Imagine, if you will, if Barack Obama’s real father was Rev. Jeremiah Wright and imagine, if you will, that Wright gave an eight-page interview to USA Today the week of Obama’s inauguration. Then you can imagine the “interest” with which such a Maariv interview with Bibi Netanyahu’s father was met in Israeli circles.
Noam Sheizaf, who works for Maariv, has translated portions of the interview in his blog (here is the original Hebrew story) and it’s an eye-opener to say the least. A bit of introduction about the elder Netanyahu and his political biography is important:
In today’s political world, Prof. Netanyahu will be considered an extreme right wing man. In fact, Prof. Netanyahu says that because of his views, he was never offered a teaching job in one of Israel’s universities (he is a world expert on medieval Jewish history). I tend to believe him. He was also one of the leaders of the US Zionist movement, and personal secretary to the founder of the Revisionist movement, Zeev Jabotinsky.
After reading this, you will understand why Bibi’s people tried for a week to get the interview squashed, even appealing to the publisher. The latter agreed to the unprecedented compromise of having Bibi’s brother review the interview to ensure it reflected his father’s real views (he is 99 years-old). We don’t know what role the brother played in the finished product. But after reading the interview and knowing a family member reviewed it, you can’t imagine how it could’ve been any worse.
The elder Netanyahu’s comments recall the racist anti-Arab remarks made by Rahm Emanuel’s father after his son was named U.S. chief of staff. And in truth, the elder Emanuel was, like Ben Zion Netanyahu, a follower of the most extreme right-wing nationalist elements of early Zionism. So it’s no wonder that their world view is replete with the worst anti-Arab racism and hate.
And without further ado, I give you, Ben Zion Netanyahu, the father of the man:
Netanyahu: “I don’t see any signs that the Arabs want peace… we will face fierce attacks from the Arabs, and we must react firmly…We just handed them a strong blow in Gaza, and they still bargain with us over one hostage… if we gave them a blow that would really hurt them, they would have given us Gilad Shalit back.”
Q: Operation “cast Lead” was one of the worst blows we handed on a civilian population.
A: “That’s not enough. It’s possible that we should have hit harder.”
Q: You don’t like the Arabs, to say the least.
A: “The Bible finds no worse image than this of the man from the desert. And why? Because he has no respect for any law. Because in the desert he can do as he pleases.
The tendency towards conflict is in the essence of the Arab. He is an enemy by essence. His personality won’t allow him any compromise or agreement. It doesn’t matter what kind of resistance he will meet, what price he will pay. His existence is one of perpetuate war.”
Q: Is there any hope of peace?
A: …No…The two states solution doesn’t exist. There are no two people here. There is a Jewish people and an Arab population… there is no Palestinian people, so you don’t create a state for an imaginary nation… they only call themselves a people in order to fight the Jews.”
Q: So what’s the solution?
A: “No solution but force… strong military rule. Any outbreak will bring upon the Arabs enormous suffering. We shouldn’t wait for a big mutiny to start, but rather act immediately with great force to prevent them from going on…
If it’s possible, we should conquer any disputed territory in the land of Israel. Conquer and hold it, even if it brings us years of war. We should conquer Gaza, and parts of the Galil, and the Golan. This will bring upon us a bloody war, since war is difficult for us – we don’t have a lot of territory, while the Arabs have lots of space to retreat to. But that’s the only way to survive here.”
There is valuable experience [on this matter] we don’t pay notice to. I mean the Ottoman rule over the Arabs. The Turks ruled over the Arabs for 400 years, and there was peace and quiet everywhere. The Arabs hated the Ottomans, but every little thing they did brought mass killings and hanging in towns squares. They were hanging people in Damascus, and Izmir… every town had hanging posts in its center…the Arabs were so badly beaten, they didn’t dare revolt. Naturally, I don’t recommend the use of hangings as a show of force like the Turks did, I just want to show that the only thing that might move the Arabs from the rejectionist position is force.
A word of context here. I don’t claim that Bibi Netanyahu holds the same beliefs as his father and I don’t believe (along with the Bible) that the sins of fathers are visited on the sons.
In fact, Bibi, unlike his dad, has few real principles of his own and would gladly shed any of his father’s if it would add to his political power. As I’ve written here, Bibi is a smooth operator, not a man of ideas. In a way, you have to admire the father for holding consistent and transparent views of Arabs. At least he says what he means. Bibi is much more wily and vacuous than that. He has few if any principles.
It is interesting to compare the current political power brokers of the Israeli political right who are scions of the Zionist radical right pre-1948 generation. All of them, Tzipi Livni, Ehud Olmert, and Bibi Netanyahu have liberated themselves, to a greater or lesser extent from the purity and radicalism of their parents views. All have become political apparatchiks, rather than ideologues. Livni to a greater extent and Olmert to a lesser extent, developed a pragmatism that opened them to new ideas and turned them to the political center. Bibi remains stuck–without the purity of his father’s views, but without any openness to new ideas–on the extreme right. I suppose you could call him a pragmatic rightist, but only in the sense that he believes in very little the right stands for, except wielding power.
But what is interesting here is to see where Bibi’s ideas come from and to read them expressed in their purest and most virulent form. The younger Netanyahu is too slick to use the snarling articulations of his father. But everything the former does believe is rooted in this (the father’s) stifling, hate-filled world view. And while you will never hear Bibi call for eternal war and vigilance against the evil Arab foe as his father does, that is where Bibi’s policies will lead Israel. So in that sense there is a consonance in the views of father and son.