An impetuous, nervous man raised a critical issue at a time that perhaps does not serve him well, for the circumstances around him are volatile, and there are intense pressures from within and abroad for him to change his racist policies. But like any other inept politician, he decided to blow up the issue at the wrong moment.
But it was not long before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turned impatient with the opposition. He could bear it no longer, as he claimed. He decided to dissolve the parliament 22 months after the last elections, and overthrew his irritating ministers. The discussions did not have a political or ideological essence, but were rather intense battles inundated with hatred, during which everyone exchanged insults and accusations of fascism, Nazism, racism, anti-Semitism in addition to other offences.
The crisis was mainly over a bid Netanyahu had presented to the Knesset asking to recognise Israel as a Jewish country or a country for Jews worldwide. The bid also considers the Palestinian flag “an enemy flag” if it is raised in demonstrations within Israel. It also discards the Arabic language which is used by 20 percent of the population as an official language.
With that, Jewish heritage and Israel’s prophets become the main source of legislation. The bid does not stress on equality and does not guarantee any rights to non-Jews. This means that the following step would see the initiation of a process of ethnic cleansing of Muslims and Christians together, and that they must leave.
What is rather strange is that Netanyahu insists that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state before he recognises a Palestinian state. Perhaps he depended on the Israeli Declaration of Independence issued seven decades ago which recognised the new state as a Jewish one, even though it had stressed on the principles of democracy and full equality regarding social and political rights among its people.
The project, as the Knesset session revealed, instigated intense divisions inside the parliament and within the ruling coalition and the government itself. Even before it was issued, it introduced an atmosphere of psychological terror and jeopordised relations between Jews and Arabs. Strife and hatred are omnipresent. Arabs now feel that they are second-class citizens; strangers, unwanted, undeserving of citizenship and having no place in their country. The Jews, on the other hand, initiated a campaign to set Arabic books ablaze in schools. They tried to destroy Islamic sites and build Jewish ones in their place, and carried out other encroachments that threaten to usher in a catastrophe.
Netanyahu did not consider, with his sick mind and uncontrollable nervosity, the possible reactions of the Arab World or the international community, both of which have changed their views towards Israel’s status as a democratic country. He could not take into consideration the reaction of the US, which sponsors the talks of the Palestinian cause, for he predicts that any scolding is not to last for long as usual.
But did he consider the results of the general elections scheduled for March, in which he faces a real gamble on the future of his political career? What if he comes back to power and succeeds in letting his bid pass; the bid he sells to the Jews as a foundation for political beliefs about the Promised Land?
The maximum that Netanyahu aspires for is to win the minimum number of votes that would enable him to form a coalition government encompassing the different political parties, which includes radical right-wing groups. In this way, he can succeed in letting his racist project pass without any opposition.
But shouldn’t Israelis stop his mission at this point and realise that, should he return to power, Netanyahu will expose the country to danger with his narrow mindedness and inability to observe the changing world around him? This arrogant man, as he was dubbed by writer Alon Ben-Meir, resembles a suicide fighter wearing a vest impregnated with explosives, and waits to place his finger on the trigger so it would explode, encompassing him and his surroundings. Avoid him and live together in peace, and do not forget that Arabs were the owners of the land before you.
Salwa Habib is a senior columnist and an expert on Egyptian-American relations.