Galloping determinedly towards one state in Israel – an apartheid state

JVL Introduction

Haaretz Editor in Chief, Aluf Benn, wrote an important editorial, evaluating the first 100 days in office of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Bennett’s style is totally different from that of his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu. Instead of arguing with allies, affirms Benn, Bennett “keeps them happy and gallops softly and determinedly toward one state with millions of Palestinian subjects.”

It was left to Gideon Levy the next day to spell out in one word what this means: apartheid.

Both articles are reposted below.


Bennett Presents: How to Establish One State Without Ruffling Feathers

The most important message in Bennett’s holiday interviews didn’t lie in his style, but in his policy

Aluf Benn, Haaretz Editor in Chief, 17 September 2021

So what did we have in Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s holiday interviews? He spoke politely to his interviewers, was careful not to anger them or the viewers at home, and handed out an abundance of credits to his ministers and coalition partners. What can we say – the very essence of change. It’s hard to believe that the polite reader of the talking points is the same Bennett who once competed with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over pithy slogans. Where are the days of “no more apologies,” and “Bennett will beat Hamas,” and of course, the hit that catapulted him into government: “How to beat a pandemic.”

Now Bennett is in government and the belligerent and restless figure he presented in his campaigns is hidden in a drawer for future use. Instead, he plays the role of not-Netanyahu. We can imagine that in the preparatory conversations for the interviews marking his 100 days in office, Bennett and his advisers binge-watched Netanyahu’s interviews and practiced what not to do. But just as Netanyahu’s outbursts on television were scripted lines and not a manifestation of spontaneous emotion, so is the statesmanship of his successor. Take another valium, his coaches told him – the important thing for you is that they see you in the wood-paneled office of the prime minister and not get a single headline out of it.

Bennett took the credit himself for three issues he is dealing with: COVID-19, the Iranian nuclear program and ties with Israel’s main allies – the United States, Jordan and Egypt. All the rest he distributes generously to his ministers. For example, in an interview with Tal Shalev on the Walla website, he said this about the Gaza Strip: “The defense minister has taken upon himself to bring about a peaceful arrangement. If it works, excellent” If it fails and the Gaza Strip flares up, it will be possible to blame Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who volunteered with such gallantry to bear responsibility. Good job, Benny. And Foreign Minister Yair Lapid? He’s “focusing on his comparative edge” in the Foreign Ministry. Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman got an excellent state budget passed, according to Bennett, and Gideon Sa’ar is altogether amazing as justice minister – a message that sounds like a dig at his embittered partner and former justice minister, Ayelet Shaked.

It’s good that Bennett respects his partners, as opposed to Netanyahu’s attitude of “me, myself and I.” He clearly doesn’t compare himself to Moses, King David and Theodor Herzl, as his predecessor did. But this modesty also means he’s passing the buck. After the escape of several Palestinian prisoners, Bennett didn’t make it all about himself and avoided dramatic speeches to the nation. Thanks to luck and resourcefulness, the crisis was resolved quickly and quietly. But if it had gone bad, those to blame would have been the ministers who dove in head first. This pattern will repeat itself in troubled times to come. The defense minister will see to defense, the finance minister to the economy and the justice minister to blocking Netanyahu’s return. That’s the way it is with Bennett. He’s just the chairman of the board, and responsibility stops below.

And yet, the most important message in Bennett’s interviews involves his policies, not his style. Bennett established a diverse coalition and linked up Zionist left-wing parties and an Islamist party. But don’t misconstrue the situation. He hasn’t adopted their positions as he remains deep in the right wing and plans West Bank annexation. Bennett wants to establish the one state that will perpetuate Israeli rule over millions of Palestinians lacking civil rights in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. He opposes a Palestinian state and pointless talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He mocked the defense minister who went to meet the Palestinian president in Ramallah. Gantz pestered me, so I approved it, is the way Bennett explained it.

Bennett didn’t invent the occupation or annexation. This is the reality he inherited, created before he was born. But as opposed to some of his predecessors, who at least talked about change, and sometimes tried to work toward it, he sees the status quo as a blessing and is certain that Palestinian independence will put Israel in danger – and hopes that economic crumbs will satisfy the Palestinian hunger for self-determination and national recognition. According to him, if Palestinian laborers leave for work at 6 A.M. instead of 3 or 4 A.M., they’ll feel relieved and stop sulking about the settlements, the nighttime arrests and the political oppression. What is all that compared to making minimum wage at an Israeli construction site?

Bennett understands that with President Joe Biden in the White House, and better ties with Arab countries, there’s no place for talk of “extending sovereignty” in the West Bank and provocations like the eviction of Khan al-Ahmar’s residents. He simply applies his polite style to Israel’s foreign and security policies as well. Instead of arguing with allies, he keeps them happy and gallops softly and determinedly toward one state with millions of Palestinian subjects. That is the core of his policy, which is much more important for the future of Israel than any shows of change, the statesmanship and the professionalism of the prime minister. And that’s what Bennett should be judged by.


Say It With Me: Bennett Is Establishing an Apartheid State

Gideon Levy, Haaretz, 19 Sep 2021

Haaretz Editor-in-Chief Aluf Benn offered a skillful analysis of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s first 100 days in office in a piece published yesterday. In contrast to the anyone-but-Bibi sect, which is enamored with itself and can’t stop effusing about the change in style that Bennett has introduced – how he compliments his cabinet ministers and how we don’t hear anything from members of his family – Benn rightly minimized the significance of the style, to which people now ecstatically cling, and got right to the point: “[Bennett] gallops softly and determinedly toward one state with millions of Palestinian subjects,” Benn writes.

But it’s not just “one state” that Bennett is establishing. He’s establishing an apartheid state. That word “apartheid” needs to appear from now on in every text. Apartheid will be Israel’s middle name, at least from the moment its prime minister declared that he has no interest in a peace agreement with the Palestinians and that the occupation is eternal in his view.

Bennett deserves credit for telling the truth: He ended the masquerade of a peace process, which wasn’t a process and never intended to achieve peace. His predecessor once mumbled something about “two states,” which now, too, is over. That’s a positive development.

Bennett also said that he will not meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. That’s also for the better. What’s the point of one more in a series of photo ops that never, and I mean never, sought to bring about a just arrangement. Their only purpose was to ingratiate ourselves with the Americans and the Europeans, so they would let Israel continue to consolidate the occupation, build more settlements and ethnically cleanse more territory. What’s the point of issuing declarations about a two-state solution about which not a single prime minister was sincere, if it’s possible to say “one state” without upsetting anyone. That is the important point that Benn noticed: Bennett is the first to do so without annoying anyone.

The Israeli peace camp and the rest of the world embrace this founder of apartheid who intends to kill the Palestinian dream softly and even says as much. It’s not that the dream wasn’t already dead, but now it’s even impossible to dream.

“Apartheid” must be said, not for its lyrical beauty but as a punch to the face of the world that embraces Bennett. The American and the Egyptian presidents have gone out of their way to embrace this new, not-Netanyahu, and somebody needs to remind them whom they’re embracing. There were a considerable number of world leaders, including our own Yitzhak Rabin, who embraced South African Prime Minister John Vorster and later suffered regret and perhaps even shame. Now the world embraces Bennett, an affable, humble, pragmatic, talented and sane man, without seeing what’s hiding behind the man they embrace.

Well then, my dear Europeans, Arabs and Americans, you are enthusing over a sworn apartheidist. Make no mistake. You really should believe him when he says he has no intention of allowing the establishment of a Palestinian state.

But what are your conclusions, Bennett-embracers of the world? That instead of a single Palestinian state, he intends to give them two states? Or maybe citizenship, equal rights and “one person, one vote” in a single state? What do you think his goal is, if not a modern apartheid state? What is the endgame of this friend of yours, if not apartheid South Africa in a different format?

And now to the challenge that has been placed before the world. Any embrace of Bennett is an embrace of apartheid. Not everything can be wrapped in gratitude for being rid of Netanyahu. The willful blindness and the self-deception must end. Precisely because Bennett is so decent, humble and talented there is a need to look straight ahead and say: If not two states, then one state. If not democracy, then apartheid.

Bennett has chosen apartheid. There must be a price for that in the world beyond Israel.

How moving it was to see him apologize publicly to the family of one Israeli soldier, Barel Hadaria Shmueli; how shocking and unsettling to understand his vision for 5 million human beings who are fated to live as subhumans forever. This is the man you embrace, Joe Biden, Angela Merkel and Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi. Hey world, you up?

Comments (3)

  • Naomi Wayne says:

    Two terrific pieces.

    I think Gideon Levy’s political judgment is erratic – his greatest strength is in his ‘colour’ pieces, usually accompanied by Alex Levac photos. But here he has nailed it – building brilliantly on Aluf Benn’s careful and understated exposure of Bennett’s tactical ‘niceness’, which may be a welcome relief from Netanyahu’s bullying, but, Benn points out, is designed to achieve exactly the same end.

    And it is notable that an Israeli neo liberal paper (which is not at all ‘progressive’ on politics outside Israel/Palestine issues) has no problem showcasing a fierce critique of Israel as an apartheid state.

    Finally, a thought on the image that precedes the two articles: the frequency with which we now see pictures of small Palestinian boys being escorted and often manhandled by IDF soldiers twice their size says a great deal about the unconscionable behaviour of the Israeli state. There are legal and other support groups campaigning on child arrestees and detainees – perhaps this shameful (mis)treatment of Palestinian children is something we should be focusing on.

    [22 Sep: The last paragraph has been changed to clarify its meaning at the author’s request.]

  • Tony says:

    Let us not forget Gideon Levy’s article about Corbyn:

  • Mike Scott says:

    It may be that the Israeli government should be careful what it wishes for: a single apartheid-type state would dramatically change the way the world sees Israel/Palestine. The struggle for equality and justice would suddenly become one about civil rights rather than nationalism and that’s much easier to argue with people who aren’t all that interested.

    Likewise, sidelining the Palestininian Authority would finally break its hold on the West Bank and make room for a “blank sheet” debate about where to go next and how to get there. This would be welcomed by a large and increasing proportion of Palestinians who are as angry with the PA as they are with the occupiers.

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