September 19, 2020

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No, Bibi isn’t racist. But he is a politician, which can be almost as bad.

I usually don’t comment on internal Israeli politics, mostly because I don’t feel qualified to provide an opinion any better than those of actual Israelis.

I do, however, want to make a point about the controversy of Netanyahu convincing the Jewish Home party to partner with Otzma Yehudit, a party that follows the teachings of Meir Kahane, who was banned from Knesset as a racist. The combined party would then be part of a Likud coalition should they do well enough in the upcoming elections.

The optics of this move are terrible.

But Netanyahu himself is no racist – he is just, like virtually all politicians, willing to do whatever it takes to win.

In recent weeks the Israeli media have reported that under Netanyahu’s “racist” Likud:

– The number of Israeli Arab Ph.D. candidates has more than doubled
– There has been a 60 percent increase over five years in enrollment to bilingual Hebrew/Arabic schools where Jewish and Arab students share classrooms
– The number of Bedouin students who began studying for a bachelor’s degree has doubled

This is only in education. The Likud-led government has put lots of money into the Arab sector, more than under any other government. 
Netanyahu is a brilliant politician and he has been a brilliant statesman, and as a direct result of his decisions Israel has the best relations with the rest of the world since the Six Day War. He is a strategist, not just a tactician, and that is a highly unusual feature from a democratically elected leader. As a strategist, he knows that his vision will not continue to be implemented if he is not in charge. This is why he is trying to salvage his coalition in the next election.

Israel is already paying the price. Mainstream American organizations like AIPAC and the American Jewish Congress have issued strong statements against this, and today the New York Daily News published an editorial that sums up the mainstream Zionist American view of the move:

We, who consider ourselves proudly Zionist, who believe Palestinians’ stubborn refusal to accept the Jewish state is the central problem in their conflict with Israel, who have frequently admired Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s grit, are sickened by Netanyahu’s decision to bring into the fold his nation’s most hateful right-wing extremists.

Alienating Israel’s friends is not a smart move. And in this case, Bibi’s calculations might backfire on him.

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