Samuel Heilman
Distinguished Professor of Sociology Emeritus CUNY

Enough already: The people who brought us this war need to go

In almost everything the Netanyahu government does, and particularly the PM himself, they demonstrate their ineptitude and their mendacity when it comes to dealing with the Palestinians.  Mostly, this is expressed by comments made by officials of the government that seem to do one thing but accomplish something else.  They are often presented as if they are meant to rally the nation against our most insidious enemy – which is Hamas – but actually subtly suggest that that adversary is really all the Palestinian people and their desire for an independent state that would allow them their own national identity. Conflating the two is part of the resistance this government in particular and Netanyahu in general harbor toward the idea of two states for two peoples. The recent form this resistance has taken is the assertion that to accept the American plan for a Palestinian state would be to offer a “reward for terror.”

This argument ignores the possibility that it might be a “reward” for the death of more than 30,000 Palestinians and a promise for Israelis that there might be a dawn for a new day in which two peoples who have no intention of leaving the same neighborhood could live side-by-side without killing one another.  Or, it might just be a recognition that all Palestinians are not Hamas or represented by them, and that the conflation of the two is an insidious argument made by the same people who have failed to bring about peace for or protect the Israeli people.

Just as anyone who truly understands Israel would know that this government and its poor leadership does not represent a majority of Israelis, it is folly to believe all Palestinians are uninterested in peace and support the evil that Hamas has perpetrated. But of course, for a government and PM who need this war to continue for a long time in order to stave off the day of reckoning for this government’s failures to defend and prepare for what happened and remove it from power, there is no real interest in finding a modus vivendi, a way of living with Palestinians.  Whenever there is a glimmer of hope for some movement on the hostages, Netanyahu finds a way to scotch the deal by reminding those with whom he is supposedly negotiating that he aims to kill them all and will not stop until he succeeds – words meant to sound as if he’s tough but really aimed to keep the conflict going.  His sloganistic demand for “total victory,” his threats of a war in the North or in the West Bank are nothing more than an effort to undermine any chance of peace and the day of reckoning.

Now once again, with glimmers of hope that a deal for the hostages and some pause in this war without end might be possible, this government prepares the ground to scotch any deal.   Reuters reports that “in one of the first indications of how Israel sees Gaza being run after the war, a senior Israeli official said Israel was looking for Palestinians with no links to either Hamas or the rival Palestinian Authority based in the West Bank, to set up a civil administration in ‘humanitarian pockets’ of Gaza.”  But this Netanyahu coalition has long ago made certain there are no such Palestinians to be found by subtly suggesting there are no innocent civilians and that both Hamas and the PA are the same unacceptable partners for peace.  This incompetent and mendacious government has long ignored the critical difference between the religious fundamentalists who make up Hamas and Islamic Jihad for whom it is a religious axiom that infidels (and that includes all Jews) must not rule in this land that is Dar al Islam, the dominion of Islam, and the secular Palestinian Authority that seeks a Palestinian State but for nationalist reasons and not religious ones.  Religious fundamentalists cannot compromise because God does not compromise.  Secular nationalists can and do compromise in order to achieve political goals.  While the fundamentalists will fight to the death, the PA is more likely to look to make the best deal they can.  The difference is crucial. Just now, amid US pressure for reform, the entire PA government submitted its resignation to Abbas, while the Hamas leadership like Netanyahu go on fighting and shirking responsibility.

The Netanyahu government of course has its own fundamentalists, who believe this land is God-given to the Jews and therefore we cannot compromise on a centimeter of it.  It is no accident that one of them, Netanyahu’s partner in crime – Minister Bezalel Smotrich, and others in his coalition echo some of the same anti-Palestinian arguments also oppose any compromises for a hostage deal and pause in the fighting.  Ignoring their own responsibilities for having failed our nation, trying to shirk their primary responsibility to redeem our hostages and claim that they seek foremost to defend the nation, as if such a defense can ignore the failure of preventing the murder and kidnapping of civilians that began this war. Smotrich has brazenly claimed the primary aim of the war is not redeeming and freeing the hostages.  For him it is rather a fundamentalist commitment to holding onto all the Promised Land and chasing out Amalek that is his mandate.  Likewise, another Jewish fundamentalist, the Haredi minister of Housing Yitzchak Goldknopf has expressed no interest in a day of reckoning or what happens to Palestinians because his primary goal is not the state but simply to allow his supporters to maintain their God-given way of life at the state’s expense.  As he outrageously asked, “What connection is there between the government and this war?”  Not surprisingly, he supports Netanyahu’s assertion there is no need for new elections.

Do not look for the people who got us into this war to get us out of it.  They will drive us into oblivion if we do not demand they take their self-serving excuses and ideas and go home.  We need people who understand the meaning of compromise and the responsibility of governing. I for one agree with the nearly 40% of Israelis who have said we need elections now, and with the 85% who want Netanyahu out.

About the Author
Until his retirement in August 2020, Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Queens College CUNY, Samuel Heilman held the Harold Proshansky Chair in Jewish Studies at the Graduate Center. He is author of 15 books some of which have been translated into Spanish and Hebrew, and is the winner of three National Jewish Book Awards, as well as a number of other prestigious book prizes, and was awarded the Marshall Sklare Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for the Social Scientific Study of Jewry, as well as four Distinguished Faculty Awards at the City University of New York.He has been a Fulbright Fellow and Senior Specialist in Australia, China, and Poland, and lectured in many universities throughout the United States and the world. He was for many years Editor of Contemporary Jewry and is a frequent columnist at Ha'Aretz and was one at the New York Jewish Week. Since his retirement, he and his family have resided in Jerusalem.
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