After a bitter re-election campaign, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has secured his legacy as a leader more committed to domination than to peace. Over the course of the past decade, he has completely sabotaged any chance of reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis, and left Israel itself deeply divided.
All those who desire peace in the Middle East should be deeply worried about the consequences of Netanyahu’s policies, which will be felt for decades to come. Annexing occupied territories, disenfranchising Arab Israelis, and brutally subjugating the Palestinian people is a recipe for perpetual conflict between Israel and its neighbors. Even more ominously, Netanyahu’s rhetoric has added a culture-war dynamic to the mix, thus transforming a clash over land ownership into a “clash of civilizations.” That will encourage the forces of radicalism and extremism on all sides.
At home, Netanyahu has systematically turned Israel into an illiberal democracy. Through fearmongering and racism, he has sought to drive a permanent wedge between Israel’s Jewish majority and the Israeli Arab community, which accounts for around 20% of the country’s population.
Last year, for example, Netanyahu pushed through a “nation-state law” that affords Jews the “unique” right to self-determination, thus formally classifying Arab Israelis as second-class citizens. When the law drew criticism from the Israeli actor Rotem Sela, Netanyahu replied that Israel is “the national state, not of all citizens, but only of the Jewish people.” Given this open hostility, it is little wonder that voter turnout among Arab Israelis in this election was 15 percentage points below that of 2015. When your own prime minister declares in no uncertain terms that you are not an equal member of the political community, participating in it can feel futile. [Continue reading…]