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Thu Apr 18, 2019, 06:23 AM

Benjamin Netanyahu and the Death of the Zionist Dream

Source: New York Times

Benjamin Netanyahu and the Death of the Zionist Dream

Israel’s founding fathers are turning in their graves.

By Avi Shlaim
Mr. Shlaim is the author of “The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World.”

April 18, 2019

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With last week’s victory, Mr. Netanyahu is now on course to become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, surpassing Mr. Ben-Gurion. By trouncing his left-wing opponents and beating a challenge from a new centrist party, Mr. Netanyahu gained more than just another term in office: He secured a fresh mandate for his idea of Greater Israel.

And so it might seem that the Revisionists have finally after nearly 100 years won the fight over what Zionism will look like. But in reality, Prime Minister Netanyahu is more conservative and more extreme than the founder of the movement. Mr. Jabotinsky’s attitude toward the national aspirations of the Palestinians was, in his own words, one of “polite indifference.” Mr. Netanyahu’s attitude is one of active and unrelenting hostility. Mr. Jabotinsky would have been a tough negotiator; Mr. Netanyahu is a non-negotiator.

Mr. Netanyahu is the proponent of the doctrine of permanent conflict. He rules out the possibility of a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians because he is not prepared to concede their most basic demand: an independent Palestinian state over the West Bank and Gaza with a capital city in East Jerusalem. Far from seeking to bridge the gap, he actually deepens it by turning a political dispute into a clash of civilizations. No Israeli leader before him ever demanded that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. When Mr. Netanyahu demanded in 2009 that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, he knew that no Palestinian leader, however moderate, could possibly accept it. Politics and religion are an explosive mixture, and by emphasizing the religious aspect of the conflict, he makes it more intractable.

Nothing illustrates Mr. Netanyahu’s vision of Israel more clearly than the Nation-State Law passed by the Knesset last July. It states that the right to national self-determination in the country is “unique to the Jewish people.” It demotes Arabic from it status as an official language. It allows the state to differentiate among its citizens on the basis of race, ethnicity and religion. It is the polar opposite of Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence, which promised social and political equality to all of Israel’s inhabitants regardless of religion, race or sex.

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Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/18/opinion/benjamin-netanyahu-israel.html

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