I am thankful that Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu won Tuesday’s elections in Israel. It is the same sense of gratitude that washed over anti-apartheid activists all over the world on August 15 1985 after PW Botha delivered his infamous Rubicon speech. By the time die Ou Krokodil left the Durban City Hall, the world finally accepted the grim reality that apartheid could not be reformed, it needed to end. It was, according to a Herman Giliomee article, “the day that apartheid started dying”.
Bibi Netanyahu’s successful election campaign has included numerous Rubicon speeches of his own. In an interview with Israeli news site NRG the day before Israelis went to the polls, Netanyahu was asked: “If you are prime minister, a Palestinian state will not be established?” “Indeed,” he replied.
His terse one-word response stripped off Israel’s mask of an earnest peace partner making painful concessions. Feigned global shock followed.
I say feigned because nobody has ever truly believed that Likudniks (dominant, or part of, every Israeli government since 1977) ever went into any peace talks in the last two decades to actually negotiate with the Palestinians.
But, as long as the “process”continued, the international community – including the post-apartheid South African government – could keep the boycott calls at bay, and soothe their conscience with the whimsical peace process.
At least now, thanks to Netanyahu, there will be no more “negotiations: with Israel pretending that it will agree to a two-state illusion, while escalating settlement building, furthering the occupation of the West Bank and intensifying the siege on Gaza.
This also makes things a bit awkward for the US. How can it continue to veto anti-settlement resolutions at the UN Security Council if the Israeli prime minister’s position is that Palestinian statehood is not an option.
Realising this, Netanyahu has already flip-flopped on his statements but the US remains unimpressed, and will “re-assess” its relationship with Israel.
The real upshot of Netanyahu’s victory is that the world can finally see that Israel has never been a partner for negotiations, peace or solutions, and the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement was and is a necessary response.
None of this would have been possible without the Israeli public that voted for Netanyahu and other hardline nationalist, religious and ultra-Orthodox Jewish right-wing parties with whom he will form a coalition government. Israelis have long been warned that they are faced with two choices: either end the occupation, or cease to be a democracy. Has the Israeli public now made its choice?
Analyst Ali Abunimah wrote that Netanyahu’s re-election is like the “nutrition facts” label on junk food: it reveals the toxic ingredients inside. The most right-wing government in Israeli history is currently being assembled in this poisonous environment.
So, what do Palestinians make of the election? On Wednesday, they vowed to step up their diplomatic campaign for statehood. “We say clearly that we will go to the International Criminal Court in The Hague and we will speed up, pursue and intensify all diplomatic efforts”, chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erakat told AFP.
According to Haaretz, Hamas official Ismail Radwan said on Tuesday that Netanyahu’s victory and statements should persuade Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to abandon negotiations with Israel altogether.
Would the peace process still be on track if the rival Zionist Union, headed by Isaac Herzog, had won? Not really. Herzog’s justifications for doing the same thing were softer and more palatable in the Western world. Netanyahu says it clearly and openly; Herzog and his coalition partners shrewdly hinted at it. Neither has any real intention to end the occupation.
“Netanyahu deserves the Israeli people, and they deserve him,” mocked Gideon Levy in Haaretz on Wednesday. But what about the 4 million people in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza who did not vote for him, or any other Israeli government that has controlled their lives for the last 47 years?
Surely they deserve more than voting in internal elections for the corrupt PA, which wields the same amount of power as, say, the Johannesburg municipality?
For the fourth time now, Israel has said “yes” to Netanyahu – the man who promised he’d never make peace. The Israeli people have spoken, and their choice is occupation and apartheid.
The world must respond with isolation.
Written by: Suraya Dadoo
Researcher, Media Review Network
*This article first appeared in The Sunday Independent on March 22, 2015.