Netanyahu, Israeli politics, and the new antisemitism

Netanyahu, Israeli politics, and the new antisemitism. By Greg Sheridan.

Why Israel’s political system is unstable:

Israel’s eccentric electoral system has required four elections in the past two years. This is because Israel operates one of the most pure proportional-representation systems in the democratic world. A party only needs 3.25 per cent to get into the Israeli parliament, the Knessett.

Every charismatic leader, and every identifiable interest group, is thus tempted to form its own political party and negotiate over its core issues, rather than being part of one of the big parties, of which Netanyahu’s Likud is the biggest.

This interacts with a central feature of Israeli demography. About 20 per cent of Israeli citizens are Arabs. They are full citizens and vote in elections, but enjoy varying degrees of integration into Israeli society. In the past they haven’t wanted to form part of an Israeli government, and because their political parties bear at least some nominal allegiance to Palestinian causes the mainstream parties have not sought their endorsement.

As a result, to form a government an Israeli coalition needs in effect not 50 per cent plus one, but rather 51 of the 80 per cent of the vote which is Jewish. That has made forming a coalition extremely difficult.

Now, apart from his passionate supporters, the mood in Israeli politics is overwhelmingly that the Netanyahu period should end. This has enabled a coalition of astonishing ideological variety — one might say incoherence — to assemble. Three of the coalition party leaders — Bennett, Avigdor Liebermann and Gideon Saar — are to the right of Netanyahu on national security issues. I have interviewed all three at length and they are vastly more subtle and nuanced than any international caricature of them would suggest. Each has worked closely in government with Netanyahu in the past and would be natural coalition partners for Likud except for their desire to see Bibi [Netanyahu] gone. …

Netanyahu is Israel’s Reagan or Thatcher:

One thing I’ve learnt from many conversations with Netanyahu is that although he is certainly a national-security hawk, his real interest is economics, or more precisely, commerce. A typical conversation with Netanyahu involves him running through the security issues of the day, but then his eyes really light up when he tells you in detail what the comprehensive computerisation of motor vehicles means for Israeli hi-tech in providing software and systems for cars. Or he’ll go on endlessly about the application of Artificial Intelligence in civilian technology.

He also told me once he thought his reputation as a fierce national-security hawk was itself an asset for Israel, as it meant in part that he didn’t have to use force so much. In this he was a little like Ronald Reagan, actually quite cautious and even parsimonious in his use of force, though he would use it decisively if necessary.

This concentration on the Israeli economy is the key to everything else about Netanyahu. He has served at times as both foreign minister and finance minister. He is really the father of the modern Israeli economy. Israel began as a socialist, labour movement. The social solidarity represented in the kibbutz movement was the key not only to the ethos of Israel but its economic policies.

Netanyahu was the first free-market leader Israel ever had. In his first stint as PM he created the modern Israeli economy, deregulating key sectors and going all-in for hi-tech.

When he came back as PM in 2009 it was the same vision which propelled him. Although always a tough guy on security, he basically decided to ignore the Palestinian question. Instead he pioneered Israeli relationships with nations beyond the Middle East, for whom the Palestinian issue was not central. He especially took Israel into Asia, developing deep connections with India, Japan, China, Singapore and other nations. They wanted Israeli technology; he wanted their markets. …

Why the western left damns Israel:

The standards to which Israel is held are often insanely high. Thus, uniquely among modern nations, Israel’s very right to exist is frequently denied and contested. There is a strong campaign in the West to boycott Israel for its alleged human-rights violations. Yet even if everything alleged against Israel were true, even then Israel would be not remotely anywhere near the worst offenders against human rights. Turkey permanently and illegally occupies northern Cyprus, but there is no move to boycott Turkey, and so on. …

In recent weeks we have witnessed sickening scenes. In Los Angeles and New York, Jews were attacked in the street by mobs of young men, mostly of Arab or Middle East origin. The same happened in Germany. In London, anti-Israel demonstrations have become overtly anti-Semitic. Carloads of young men drove through London screaming that they would “kill the Jews and rape their women”.

One of the most astonishing features of this grotesque behaviour is that while it has been condemned by civilised people, it has generated no energy in the popular culture. Where is the Jewish Lives Matter movement in the West? Where is the trending hashtag I Stand with the Jews?

The demonisation of Israel has effectively led to the demonisation of Jewish people in Western societies. Two contemporary dynamics are particularly powerful. One is so-called intersectionality on the left. Intersectionality means that you try to amalgamate all the grievances of identity politics that you can — race, gender, sexual orientation, et cetera — and use each one to magnify the other. Both its Arab opponents and its Western critics constantly criticise Israel in the terms of intersectionality campaigns — Israel is a colonial power, represents Western culture, is patriarchal and sexist, oppresses people of colour, promulgates a Western religion — and because of this, the politics of Palestinian protest has become part of the Black Lives Matter radical coalition.

It’s not just Thomas Jefferson they hate, it’s Israel and Netanyahu and Jews who happen to live among them.

The other relatively new dynamic is the power of social media. The dishonest editing of images, the wildly exaggerated misreporting of events in Israel, finds a ready audience on social media in the West. Add to this the paranoia of the Arab world view — we have such a supreme religion and culture, why are we not ruling the world? — and hostility to Western Jews becomes an easy part of the mix.

hat-tip Stephen Neil