Peak impunity? New year, same old Netanyahu

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL January 19, 2024
Photo by Sander Crombach on Unsplash

Contempt for Arab plan, US pleas is throwback to a time the Jewish people or anyone at all would rather not remember

New year, same old Netanyahu.

Israel’s prime minister has upped the levels of effrontery with which he normally addresses issues to do with ethics, justice, peace, co-existence. In the process, he is pushing Israel into an unaccustomed position – the perpetrator of evil rather than the one who suffers it.

On January 18, Benjamin Netanyahu rejected increasingly urgent calls for a two-state solution – from its chief international ally and supporter, the United States, as well as from its neighbours, the Arab states.

The US had said that such a solution is necessary if Israel is to have security.

The Arab states had, according to the Financial Times (FT), been cobbling together a peace plan, centred around a two-state framework as well as ample regional security, diplomatic and trade reassurances to Israel. (Here’s a gift link to the FT scoop, which can be viewed three times and is valid for 90 days:

But Mr Netanyahu doesn’t seem to care. What gives?

The whole world knows that Mr Netanyahu has long objected to the very idea of a Palestinian state and has done everything possible to undermine it. During Donald Trump’s time in the White House, Mr Netanyahu had an eager helpmeet in this task, both men being as ethics-free and transactional as the other, and neither appearing at all bothered by concerns of impropriety in financial, personal and political dealings.

So in 2017, the Trump administration unilaterally recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the city and wilfully ignoring international law, multiple UN resolutions and the principle of natural justice that does not allow a state to annex territory seized in war. The Palestinians have long dreamed, incidentally, that East Jerusalem will be capital of a sovereign Palestinian state.

Thus, as US president, Mr Trump helped Mr Netanyahu by making it impossible to credibly talk of a two-state solution. How could it be a reasonable topic of discussion at any forum while Israel’s government asserted its right to Jerusalem and also posited the absorption of most of the West Bank’s settlemenst?

That was then.

In 2024, the situation is even worse. The Israeli military is still under orders by the Netanyahu government to render Gaza a wasteland; 1 per cent of Palestinians are dead and various Israeli entities have been making hostile calls for the Palestinians to wander where they will, so long as they leave their homelands.

But Joe Biden’s America is, at least, pushing for a two-state solution. And the Arab states are trying to come up with a viable plan.

The chief impediment is Mr Netanyahu and his impunity.

Despite growing international horror at what the world’s only Jewish state is doing to a vulnerable people in a territory it officially occupies, Mr Netanyahu sheds no tears for the human suffering inflicted by his government. Nor does he make any promises to bind wounds and set the world back to rights, at least as much as he can.

Man’s inhumanity to man is the reason the Holocaust and suffering of the Jewish people has long had purchase on the world’s imagination, emotions and empathy. Those of us who are empathetic care about the suffering of the Jewish people back then and that of the Palestinian people right now.

Mr Netanyahu’s impunity is a throwback to a time that Jewish people or anyone at all would rather not remember.

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