it take for the Shin Bet to impose a curfew on all Palestinian villages after terrorists burned a Jewish family in their sleep in a neighboring settlement and killed the parents and their child? What punishment is given to a Palestinian stone-thrower compared to that imposed on a Jew convicted of the same offense?
If you haven’t read the 2009 legal decision of Judge Yuval Shadmi of the Juvenile Court in Nazareth, you might want to take a look. The case in question was that of a Palestinian boy from Nazareth, suspected of throwing stones at a police car during Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip. You’ll discover that in the judge's ruling, there’s one path for Arab minors who protested the 2014 bombing of Gaza and another for Jewish minors who protested the 2005 disengagement from Gaza.
The (Jewish!) judge reviewed relevant precedents and found not one case in which a Jewish juvenile was sentenced to prison time. On the other hand, he found that the state prosecution as a rule requests prison time for Arab juveniles suspected of ideologically motivated offenses. The judge noted that contrary to the cases of Israeli perpetrators, for whom procedures are delayed and pardons are issued, the Palestinians are offered no delayed procedures nor issued pardons. He called upon the state to stop such discrimination on the basis of nationality or religion.
You called on Palestinians in Israel not to follow a leadership that “seeks to fragment the country” and emphasized that “We want coexistence between Jewish and Arab citizens of the State of Israel.” Did you seek to bind together the country with the election day statement, “The Arabs are voting in droves”? What historical truth do you offer on which to base coexistence between the Jewish majority and the Arab minority? The nationality bill, according to which Israel is exclusively the state of the Jewish people? And maybe we should rely on your speech to the Knesset last March, when you argued that Arab-Israeli citizens are immigrants who came here following the “return to Zion” of the Jews “to the land being renewed, rebuilt?” As the son of a renowned historian, you must be aware of the fact that in 1918, at the very end of the Ottoman Empire's rule of the region, the Arab population in the land of Israel counted about half a million people, compared with some 100,000 Jews there.
You promised to act against the focal points of incitement with all available means, including declaring the northern branch of the Islamic Movement illegal. You said, “There will be no immunity for those who incite and encourage terror.” Why don’t you act against Lehava, which attacks Arabs just because they’re Arabs? Why do you ignore the initiative of peace activists to make the organization illegal?
Do you think Jerusalem is still a united city? If so, what do you think of the proposal to impose a closure on Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and the call for city residents to carry weapons, assuming that this suggestion isn’t intended for the residents of Jerusalem's old Muslim Quarter?
You said that you called for a "massive reinforcement of forces," additional "regiments in Judea and Samaria" and the deployment of many border police companies to Jerusalem and across the country. With your hand on your heart, as they say, do you really believe that more policemen, more soldiers and more border police would calm the mothers whom you recently addressed in a speech, mothers who are afraid to send their children to play at the playground near their homes outside Netanya, Tel Aviv, Afula or Gedera? Should we promise our grandchildren as well blood, sweat and tears?