It amazes me that despite Netanyahu’s bombastic, anti-peace rhetoric, there are still governments and people around the world who are supporting Israel. Let’s be clear why they do so. It is because they have the moral strength to recognise Nazi style inhumanity when they see it and are prepared to stand up against it and, by working for peace, try to prevent it ever happening again. Put another way, they do so despite Netanyahu and not because of him. Netanyahu has spent his entire political career fighting the two-state solution. With Netanyahu at the helm, the best we can hope for from him is a few years of relative calm followed by another heart-breaking disaster.
Despite what we and the world know to be the reality of the situation, we the people remain law abiding, do nothing different and accept yet more of what our tired, discredited leaders have always asked of us. A crunch point has arrived. Look at the ever-increasing masses marching in London. Listen to the accusations being made on university campuses around the globe. The world is watching Israel’s every step and cannot understand why Israel has never addressed the anger still resonating around the world because of the Nakba. These protests will continue to grow until, very soon, they become so large as to undermine elected governments’ chances of being re-elected. Domestic politics in the USA, Great Britain and a hand full of European countries will demand governments temper or even drop their support for Israel in the face of growing discontent among their populations.
There is very little time left for Israel to change its ways and win the peace. The protestors call Israel an apartheid state. Drive through any Israeli Arab village and an Israeli Jewish village and one sees the massive schism between the lives of Arabs and Jews. Is that not symptomatic of apartheid? Take a trip through the West Bank and see the consequences of a new and dangerous, armed generation of Jewish settlers who run rampant through towns and villages and, Kahane like, believe that killing Palestinians is a mitzvah. Is that not apartheid? Look at the gun carrying Israeli troops on the streets of Arab and Palestinian towns carrying out routine military exercises and arrests on the West Bank, and look at the horrendous wall cutting a path through the entire region and keeping Palestinians out of Jewish Israel without undergoing checks and searches. Are these signs of a healthy community of mutual respect living side by side in peace?
It’s 75 years since Israeli independence and the Palestinian Nakba, and 56 since the occupation of Sinai, Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. The Palestinians have the right to be angry that nothing has changed. The world has a right to support them. We can argue about those on the other side who have been obstacles to peace, but we cannot argue that Israel hasn’t dragged its feet whenever Netanyahu has been in power.
Prime Minister! You need to understand that this time things are different. You have already presided over the brutal horrific deaths of more Jews in a single day that at any time since the end of the Holocaust. There was a time when a Prime Minister would instantly resign for that alone. But you are doing even more, if that were imaginable! This time you are risking the future of Israel’s sixteen million Jewish citizens. Yes, I do mean sixteen million; ten million in Israel and six million in the Diaspora. The world is turning against all of us, so, for the first time it is not just Israelis who are on the front line. Prime Minister, I’m sure the number, 6 million, referring to Jews in the diaspora, causes the same emotions in you as it does in all other Jews. It beggars belief that the war, your war, has resulted in the next six million Jews living in fear outside Israel because of the worst rise in antisemitism since Hitler’s rise to power.
And why are we having to look over our shoulders when we walk down the street? Why are our children being guarded every minute of every day while at school? Why can we no longer feel safe wearing a kippah in public, or a Magen David? It is because of you, Prime Minister and your colleagues in your great anti-democratic, messianic experiment, Smotrich, Ben Gvir, Maoz, Eliyahu and the rest.
Meir Kahane, terrorist, inciter of ethnic cleansing and so-called rabbi whose influence you seem to have allowed to take hold in your government, would be proud of you, the most extreme right-wing, racist, homophobic and theocratic coalition in Israel’s history. Kahane said that killing those he identified as Israel’s enemies was not only a strategic necessity, but an act of worship. The collective pronouncements of your partners in government are far too close to his. He was a vile villain. Your protestations that you have somehow been the saviour of the Palestinians and that you safeguard their lives and their futures, is an insult to people’s intelligence and is at last being roundly rejected by the world. You are becoming the last believers of your own rhetoric.
You have already armed Jewish illegal settlers against Palestinians, and continue to do so at a pace. How long will it be before your followers turn those guns on Israeli Arabs, Bedouin, Druze or Christians? Some already have. You have allowed parts of Kahane’s plans to be carried out. But Kahane went further. You just need to shut the Knesset and become a fully-fledged theocracy and you’ll have achieved Kahane’s goal. Nobody will dare talk of any criminal past. You will be able to act with impunity – Jewish Ayatollahs in an exclusively Jewish state. I say ‘an’ exclusively Jewish state because it will not be ‘the’ Jewish state. It will not be the ‘Medinat Yisrael’ dreamed of by Herzl and Zangwill. It will not be the state fought for politically by Ben Gurion and Weitzman and militarily by Trumpeldor, Wingate and Mickey Marcus.
And it will not be the Israel dreamed of by Jewish masses as they walked slowly into the gas chambers of Nazi Europe. It will have none of the values intended for it. Prime Minister, you have secured your place in Jewish history. My greatest hope and prayer is that your place in Jewish history does not appear in the final chapter.
Prime Minister. The world is watching Israel and in particular you. There is an expectation on which Israel will have to deliver if it is not to become a pariah state like North Korea. It must, this time, deliver on the two-state solution. Your manoeuvrings over decades to keep this on the back burner are over. Fail on this, and Israel will be cast adrift in an ocean of hatred.
So, are you the right person to do this? Can you cast off your coalition partners and become the democratic advocate who will leave no stone unturned to make it happen? It looks rather improbable! You decided years ago to permanently prevent the establishment of a Palestinian State. When in opposition you developed and stuck to two core policies. Firstly, you covered the West Bank with settlements, as you continue to do even now. Everyone in the world except you, oh and your coalition partners, knows that these were, are and always will be illegal and as the Palestinian leadership constantly remind us, present almost insurmountable physical barriers to a coherent Palestine. No need to guess why you built them then. Your second policy was to secretly promote the power of Hamas in Gaza as a counter-balance to the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank. You presumably thought you could personally control the development of a terrorist organisation so as not to have to negotiate with Israel’s partner for peace after the Oslo Accords. Are you pleased with the outcome of your policy?
There are other episodes in your political life that warrant examination. When Rabin and Peres where pushing forward towards a two-state comprehensive peace with the Palestinians, you were in opposition and used every opportunity to block it, knowingly or unknowingly creating the environment that led to Rabin’s assassination. Nobody stood trial except the man who pulled the trigger, so it would be wholly inappropriate to apportion any blame to anyone else.
Many times, throughout your years in power you have protested that there was nobody among the Palestinians with whom you could talk peace. Was it entirely coincidental that during the same period many Palestinian thinkers, scientists, lawyers and leaders were assassinated? Of course, no Israeli government has ever admitted carrying out an assassination, except in war time.
When pressure was mounting because of your indictments for corruption, all of which you have denied, rather than putting together a coalition of lawyers to prove your innocence, you pulled together a coalition of convicted criminals to change the law – the so called orthodox right-wing messianic parliamentarians. You and they set about dismantling Israel’s biblically inspired democracy to keep yourself and them in power.
And when, before Simchat Torah this year your criminal friends expressed concern about their followers in the West Bank who were at settlement outposts and had been responsible for killing at least eight local Palestinians, you sent the army to protect them. That’s right, protecting murderers was your priority, taking away the protection of Israeli communities in the Gaza Envelope on October 7th. The consequences of that decision will haunt you and every Jew in this world and the next.
So, where now for Israel? Repeated wars buy time between conflagrations, but each conflagration seems to present increasing risk of potential disaster. Only a negotiated peace can raise us and the Palestinian people to a state of understanding and mutual progress. But for negotiations to succeed they need to be undertaken by men and women who see peace as the only way and are prepared to respect and value those on the other side of the table.
Can Israel’s government negotiate? Not with people like Gvir or Smotrich, or Eliyahu who recently suggests it’s OK to nuke the Gazans. Are our extremists somehow better, more honourable, worthier than Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas? And after years in an Israeli prison, he was assassinated. Should our extremists be any more acceptable to the Palestinians as a Hamas extremist was to us? Prime Minister, do you believe that destroying whole swathes of Gaza, killing unknown thousands of men, women and children, expelling a million people from their homes and creating a second Nakba, is any more likely to help negotiations than the second Holocaust on October 7th? No, Prime Minister, you are not the man to sue for peace, not you and not your partners. You are destroyers of peace.
Israel has to act fast. There is a great deal to do to convince the world and Israel’s new-found friends among its neighbours that we want peace. There are three steps that must be taken. Firstly destroy as much of Hamas’s infrastructure as is necessary to achieve the release of our people held hostage in Gaza’s tunnels, secondly get rid of those whose presence is a constant threat to peace – The Prime Minister and his partners, and thirdly, in a spirit of hope, good will, reconciliation and respect, we and our allies must recognise and welcome the establishment of a de facto Palestinian State, recognising it first and then holding an international conference of interested parties to work out the details.
There are people of good will on both sides of this seemingly unbridgeable divide. Bury the memory of Kahane and give them a chance.