The moment so many of us have waited for may finally be here: Prime Minister Netanyahu has failed to form a government, announcing yesterday he was suspending his campaign. Rival Benny Gantz will now have 28 days to take up the mantle, though it is unclear if he will fare any better. Netanyahu will remain in power throughout the ensuing round of negotiations, but these could very well be the early days of his reign’s end. For many, perhaps most Diaspora Jews, who for a decade have lived under his pall, this is very welcome news.
Across the world, Jews have experienced abuse, ranging from harassment to outright violence, in response to the policies of the Israeli government. Netanyahu’s total disregard for international norms, human rights and basic decency has compounded a global resentment towards the small middle-eastern nation, and perversely towards international Jewry. We all bear the consequences of Bibi’s mistakes. This is surely unjust, but sadly inevitable, in large part due to Netanyahu’s repeated claims that he’s acting in the interest of all Jewish people. Israel becomes a stand-in for Jews, and its actions are transfigured into ours.
To be fair, Israel has been conflated with the Jew since its founding: in the years following 1948, hundreds of thousands of Jews were expelled from a number of countries in the Arab world. But even then, and through much of its existence, Israel remained a good faith partner in the struggle for peace and a two-state solution. Hatred for Israel was thus far more defined by the mere fact of its being. Its leaders, while controversial, were committed to some form of recognition of Palestinian statehood. Even Ariel Sharon, the modern prime minister most ideologically comparable to Bibi, unilaterally disengaged Israel from the Gaza strip, and openly avowed the need for Palestinian sovereignty. Bibi shows no such compunctions, no such respect. Never has an Israeli leader expressed such open disdain for Palestinians and Arab Israelis, or so brazenly attempted to limit, and even suspend their rights. Never has an Israeli leader effectively abandoned the possibility of two states, assuming a priori that Palestinians would be incapable of maintaining the peace. He brings about scorn through his every decision and legitimizes hostility towards his nation. He threatens to annex huge swaths of the West Bank, undermining the viability of any future Palestine, and indeed, any future Israel. All these mistakes redound to the heightening antisemitism we diaspora Jews face. He is undermining our security.
Violence against a people without just cause is obviously inexcusable. But it is explainable. It does arise, sometimes, from traceable factors, and one need look no further than the reasons given by many assaulters of Jews in France and Germany to find them. Often it is naked antisemitism. Just as often, it seems, it is the contemporary behavior of the “Jewish State”. Jews within and without Israel are forced into moral knots in defending its right to exist while condemning its indefensible actions. Netanyahu demands of us a simultaneous disavowal of Israel as the representative of all Jews, and an affirmation of it as the Jewish home. Zionism needs to be rescued from him and returned to a movement for self-determination that acknowledges the universal validity of that pursuit. The sweeping to power of a man like Mr. Gantz, who still holds out hope for peace and doesn’t engage in brash Jewish supremacism, may provide an opportunity for that rescue. Israel would gain a shot at much-needed redemption, the Jews of the diaspora a chance at expression without reproach, the Palestinians a more honest broker on the other side of the table. If this is indeed the end of the Netanyahu era, everybody stands to benefit. In these coming weeks of coalition building, let’s hope Mr. Gantz can succeed where Bibi has failed.