(photo credit: REUTERS)
It’s not going to be popular among left-wingers, but Naftali Bennett as prime minister could be a good thing for Israel.
We have to face facts; he might win March’s elections. He made a funny campaign video and he apparently “stands for good things” according to a right-wing friend of mine. He unites the secular Right and Religious Zionists, he’s not afraid of international pressure (which many Israelis are also opposed to) and he’s definitely the new, relatable right-wing poster boy.
On the down side, Bennett is unapologetically right wing. He intends to outright deny Palestinians a state and instead to annex even more of the contested West Bank land, Area C, to Israel. Sometimes, watching him speak makes me grimace – he once even said, “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life and there’s no problem with that.” That’s unforgivable, no matter what the context. He’s quite awful, but his opinions are in line with much of the Israeli public and that is crucial. Why might he be a good thing, in terms of the conflict?
1. The US doesn’t like him
America supports the two-state solution, Bennett doesn’t. If Bennett wins, we could witness the relationship between the US and Israel turn even more sour. If the two-state solution is officially pronounced dead by Israel, Washington, which currently pulls all the strings, might get angry enough to put its foot down. Will the US stop merely “condemning” Israel’s actions and actually do something to change the status quo? I don’t know, but it will be harder to ignore with Israel under blatant far-right leadership.
2. He’s very realistic
He says there is no hope for a two-state solution. He is pretty damn spot-on. Netanyahu’s government has been paying lip service to “two states for two people” almost as if to appease the Americans and the rest of the world only. Anyone who has half a brain and follows the conflict closely knows that too many people in power are opposed to this idea, and the actions on the ground go completely against the 2SS, to the point where keeping the dream alive is actually not just naive but dangerous.
Abbas keeps it alive by every so often presenting the idea to the UN, but as long as people believe it could happen under current circumstances, we are somehow allowing Israel to get away with so much crap (I speak of human rights abuse) in the meantime. You might say he deals a crushing blow to the 2SS, but Israel already has been doing just that for years. At least he tells it like it really is. The two-state solution is dead and Israel killed it.
3. The EU might finally intervene
He might be the tipping point, the reason why the EU and others finally get involved, most likely by boycotting Israel just as we did with Russia. Whether it will make a difference isn’t clear, unfortunately, but this action – described by Bennett as an act of anti-Semitism (yeah, right) – might make a lot of people wake up and smell the coffee. Finally, it will be made clear to Israel and the rest of the world that the “status quo” of occupation and fighting isn’t acceptable, something like saying, “We don’t really care how you sort it out Israel, but sort it out.”
Of course, if Bennett does get into power, it could also go very wrong and the situation could become even worse than it is now. In the short term at least, we are unlikely to see the situation change for the better. But if Israel continues on its rightward path, we might just see a change in tune and other countries finally facing up to facts. Under a more left-wing or centrist government, on the other hand, the West Bank occupation is condemned to remain as it is now: largely tolerated. Killing the sham that is the peace process, on the other hand, might reveal how hopeless things really are. A Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders is such an impossibility right now it’s barely worth the symbolic UN bid and symbolic votes. Perhaps it’s time everyone woke up to the fact that keeping this dream alive is only stalling things at the cost of too many lives.
There seems to be little reason to be optimistic when it comes to solving the conflict, but stopping the lies might be a start.
The author is an independent travel and political blogger who has travelled extensively in Israel and visited the West Bank. Next year she hopes to volunteer and work as a journalist in the Middle East.