Shayna Abramson

A New Challenge for Pro-Israel Advocates

“Israelis want peace. They don’t hate Palestinians. Most Israelis support a Palestinian state, but they feel that the current Palestinian leadership is untrustworthy. If there were credible Palestinian leadership, Israel would support the creation of a Palestinian state tomorrow, and the Occupation would end. You have to understand that the previous two rounds of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations brought suicide bombings, first in the 1990s, then with the Second Intifada. So Israelis are literally afraid that negotiations could result in their being blown up, or their loved ones being killed in an attack. Would you be willing to take a risk and negotiate to give up territory if the previous two times had resulted in your family members being killed?”

This is the crux of the pro-Israel argument.

The counter-argument is the presence of Israeli Jewish extremists, such as those who killed Mohamed Abu-Khdeir.

The counter-argument to the counter-argument is that all societies have their extremists, and it’s unfair to judge a society by its most extreme elements.

That point is a lot harder to argue now:

Benjamin Netanyahu is decidedly a reflection of mainstream Israeli society, in that he was democratically elected, and the will of the people (i.e. the election) resulted in a Knesset makeup that put him as Prime Minister at the head of a right-wing coalition government.

Yet last week, Benjamin Netanyahu pushed the right wing Bayit Yehudi party to merge with the ultra-nationalist Otzma Yehudit party, which advocates for racist policies against Arabs. He did so in order to have the Bayit-Yehudi/Otzma Yehudit party gain (more) Knesset seats, so he could have more right-wing MKs to help him build a government coalition after the elections.

This makes it a lot harder for pro-Israel advocates to argue that Israeli extremism is not mainstream in Israeli society.

To be fair, Netanyahu (and Bayit Yehudi) has been roundly criticized for this merger by many, including those within the right-wing camp, and one Bayit Yehudi MK resigned from the party over it.

Of course, the true test of whether or not this extremism is mainstream will come on election day: If the Bayit Yehudi/Otzma Yehudit  performs poorly at the polling booth, we can rightly say that its extremism is not reflective of Israeli society. However, if it performs well, then it will be a shameful day for Israel – and a new challenge for pro-Israel advocates.

About the Author
Shayna Abramson, a part-Brazilian native Manhattanite, studied History and Jewish Studies at Johns Hopkins University before moving to Jerusalem. She has also spent some time studying Torah at the Drisha Institute in Manhattan, and has a passion for soccer and poetry. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Political Science from Hebrew University, and is a rabbinic fellow at Beit Midrash Har'el.