“Netanyahu: That’s Good for the Jews”, or so read the posters circulated by his ultraorthodox and ultra-Zionist Chabad supporters during the 1996 Israel elections, which the novice Likudnik leader won in a surprise upset against seasoned Labourite Shimon Peres. He has since won five other elections, becoming the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s short history.
But Bibi’s dishonesty, deceit and hunger for power eventually caught up with him. He was indicted on three corruption charges in 2019 and lost the premiership for the first time in a dozen years after the 2021 elections.
Instead of resigning, however, he godfathered a new coalition government of the most fanatical and fascist parties and bulldozed his way through the country’s justice system on the assumption that what’s good for Netanyahu and his contemptible allies is good for the Jews – in that order.
Netanyahu has quickly taken on the world of Israeli cutthroat politics, gutting the supreme court and the judiciary with a broad political razor and paving the way for the transformation of Israel’s Jewish democracy into a Jewish autocracy. In the process, he’s pitted Jew against Jew, the religious against the secular, the generals against the rabbis, and dragged the country towards the abyss. That’s hardly good for “the Jews”, but is it bad for the Palestinians?
True, this government is bent on expanding Israel’s illegal Jewish settlement and deepening its system of apartheid throughout “the Land of Israel” or historical Palestine. And it is determined to increase its terrible repression and violence in order to keep the Palestinians down or force them out of their homeland.
But it is also true that the Palestinians have suffered for many decades at the hands of consecutive Israeli governments, regardless of their ideological leanings. In fact, the last coalition government was just as bad as the present one and yet got away with carrying out its misdeeds because, among others, it included an Arab party.
In other words, the Palestinians do not have much more to lose but quite a lot to gain from the breakdown, anarchy and alienation produced by Netanyahu’s narcissist fanaticism. Especially because of Israel’s long history of defining its colonial presence as a zero-sum game in which Palestinian losses are Israeli gains. The opposite, in that case, is also true.
Here is how Israeli misfortunes might turn into Palestinian good fortunes – if Palestinians play their cards right.
For a starter, Israel can no longer boast, albeit falsely, of being a liberal Jewish democracy when a simple parliamentary majority eliminates the judiciary oversight over the executive to pave the way towards autocracy and when Jews, like Palestinians, become subject to discrimination under the law for not being the “right” kind of Jews, as defined by the country’s ultraconservative religious fanatics.
This is sure to damage Israel’s image and standing among its liberal Western allies, especially the United States. In recent days, keen American observers have gone as far as to claim that “this is the end of the US-Israel ‘Special Relationship’”, and long-serving Jewish American officials have called for the end of US aid to Israel, which could translate into many billions of dollars of losses. Such development would also erode Israel’s regional and international standing, which has long been promoted and protected by the United States.
Although I do not buy into Israel’s apocalyptical vision of its security, the increasing number of reservists, including generals and pilots, who refuse to serve under a corrupt, autocratic government is chipping away at the army’s morale and the country’s deterrence. Indeed, considering the army’s centrality to the garrison Jewish state – an army with a state attached – fissures in the military could easily mutate into a violent societal fracture.
Such internal schisms are seen by Israelis as more dangerous to Israel than all external threats. This is especially the case as hard-nosed former generals and fanatical rabbis spearhead the growing secular-religious divide and in the process, militarise and theologise their fight, rendering reconciliation improbable, paralysis dangerous, and leading to even greater escalation.
Already, the political, security and social instability created by Netanyahu’s move on the judiciary has prompted international credit rating agencies to warn against the “negative consequences” and the “significant risk” facing the Israeli economy. The country’s finances are shrinking, its foreign investments are contracting, and the stock market falling.
All of this will lead to fewer Jews immigrating to Israel and more Jews leaving it. In a new poll this week, more than half of the respondents feared civil war, and some 28 percent said they are considering leaving the country. That’s in addition to about a million Israelis already residing outside the country, notably in the United States, which millions of Jews consider the true promised land. With the United States considering lifting the visa restriction on Israelis, expect many more to leave.
In sum, Bibi’s blessings in the form of dreadful international standing, social upheaval, political alienation, civil disobedience, human rights violations, economic contraction, and greater exodus are not good for “the Jewish state” but could work in favour of the Palestinians.
This requires that the Palestinian leaders learn quickly how to manage the complexities of this new phase of their struggle with apartheid Israel, starting with national unity. Interestingly, as the Israeli leaders were busy tearing each other apart this week, the Palestinian leaders met in Ankara at the initiative of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to arrive at national reconciliation and unity.
The timing couldn’t have been more pertinent. As Netanyahu drives colonial Israel towards the abyss, eyes wide open, it is incumbent upon the Palestinians to exploit the mounting Israeli dissatisfaction, alienation and bitterness and to connect with those elements of the Israeli society willing and able to fight along with them for a truly egalitarian democracy for all people living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, regardless of race, gender or religion.
The darkest hour of the night comes just before dawn.