Reality Check: Netanyahu’s pandering to Trump serious threat to Israel’s security
It’s been two weeks since Prime Minister and Defense Minister (let’s skip all the other ministerial titles he currently holds) Benjamin Netanyahu’s cynical, doom-laden speech.
By JEFF BARAKPublished: DECEMBER 2, 2018 21:19 Updated: DECEMBER 3, 2018 10:06Advertisement
It’s been two weeks since Prime Minister and Defense Minister (let’s skip all the other ministerial titles he currently holds) Benjamin Netanyahu’s cynical, doom-laden speech in which he warned the country of the imminent military sacrifices that lie ahead.Since then, and despite Netanyahu’s grim warnings of Israel being in the “midst of a military campaign,” all that has happened is that Hamas has released photographs of eight people it says were involved in the recent IDF special forces raid in the Gaza Strip.Hardly a major military challenge for the number one power in the Middle East. Although the IDF censor issued an extremely irregular call to Israeli citizens not to share any information they may have about the photographs, it’s fair to say that despite Netanyahu’s best rhetorical efforts, and the censor’s surprising action, the country, thankfully, does not feel as if it’s on a war footing.Many have compared Netanyahu’s televised address to the nation, in which he said he was assuming the defense portfolio at “one of our most difficult security periods,” as Churchillian. But aside from the ability to coin a good phrase, there is little in common between our prime minister and former British prime minister Winston Churchill.Netanyahu seeks to create fear among his potential supporters in order to win their support. His political position is never stronger than when his base feels the country is under attack, from real or imaginary threats. Rather than unify the country around an uplifting vision, Netanyahu prefers to pander to people’s insecurities. His patronizing and manipulative statement, “You are only seeing a partial picture of the ongoing operation we are engaged in,” highlights his scare-mongering tactics and negative approach to leadership.Churchill’s famous speech in which he said he had nothing to offer but “blood, toil, tears and sweat” was made in 1940, when Britain was already at war with Germany. Churchill had no need to create a make-believe emergency to justify his leadership; at that moment, Britain was approaching its darkest hour in its battle for survival. Importantly, Churchill used this speech not to frighten his nation about the dangers it was facing, but to assure them that there was only goal – victory – and that they would achieve it.In comparison, the only real existential threat to Israel is Netanyahu himself and the policies his government is pursuing. Netanyahu’s consistent and continued refusal to face the reality that there is no future for Israel as a Jewish and democratic state without dividing the land into two separate states, one Jewish, one Palestinian, will ultimately ensure the destruction of modern-day Israel. The country will either become a binational state in which Jews will no longer be in the majority, or an apartheid state in which Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip becomes irrevocable.Another danger to Israel comes from Netanyahu’s best friend in Washington, US President Donald Trump. Netanyahu has bet the house on Trump, recklessly aligning the state of Israel with only one half of the American electorate and alienating the Jewish state from the majority of American Jews, the largest and most influential Diaspora community.From Netanyahu’s immediate perspective, his unconditional support for the American president has paid off. Trump has kept his word to officially recognize Jerusalem – without defining its municipal boundaries – as Israel’s capital, and scrapped the Iranian nuclear accord, two key policy initiatives that will no doubt feature prominently in Netanyahu’s coming reelection campaign.In the long term, however, Netanyahu’s blatant cheerleading for Trump will destroy bipartisan American support for Israel and prove costly. Republican control in Washington – as seen by the recent mid-term elections – is not something that can be taken for granted. When the time comes, there is no reason for the Democrats to forget or forgive Netanyahu’s arrogant interference in internal American politics. The deliberate disregarding of the feelings of liberal American Jews meanwhile will only serve to loosen the ties between the Jewish homeland and overseas Jews who have done so much to promote this country.And then there is the issue of Trump himself. The American president’s recent remarks in which he said Israel was “one of the reasons” for the United States maintaining its military presence in the Middle East, and that the US would maintain its partnership with Saudi Arabia despite the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi to “ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region” only serves to fuel the conspiracy theorists – on both the right and left – who believe that Israel controls American foreign policy.But Netanyahu will be the last person to dare contradict Trump, regardless of the damage of the president’s words or actions.The writer is a former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.
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