Israel cannot be an occupier, a democracy, and a liberal society at the same time.
A compulsive liar and a persistent untruth are at the root of the ongoing unrest gripping Israel. The liar has been exposed for a while, but the long-persisted lie that he and others have spread is just now starting to fall apart.
It is no accident that Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, has so far lied his way out of a predicament he brought on himself. He is regarded by both his former and current coalition allies as a pathological, serial, and, my personal favourite, “liar of all liars” type of liar. Even Western leaders, such as former US President Donald Trump and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, believed the man to be an intolerable liar.
Although it is sometimes true that the pot is calling the kettle black in these situations, there has rarely been such a broad consensus regarding a politician—perhaps with the exception of Trump. Yet, Netanyahu is a Trumpian politician who consistently furthers his own interests at the expense of others and lacks moral rectitude.
In a successful effort to reclaim the position of the prime minister that he had lost the previous year, Netanyahu ran a populist campaign of deception against Israel’s intelligentsia, media, and judiciary in 2022. So, to take on the old liberal “deep state” and turn it into a fundamentalist “Jewish state,” this self-declared liberal established a coalition government of authoritarian fascists and fanatics.
He has up to now asserted that his judicial agenda, which seeks to subject the courts to the whims of the ruling majority, is not motivated by any personal goals. Yet in actuality, despite being charged with numerous counts of corruption, Netanyahu struck a Faustian bargain with Israel’s most extreme parties that keeps him out of jail and in the leadership of the government. In exchange, he is assisting them in further marginalising Israel’s Palestinian minority and imposing their ultrareligious agenda on the government and society.
In order to maintain his position of authority, Netanyahu has shown himself willing to do whatever it takes, including collaborating with the most dangerous and rogue members of the Israeli political establishment in order to topple the secular liberal Ashkenazi-dominated establishment that laid the groundwork for and shaped the development of the Israeli state.
Being Ashkenazi, secular, and morally bankrupt, Netanyahu enjoys strong support from the Sephardic, ultranationalist, and ultrareligious sectors, all of which contributed to him becoming the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history. Netanyahu, who his supporters refer to as the “King of Israel,” likely believes he can shoot anyone on Dizengoff Street and still win a vote.
This Trumpian conceit allowed him to ignore the rising domestic and international resistance, particularly from the United States and Europe, and ram his extreme, illiberal, and revolutionary legislative agenda through the Knesset with a very slim majority.
That was a bad error to make.
Shortly after his judicial “reform” was passed, critics of Netanyahu came to the conclusion that the prime minister and his allies would be free to enact any law governing any aspect of Israeli life without any legal checks or checks to be put in place.
To resist his attempts to overthrow their predominately liberal Ashkenazi order and replace it with new dictatorial authority, hundreds of thousands of secular and liberal Israelis from all walks of life flocked to the streets. Until their demands were granted, they threatened to paralyse the state by closing ports, the Tel Aviv airport, and colleges.
In an effort to ease tensions, Netanyahu eventually capitulated on Monday in the face of mounting street pressure and postponed the parliamentary vote on his programme. The protesters have thus far dismissed his commitment to seek a national or legislative consensus as little more than a delaying tactic.
Yet, certain opposition figures, including his former coalition partner Benny Gantz, appear willing to negotiate in the benefit of the country, specifically Jewish Israel.
Many of the protesters who are waving Israeli flags in defence of their freedoms and as a show of patriotism don’t seem to understand or admit that Israel’s entrenched apartheid system will continue to fuel tyrannical fascism and fanaticism as long as its colonial Israel upholds its oppressive Jewish supremacy in Palestine.
It is still unclear how or when the current uproar will come to an end, but it is obvious that unless Israel confronts its biggest lie of all—that it is a Jewish democracy, a liberal occupier, and a civilised tormentor of another people, the Palestinians—the rift within Israeli society will only widen.
When the US-sponsored peace process granted Israel the right to become a wealthy settler-colonial state over 78 per cent of historic Palestine – an innovative, liberal state with secular Tel Aviv at its centre, fully integrated into the West and the Middle East – alongside an independent Palestinian state – this lie became widely accepted in the early 1990s.
The alternative was for Israel to keep growing its illegal Jewish settlements until it had taken over all of historic Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, had two separate political systems, economies, and infrastructure, and was ruled by a more fanatical and illiberal “Jewish state” with the religiously charged, occupied Jerusalem at its centre. This would have created an apartheid state similar to South Africa.
Arrogant and greedy, Israel turned down the excessively kind offer of coexistence from the Palestinians because it thought it could reign over all of Palestine while also enjoying peace, wealth, and international legitimacy.
Since the beginning, this has been supported by none other than Benjamin Netanyahu, who came to power in 1996 after inciting violence against the peace process, which resulted in the 1995 murder of his predecessor, Yitzhak Rabin.
Israel has enjoyed having it both ways for a very long time thanks to its US sponsor. Washington has supported Israel’s economy throughout the past 30 years, made investments in its high-tech sector, sponsored its military, and worked to normalise its relations with most of the world while ignoring the country’s worsening apartheid and escalating bloodshed.
But, the decades of unwavering American support that have given Israel the chutzpah to punch above its weight and treat the reality of the region with absolute contempt have also paved the way for the emergence of apocalyptic fascism and fanaticism that may very well spell the end for the country.
In other words, Israel must stop trying to be both colonial and liberal, Jewish and democratic, secular and fanatical, harsh and peaceful, apartheid and humanitarian as the deceit falls apart and the lie catches up with the liar.
Before the fanatics decide for Israel, it is time for it to make a wise decision.