“‘The search for a scapegoat is the easiest of all hunting expeditions’, said the US President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Writing in the Independent yesterday,Avi Shlaim, went a-hunting, and his quarry was the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Here is his case. The central thread of Netanyahu’s policy, he argues, is ‘outright hatred towards the Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular.” Bibi “does not believe in peaceful co-existence’ but in the ‘never-ending struggle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness’ – hence his war-mongering over Iran. Netanyahu leads ‘the most…diplomatically intransigent, and overtly racist government in Israel’s history’ and under his watch ‘settlement expansion has gone ahead at full tilt,’ making negotiations with the Palestinians impossible. After a career spent denying the possibility of Arab democracy, ‘the Arab Spring has proved him wrong,’ but this ‘jim-crack politician from a small country’ can’t seize the moment.
There are a host of problems with Shlaim’s caricature.
Far from inciting hatred against Arabs, Netanyahu has repeatedly spoke of his vision of Israel as ‘a mosaic composed of Jews and Arabs, secular and ultra-orthodox, and until today we have agreed on peaceful coexistence and mutual respect among all sectors.’ He opposes attempts to unravel this coexistence. ‘For example, today I heard about a case of moving a woman on a bus. I strongly oppose this. I think that marginal groups cannot be allowed to dismantle our common denominator and we must maintain the public space as an open and safe for all Israelis. We need to look for what unites and bridges, not what divides and separates.’