By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
Netanyahu won Israel in last week’s elections, but did he lose America in the process? Panicking not long before polling stations opened, the prime minister made two statements to woo voters: warning that Israel’s Arab citizens would vote “in droves” for their own and, second, that there would be no Palestinian state under his watch.
It worked. Contrary to the predictions by pollsters, Netanyahu’s party did much better than last time and together with other right-wing parties he’ll form the next government. To do so, he’ll have to make concessions that’ll affect us all.
For example: *expansion of settlements; *continued withholding of funds that belong to the Palestinian Authority and other measures to make the lives of ordinary Palestinians more difficult; *restrictions on the judiciary, including Israel’s Supreme Court; *greater control of the media; *unqualified hotheads as minister of defense (Bennett or Lieberman) and foreign minister (Lieberman or Bennett); *the end bringing haredim into the army, perhaps even into the work force, and to ply them with subsidies; *more redundant cabinet portfolios in order to give coalition partners much of what they want and infinitely more than they deserve. And much more, very much more!
As severe as these measures may be they may be manageable compared to what Netanyahu’s pre-election statements have done to damage relations with the president of the United States. When Obama finally called Netanyahu, it wasn’t to congratulate him on his victory but to warn him that US support in the United Nations may have come to an end, and a UN declaration of a Palestinian state a distinct possibility.
Yisrael Hayom, the mass circulation daily that the American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson runs on behalf of his friend Bibi, chose to interpret Obama’s reaction as a cover-up for striking a disastrous deal with Iran at the expense of Israel. But more balanced reactions try to calm us by saying that the majority of Americans, reflected in the composition of the US Congress and fuelled by evangelical Zionists, continues to stand with Israel. For all we know, they may have even been encouraged by the Netanyahu’s pre-election comments that others interpreted as racist and rejectionist.
At the other end, the liberal American-Jewish organization JStreet that’s currently holding its annual convention may attract additional support from American Jews whose normal line of “Israel right or wrong” is being challenged by the prime minister’s statements.
As for the mood in Israel, we’re told that Tel Aviv, where Herzog-Livni had the majority, is in mourning, but much of the rest of the country – e.g., Jerusalem, the small towns and villages close to the borders and, of course the settlements – are jubilant.
Even impartial observers, many of whom thought that the duo did well in the elections, are surprised, perhaps disappointed, that Herzog-Livni didn’t react with greater vehemence to Netanyahu’s statements about the Arabs and about nixing the prospect of a two-state solution. Observers are now also questioning whether, in opposition, the two will know how to stand up to Netanyahu and his gang.
We’re told that every country gets the leaders it deserves. Therefore, perhaps instead of blaming Netanyahu, Herzog and Livni, Israelis need to take a good look at themselves and decide what kind of Jewish state they really want. Much is at stake.