In the liberal media and among the intelligentsia and the European political class there reigns an untroubled unanimity on the subject of Israel: it is no longer a democracy because its new government is of the Right. Too far to the right. I have no particular sympathy for Benjamin Netanyahu, but I must observe that the manner of his election was perfectly legitimate. Nor have I any sympathy—far from it—for the extremist Jewish parties that have entered into the government coalition, but they, too, were elected. Thus, I cannot see on what grounds the objecting Europeans allow themselves to denounce Israeli democracy. I am reminded of a famous proposal by Bertolt Brecht: “Since the people vote against the government, the people must be dissolved.” As it happens, a majority of Israelis consider themselves represented in Netanyahu’s new government, and the minority will take back power in a few more years. Such are the mechanics of universal suffrage.
Therefore, before diabolizing Netanyahu, Europe’s finest should ask themselves about his repeated electoral successes and record for longevity, both of which bring to mind Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, and José María Aznar. The voters know what they’re doing: under Netanyahu, Israelis have experienced their greatest security, and never has their economy been more prosperous. It was thus not by chance that Netanyahu was reelected, but as a reward for his success and his good fortune (in politics, luck and success are indissociable). Has he threatened democracy in the past, and will he distort it this time in order to please his integralist allies? This may be doubted, since the person who could make the Israelis shut up would not be of this world. The Hebrews quarreled with God; the Jews argue ceaselessly among themselves, and that includes the Israelis. The media are free and will remain so, as are the parties and the judges. The Israeli army does not accept orders from without. As for the rabbis, there are as many points of view among them as there are synagogues.
What, then, is the source of this Western condemnation of the new Israeli government and these dark prophecies concerning democracy? First, there is ignorance. What European scribbler inquires into the problems Netanyahu faces? We prefer to condemn him from afar, for fear of being contradicted by reality. But let’s state the essential: the despair displayed by the European Left comes from the fact that its adherents judge Israel from the standpoint of the Palestinians. It’s true that Netanyahu and his allies don’t believe in the viability of a Palestinian state; the Israeli government is not the Palestinian government, and it defends the interests of Israelis before those of the Palestinians. We may bemoan the fate of the Palestinians, but whose responsibility is that, really? In 1947, the United Nations divided Palestine into two territories, one Jewish and the other Arab. Who is it that refused this division into two states, as demanded today by the Arabs, the Palestinians, and the “international community”? From the moment of the UN’s announcement of the partition, the Arab armies of Jordan, Syria, and Egypt attacked the Israeli colonies. The Israelis of that day, against all expectations, much like today’s Ukrainians, resisted and conquered a territory larger than what the UN had assigned. Since then, the Arabs have never ceased attacking Israel, including launching wars in 1967 and in 1973. They have lost every time.
Abandoning a frontal military struggle, Arabs and Palestinians took up terrorism, again without success. The two autonomous Palestinian territories, the West Bank and Gaza, are governed by elected Palestinians who are corrupt and tyrannize their own people and appropriate international aid funds. The only functioning Palestinian economy consists in the confiscation of the aid monies flowing in from the UN for the past 70 years (and the European Union more recently). The “international community” has for 50 years financed the survival of the Palestinian refugee camps, which guarantees that these refugees will remain refugees.
The Palestinians are perhaps victims of the Israeli occupation—though there is no occupation of Gaza at all—but they are still more victims of international aid. They are also just as much victims of the Arab world, which has contributed little to the Palestinians, while long refusing to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Under constant pressure from the United States, and in exchange for American financing, Jordan, Egypt, the Emirates, and Morocco now recognize Israel, but the most threatening neighbors—Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria—have no official diplomatic relations with it. Nor do the largest Muslim countries—Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia—recognize Israel. Should we then be surprised and indignant that Israel is an armed nation, and little disposed to make concessions to the Palestinians? Vae victis! Woe to the vanquished! Such is the law of empires: the Arabs have lost. One dares not imagine what would have happened had they won. A second Holocaust, or a new exile? Before condemning Netanyahu, let’s keep this history in mind.
I would invite the reader also to visit the occupied Palestinian territories. It is true that the dignity of Palestinians is not always respected by the Israeli army. But in the Middle East, paradoxically, in what independent country do Arabs live better than on the West Bank? There, Arabs at least have a free press, which is not the case in any Arab country. Legal equality reigns between men and women. Freedom of worship is complete for Palestinian Christians. One can create businesses and even get rich by doing business with the Israelis. The Palestinian Birzeit University is certainly the best of the Arab Near East. Ramallah, the capital of occupied Palestine, is one of the most prosperous cities of the Near East. This is not to claim that occupation is a satisfactory solution, but it is better to be a Palestinian in the occupied West Bank than in unoccupied Gaza.
What, then, is the true cause of Europe’s demonizing of Netanyahu? He is on the right and he is Jewish—look no further. And the unrestrained sympathy for the Palestinians? They play the role, despite themselves, of the proletariat in a Marxian vision of the world. Israel and the Palestinians, for elite commentators, are nothing but the screen on which are projected the ideological fantasies of the West.
Photo by ATEF SAFADI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images