It’s natural for thinking people to doubt what politicians say; and, to an extent, I don’t even blame them for lying and stretching the truth for votes because that is, sadly, how elections are won. The reality is simple: most people vote with their guts and don’t follow politics closely. Our politicians know this well.
Still, there are some political lies that are so blatant and shameless that I am left aghast and, frankly, furious. Former President Donald Trump’s “stop the steal” fabrication is exactly such a lie, for example, but this blog post shall be about Israel’s former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu’s big lie is that the current government of Israel, of which he is not the head, is illegitimate; and he and his supporters make this claim based primarily upon two fallacies.
The 1st fallacy: Party size = Right to leadership of Israel
Netanyahu’s party (the Likud party) is, by far, the largest party in Israel’s parliament (the Knesset). This is true.
However, in order to become Prime Minister of Israel, one must form a governing coalition of parties that has the support of the majority of Knesset. The Knesset has 120 seats. A governing coalition must have 61 votes in order to take power. Following the last elections, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party did not have the support of a majority of the Knesset. That is why he was replaced as Prime Minister by somebody (Naftali Bennett) who did.
In short, this is an arrogant, ego-driven argument of entitlement. Benjamin Netanyahu does not deserve the Prime Ministership, regardless of how many Israelis vote for him (unless he theoretically manages to convince more than half of all Israeli voters to cast ballots for his Likud party, which is absurd). If Netanyahu does not have the support of more than half the politicians in the Knesset, he, like all other politicians, is not entitled become Prime Minister. Period.
The 2nd fallacy: A government formed with any Arab party = illegitimate
The current Israeli government includes a party of Arab Islamists (Ra’am), which represents the first time that an Arab political party played a role in the formation an Israeli government and became part of the ruling coalition.
This second fallacy of Netanyahu’s is sheer hypocrisy. You see, following the last elections (one year ago), Netanyahu realized that his only viable path to forming a governing coalition was to invite an Arab party to join his potential government. The Islamist Ra’am party was willing to join a Netanyahu government, and he actively courted it as a potential coalition party, promising its leader (Mansour Abbas) the moon and stars.
The only reason this potential partnership did not work out had nothing to do with Netanyahu. Rather, it was because another of Netanyahu’s political partners (the Religious Zionism party) absolutely refused to join any coalition that included an Arab party. Netanyahu needed both the Religious Zionism party and the Ra’am party to form a coalition, but the Religious Zionism party refused to play ball, calling the Arab politicians “terror supporters”.
After the current government was formed, which includes the Islamist Ra’am party that Netanyahu himself had been courting, our esteemed former Prime Minister and his supporters abruptly changed their tune.
Very recently, Netanyahu accused the Ra’am party of supporting terrorism and representing the Muslim Brotherhood and declared that “The Likud under my leadership has never agreed and will never agree to include Ra’am in any coalition” (which is a lie, as I’ve noted). This was very shortly after a leading Likud politician (David Amsalem) floated the possibility of Ra’am joining a governing coalition with the Likud.
Friends, we must understand that the issue of Arab parties not joining Israel’s governing coalitions is not an easy one from either side. Historically, the Arab parties themselves have refused to enter into Israel’s government, based upon their rejection of the legitimacy of the State of Israel’s very existence. Mansour Abbas’ Ra’am party was the first Arab party to campaign on the promise that it would be willing to do so.
Also, it’s very important to understand that, on the whole, Jewish Israeli society remains deeply traumatized from the collapse of the Oslo Accords due to Yasser Arafat’s walking away from the table at Camp David in 2000; and by the Second Intifada that followed, beginning in September 2000, which claimed hundreds of Israeli lives, mostly by suicide bombers.
Nevertheless, more than 21% of Israeli citizens are Arabs; and my country simply cannot have it both ways. We cannot claim that Arab citizens of Israel are full citizens while also claiming that it is, by definition, illegitimate for them to join our government.
Yes, many will reasonably argue that the Arab politicians do not represent the Israeli Arab population’s economic, social, and political interests, as well as claiming that they are not valid political partners for an Israeli government coalition because they reject the legitimacy of the State’s founding and existence. However, the Ra’am party’s partnership to Israel’s current government belies this argument, as Israel’s security interests have not been compromised by Ra’am’s inclusion in the government over the course of the past year.
Painting all Arab parties and politicians as terror supporters is racist. It simply is. And it’s being done to appeal to the lowest common denominator of Israel’s voting public… This is cynically weaponized racism for political purposes.