By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
Those of us naïve enough to believe that politicians mean what they say, especially during election campaigns, have had our eyes opened. Two statements that Prime Minister Netanyahu made on the eve of the elections that shocked many of us at the time turned out to be untrue: his warning that Arabs were coming out to vote “in droves” and that he no longer believes in a two-state solution.
He has now told a handpicked delegation of Israeli Arabs that he didn’t mean what he said about them, and he has told the international media that he’s still wants to make peace with the Palestinians by enabling them to have a state of their own.
It was expedient to say one thing before the elections and it’s expedient to say its opposite after the elections. Truth doesn’t come into it. When integrity yields to expediency it’s called politics.
Should we’ve forgotten the elections promises that weren’t kept in the past, we’ve been reminded that there’s no earthly reason to believe that any promises made this time will fare better. Those in power will continue to use truth “creatively” in order not to interfere with what they really want to do. They’ll settle for pleasing themselves and satisfying accomplices (in this case also known as coalition partners).
The sad thing is that what Netanyahu said before the elections worked to his advantage. It may not have wooed liberals, but he managed to take seats from the other like-minded right-wingers in his “family” who’re openly hostile to Arabs (e.g., Lieberman) and who don’t want peace because it would mean giving up settlements (e.g., Bennett). Perhaps this entitles us to view the whole thing primarily as a tiff within a dysfunctional though powerful family.
The majority of Israelis seem to agree with that family. Netanyahu isn’t to blame for his victory nor are Herzog and Livni for their defeat. It was a democratic election and the people have spoken.
The opposition is nowhere near as much on the left as the government is on the right. Herzog and Livni never suggested that the settlements should be dismantled other than hinting that some outlaying ones may have to go or be relocated. And they wouldn’t consider having the United Arab list (the third largest party in the next Knesset) to be part of the government, even if the Arabs would have wanted that (which they say they don’t).
This time, however, for reasons of their own, the opponents of Netanyahu – including the United States administration – have chosen to take him at his word despite the attempt to retract it. Arab and Jewish politicians in Israel in opposition continue to paint the prime minister as a racist. Statesmen abroad – even those who support Netanyahu, e.g. Prime Minister Harper of Canada – emphasize with renewed vigor and implied rebuke that the two-state solution is the only legitimate way of solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“This isn’t an apology, this is policy” reads a headline in my daily paper. Both what was said before the election and the attempts at retraction afterwards seem to be tools deployed in the game of politics. The fact that so many of us refuse to recognize it is a sad reflection on us as much as it is an indictment of the cynicism of those who succeed to manipulate us.