Israel: Netanyahu re-election a win for 'truth in labelling'

Let me be clear: I am not happy, as such, that Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won Israel's March 17 elections.

Netanyahu is a blood-soaked killer. He should be put on trial for his many crimes, from the relentless theft of Palestinian land to last summer’s massacre in Gaza — and I yearn to see that day.

But revelling in the murder of Palestinians and calling it “self-defence” barely distinguishes him from his rivals. Tzipi Livni, leader of the Hatnuah party and a fugitive war crimes suspect, was one of the proud and unrepentant architects of Israel’s massacre in Gaza in 2008-2009 that undoubtedly served as Netanyahu’s model.

Her political partner Isaac Herzog, from the Israeli Labour Party that ran on a joint ticket with Hatnuah, has faulted Netanyahu for not attacking Gaza viciously enough.

Netanyahu’s ugly election day incitement that the “Arabs are advancing on the ballot boxes” revealed once again his true feelings that Palestinian citizens of Israel are not legitimate citizens deserving full rights.

But Livni has frequently expressed the same view.

And while Netanyahu is absolutely committed to the theft and colonisation of occupied Palestinian land, that too does not distinguish him from his ostensibly dovish predecessors.

A recent interactive feature published by the New York Times shows that Israeli illegal settlement building in the occupied West Bank (excluding occupied Jerusalem) was often far higher under the supposed peace-seeking governments of Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert.

But what has distinguished Netanyahu is that he strips away the opportunities for the so-called “international community” to hide its complicity with Israel’s ugly crimes behind a charade of a “peace process”.

Moreover, Netanyahu’s open alliance with the most racist, white supremacist, Islamophobic and bigoted elements of the North American and European right — his speech to Congress earlier this month was a manifestation of this — place Israel in the correct ideological camp.

Israel can no longer practice apartheid at home while falsely presenting itself as a beacon of liberalism around the world.

In short, Netanyahu’s re-election is like the “Nutrition Facts” label on a box of junk food: it tells you about the toxic ingredients inside.

Netanyahu’s clear declaration days before the vote that he will not allow a Palestinian state was simply an affirmation of the real policy of every Israeli government since 1967. It is the same policy to which Herzog and Livni would have adhered.

Herzog and Livni would not have permitted a Palestinian state worthy of the name. Rather, with international support, they would have tried to draw Palestinians back into “negotiations” over what would at most be a ghetto-like bantustan designed to legitimise Israel’s theft of vast tracts of land, annexation of Jerusalem and denial of the rights of Palestinian refugees.

Herzog, too, had vowed to continue building settlements on stolen Palestinian land. But he would have hidden this expansionist policy behind one of the cosmetic and fraudulent “freezes” during which colonisation continues unabated.

Had Livni and Herzog's Zionist Union electoral ticket won, there was a grave danger the Palestinians would have been dragged back a decade into fruitless Oslo-style “negotiations” that would have served as a cover for continued colonisation.

Such negotiations have provided the key excuse for the so-called international community to endlessly defer holding Israel to even minimal account.

The refrain from gutless officials is always some version of “yes, isn’t it terrible what’s going on, but there’s a peace process and we support the peace process”.

The one positive outcome of Israel’s election is that path seems to be closed.

We should be under no illusion that with Netanyahu’s re-election, Western and Arab governments are suddenly going to end their complicity with Israel.

There’s every reason to believe that the Obama administration, for instance, will continue its relentless campaign of opposing Palestinian rights and efforts to hold Israel accountable in any forum.

But the Israeli Jewish public’s choice to re-elect Netanyahu should make it clear to people around the world that Israel does not seek peace nor justice. It will continue to oppress and ethnically cleanse Palestinians until it is stopped.

Negotiating with such a regime is pointless when its power over its victims remains vast and unchecked. The message we should take away is simple: the proper treatment for a state committed to occupation, apartheid and ethno-racial supremacy is to isolate it until it recognises that it must abandon those commitments.

Palestinians have asked the world to do that through boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). Netanyahu makes the case a little easier, so it’s time to step it up.

[Abridged from Electronic Intifada.]

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