Many wondered how much different Israel’s foreign policy would be if Netanyahu were not reelected for his forth term.
But there is no need to speculate any longer: “Bibi” has been reelected, and the prospects for a peace settlement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seem increasingly dim, if not completely obliterated for the time being.
Netanyahu made clear that there would be no Palestinian state if he was elected, proclaiming that,
[A]nyone who moves to establish a Palestinian state and evacuate territory gives territory away to radical Islamist attacks against Israel.
He has also “vowed to strengthen construction of settlements in occupied east Jerusalem,” which further intensifies the conflict, and which is likely to increase Israel’s security concerns, something that Netanyahu would never dare to admit.
As observed by The New York Times, Netanyahu’s resort to racism and fear-mongering, along with his outright paranoia about foreign governments aligning a conspiracy to remove him from power, was striking.
Much like George W. Bush’s bid for reelection, Netanyahu ran on the premise that only he could protect Israel from the imminent destruction that would result in his absence.
Mr. Netanyahu claimed that nefarious foreign sources were trying to overthrow him and also promised to build more settlements, which most of the world consider to be illegal. Earlier this month, he made a subversive speech before Congress to castigate the Obama administration for seeking a nuclear deal with Iran, but that seems to have done little to enhance his support in Israel.
In his desperation, Mr. Netanyahu resorted to fear-mongering and anti-Arab attacks while failing to address the issues that Israelis said they were most worried about, namely the high cost of housing and everyday living in Israel. Although the economy has grown, the country has experienced widening income disparities and is now one of the most unequal societies in the advanced world.
The rhetoric concerning Israel’s impending destruction was at its most frantic during Netanyahu’s (largely unwelcome) speech to Congress, in which he provided his usual nonsensical arguments about Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, arguments which he has been flouting since 1992.
With this speech, and many others like it, Netanyahu was not expressing a legitimate concern for Israel’s national security, argues Paul Krugman, rather he was attempting to “distract the Israeli electorate with saber-rattling bombast, to shift its attention away from the economic discontent that, polls suggest, may well boot Mr. Netanyahu from office in Tuesday’s election.”
Of course, Netanyahu’s “saber-rattling bombast” worked, perhaps signifying, once again, the effectiveness of fear and fanaticism in political discourse.
Netanyahu also appealed to the right-wing hardliners in Israel, warning the population that, “Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves,” and that, “Left-wing NGOs are bringing them in buses.”
With these provocative words, “Bibi” has essentially “burned his bridges with the Arab minority,” writes Chemi Shalev in Haaretz, but I’m sure this fact does not weigh heavily on his conscience.
Shalev continues on this point:
He set fire to the ships that carry the load of Israel’s ties to the international community, especially the Obama administration, when he suddenly reneged on his agreement in principle to a Palestinian state.
He set fire to the tent in which the half of Israel that didn’t vote for him resides, by depicting them as pawns in some vast and ludicrous conspiracy that involves malevolent anti-Semites, nasty-minded NGOs, cigar-chomping tycoons, greedy Citizen Kane-type publishers and, inexplicably, sly subversives from Scandinavia.
And Shalev points out, correctly, that Netanyahu “took a page from the GOP’s Southern Strategy, as enunciated in 1970 by Nixon aide Kevin Phillips.”
The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans.
Netanyahu’s professed concern about Arab voters arriving at the polls “in droves” seemed to do its job, inciting further paranoia and fanaticism among the hardliners, and ultimately playing a part in winning him the reelection.
Many questions result from the conclusion of this strange race, on of the most significant being: What does it mean for U.S. diplomatic settlements with Iran (and this question becomes dire if Israel’s reelection of an ultra-right winger is mirrored by an election of a Republican presidential candidate in the United States in the near future)?
There are also many questions that arise about the Israeli population. As Chemi Shalev writes, “The incessant focus of Netanyahu’s rivals on his personality rather than his policies, together with his own divisive us-or-them campaign, have now split the Israeli public into two hostile and suspicious camps.”
Then, of course, there is the ever-present tension between Israel and the international community as a whole (excluding the United States, of course), much of which condemns Israel’s expansionist vision and its repudiation of international law.
What a mess, and if Netanyahu acts on his proclamations, it can only get worse.