Benjamin Netanyahu Wins Elections because—to Most Israelis—He’s Right about What Matters

April 11 2019

With the Likud party having won an impressive 35 Knesset seats in Tuesday’s elections, it seems likely that Benjamin Netanyahu will be asked to form the next Israeli government, giving him a fifth term as prime minister. To Shmuel Rosner, the reasons for his continued success are straightforward:

[Netanyahu] seems to have succeeded again this time for the same reason he has dominated Israeli politics for most of the past 25 years: because when it comes to Israel’s national security, he is a leader with strategy and vision. And that is what many voters want.

In the mid-1990s, during his first term as prime minister, Netanyahu rejected the assumptions underlying the peace process with the Palestinians. At the time this was considered daringly right wing. Today, it is considered common sense in Israel, including by Netanyahu’s political rivals. Likewise, Netanyahu was one of the first politicians to recognize Iran as the main threat to Israel’s survival, and fought fiercely in international forums to get the world’s attention to this problem. Today, this view is also widely appreciated across the Israeli political spectrum.

The list goes on: in 2005, he warned that withdrawing Israeli troops from Gaza would end in disaster—and it did. He successfully resisted eight years of the Obama administration’s pressure to offer concessions to the Palestinians. He quickly forged an alliance with President Trump that has already proved to be of great benefit to Israel. . . .

Has Netanyahu ever been wrong when it comes to security? The truth is, many Israelis will find it hard to think of an example. And this goes not just for voters for the Likud party, or the right-wing parties that are expected to join Likud in the next government, but even for Blue-and-White, which largely echoed Netanyahu’s positions on important foreign-policy and national-security questions.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Election 2019, Likud, Peace Process

Who Changed the Term “Nakba” into a Symbol of Arab Victimization?

April 19 2019

In contemporary Palestinian discourse, not to mention that of the Palestinians’ Western supporters, the creation of the state of Israel is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe—sometimes explicitly compared with the Holocaust. The very term has come to form a central element in a narrative of passive Palestinian suffering at Jewish hands. But when the Syrian historian Constantin Zureiq first used the term with regard to the events of 1948, he meant something quite different, and those responsible for changing its meaning were none other than Israelis. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen explains:

In his 1948 pamphlet The Meaning of the Disaster (Ma’na al-Nakba), Zureiq attributed the Palestinian/Arab flight to the stillborn pan-Arab assault on the nascent Jewish state rather than to a premeditated Zionist design to disinherit the Palestinian Arabs. “We [Arabs] must admit our mistakes,” [he wrote], “and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.” . . . In a later book, The Meaning of the Catastrophe Anew, published after the June 1967 war, he defined that latest defeat as a “Nakba,” . . . since—just as in 1948—it was a self-inflicted disaster emanating from the Arab world’s failure to confront Zionism. . . .

It was only in the late 1980s that it began to be widely perceived as an Israeli-inflicted injustice. Ironically, it was a group of politically engaged, self-styled Israeli “new historians” who provided the Palestinian national movement with perhaps its best propaganda tool by turning the saga of Israel’s birth upside down, with aggressors turned into hapless victims, and vice-versa, on the basis of massive misrepresentation of archival evidence.

While earlier generations of Palestinian academics and intellectuals had refrained from exploring the origins of the 1948 defeat, the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat, who was brought to Gaza and the West Bank as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords and was allowed to establish his Palestinian Authority (PA) in parts of those territories, grasped the immense potential of reincarnating the Nakba as a symbol of Palestinian victimhood rather than a self-inflicted disaster. In 1998, he proclaimed May 15 a national day of remembrance of the Nakba. In subsequent years, “Nakba Day” has become an integral component of the Palestinian national narrative and the foremost event commemorating their 1948 “catastrophe.”

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More about: Arab World, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, New historians, Yasir Arafat