“If it wasn’t for” is a phrase which I have heard for many many years. It is usually followed by the words “…Netanyahu, there would be peace”. Of course, It is not only Benjamin Netanyahu who gets this treatment. It started with Menachem Begin and lived on through Yitzak Shamir and of course Ariel Sharon. If it wasn’t for all these right of centre Prime Ministers, Israel would have peace and the area divided by the vote of 29 November 1947 would be one of cooperation and tranquility.
Putting to one side the other players in this game, I started to wonder what is it about the right wing of Israeli politics that so many people in the UK (and the world for that matter) dislikes so much. I remember when Menachem Begin was first elected in May 1977. All I could see were reports of the bombing of the King David Hotel, three decades previous. Could that be it? Those pesky Jews fought back like every other occupied force and people died. Only it wasn’t just people, it was British people and it was Jews who did the fighting or rather were responsible for the deaths.
But wait a minute. Post war Britain retreated from its imperialism from several places, and bloodshed was often spilt. Do the papers still recall those stories?
I did wonder for a while whether the King David Hotel represented a modern version of the killing of Christ. A sin so grave that it would follow those responsible for ever. In the case of the King David Hotel the current Prime Minister as Menachem Begin’s heir should bear that responsibility. So, given the sin of his political forefather he cannot possibly be able to bring peace. Appealing though this idea is, I am not sure it is the whole story.
The obsession with blaming the right wing in Israel for there being no peace is not limited to those who dislike Israel or those who hate the idea of Jewish self-determination. More than one supporter of Israel has said to me quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) that they are uncomfortable with Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister. So, why is he so bad? Many may think he is incompetent, but that does not explain this issue
I think it is simple and complicated. Simple because he doesn’t apologise for being Jewish. He is seen as uncompromising and stubborn. He does not come across as apologising enough. The Jews are here to stay and frankly it’s a bit embarrassing. If there was someone from the left who was prepared to give in, then it would all be alright. There would be a deal done and there would be peace..
It is complicated because in reality it is not about Netanyahu. As Tom Gross explained, in some ways, he has made an offer to the left of Rabin. So, in fact it’s not about his politics at all.
Which takes us right back to why is it that Prime Minister Netanyahu is blamed for the failure of the peace process? Because it is easy. Really easy. By refusing to accept Netanyahu, the opponents then do not have to accept Israel. No requirement to bear in mind years of persecution of Jews in Arab countries and no need to think about the millions of pounds salted away by successive Palestinian leaders. Certainly nothing complicated to consider like other Arab countries refusing to take in their coreligionists and absolutely no need whatsoever to even try and gain a rudimentary understanding of the deep rooted desire of Hamas, the BDS movement and others like them to drive all the Jews out of their land completely.
My conclusion? Prime Minister Netanyahu is not the reason there is no peace but he is a really really good excuse for those who don’t want to think about the real reasons.