Some people are Holocaust deniers, others are Palestine deniers. Almost the entire Israeli cabinet fall into the latter category. The world rightly condemns those in the former, among them the most recent president of Iran. For some reason, in Israel being a Palestine denier gets you a job as a minister.
One of Israel’s most prominent young right-wing politicians and a senior minister in the government, Naftali Bennett, likened the “Palestinian problem” (his words) to a man with shrapnel in his ass. He told a settler-sponsored conference on hasbara and communications this story:
I have a friend with shrapnel in his bottom. They told him that they could operate but that he’d become an invalid. He decided to continue living with it. There are sometimes situations in which the urge to finalize a solution causes more harm than good.
Given that Bennett is a far-right settlerist (and former Netanyahu chief of staff) I’d guess that removing the shrapnel and becoming an invalid meant giving up the settlements and returning to 1967 borders, and not expelling all the Palestinians in Israel. By “living with” the problem, he meant continuing with the status quo on a more or less permanent basis (as if that were possible!).
The image that will linger (one of many such vividly despicable similes articulated by Israeli rightists) is the shrapnel in the ass. It will take its place alongside Rafael Eitan’s sealing off the Palestinians “like cockroaches in a bottle,” or Dov Weisglass’ claim that Sharon put the peace process “in formaldehyde,” or that Israel’s siege would “put Gaza on a diet,” or Ben Zion (“Netanyahu”) Millikovsky’s wish that Israel would treat uppity Nig…oops, Palestinians like in the old Ottoman days, when they “strung up a few troublemakers in the town square” just to teach people a lesson. Colonial conquest is a terrific originator of inventive language depicting conquered peoples.
On the subject of creating a Palestinian state, Bennet stated that he’d come to a “dead-end:”
Never have so many labored for so long on a matter so pointless. We must move from a situation of persuading the world that this is a mistake to acting as if the idea from now on is behind us. There are 400,000 Israelis living in Judea and Samaria, another 295,000 live in East Jerusalem. 10% of Israel’s population lived [outside] what’s known as the Green Line. The attempt to establish a Palestinian state with out state is dead.
In response to another Knesset member who spoke publicly recently saying that Israel’s situation was becoming more and more reminiscent of South Africa under apartheid, Bennet said:
How can one be a conqueror in one’s own home?
I’m prepared at this point to say that either Bibi Netanyahu is a fool when he speaks of a two-state solution (which he rarely does), or he’s a liar. He certainly knows his entire government rejects the solution. His father, if he believed his son embraced this view, would’ve strung him up from a town square. There is no conceivable way Bibi believes in two-states. Everyone around him who denounces it speaks truly. If Bibi says otherwise, he’s a liar or a fool.
The fig-leaf of two-states serves a useful purpose in Israel’s external relations. Bibi can go abroad or speak to John Kerry in the language of the world. He says the right words but makes sure never to actually do anything that would implement a two-state solution. This relieves pressure on Israel and its Occupation at home. It gives it breathing space to pursue its goals of further settling the Territories and ensuring, as Bennet told the settlers above, that two-states are dead.
What’s ironic is a statement like that of Tony Blair yesterday saying that one-staters were deluded. He was speaking of the growing tide of liberal and centrist Zionists who are coming to the realization that the Likud has strangled the two-state baby in his crib, leaving nothing but a one-state solution. In truth, it isn’t those who’ve grown despondent who are to blame. It is Bennett and Bibi and the ultra-nationalists who’ve created their own version of the one-state solution. The one state is Israel with nothing left over for the Palestinians.
Those on the left are increasingly drawn to a one-state reality as well. But it won’t be the state Bibi envisions. It will be a single state encompassing all the Jews and Palestinians from the Mediterranean to the Jordan. The question is: whose one state will it be, Bibi’s or the realists’?
U.S. political leaders are willing collaborators in this charade as are American Jewish leaders. They feign annoyance at Bibi’s intransigence. They pretend that he’s on the same page as them regarding two-states. But nothing could be farther from the truth. If they were honest, Obama and his advisors would admit that Bibi’s leading them on and act accordingly. But to do so would require speaking candidly and telling the world that Bibi is a liar and a fraud. No American president since the first George Bush (and Jim Baker) has been willing to do that. And the querulous, quavering Obama isn’t about to start. All of which means America’s pusillanimous policy toward Israel will continue indefinitely. Settlement and Occupation will continue indefinitely. The charade will continue indefinitely.
If you’d like to see what idiots some American Jewish leaders can make of themselves, read this Haaretz story. Here’s a representative sampling:
“I think these are all irresponsible statements which do not in any way reflect the commitment of the Israeli government, not to mention the long-standing position of the U.S., that the two-state solution is the only possible solution,” said Rabbi Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism.
You have three ministers, two quite senior, in a week’s time denounce the two-state solution and yet you claim these rejections don’t reflect the real views of the Israeli government? In what universe is this guy living? Not in any that includes latter-day Israel.
Let’s not leave out the ever-quotable Abe Foxman:
“Netanyahu has made it clear that, even if we don’t know the details, there are contacts going on with the view towards reaching a two-state solution.”
Indeed, and I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn and some beautiful ocean front property in Florida.
…If to go by Bennett or Dannon, it is Israel that is saying no to the two-state solution, that becomes the imagery. When in fact it is not Israel that is not serious, it is the other side.”
God forbid anyone in the world should believe that Israel’s leaders reject the two-state solution. Spit three times for even thinking such a thing!
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.