“There is a rightist public that is deeply connected to Likud that Netanyahu reached in the final days. He used the most fraudulent and racist utterances that exist. And it worked.…something should be learned from the principal motif that caused this process. He more or less defined half the nation as traitors. That’s the rhetoric."
Above: Benjamin Netanyahu
The leader of Israel's Labor Party/Zionist Union, Yitzhak Herzog, spoke out about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's divisive and racist statements made in the closing days of the campaign – and even on election day itself – to try to rally the far right-wing of his base, which had deserted Netanyahu and his Likud Party, to come back and vote for Likud's slate in the Knesset elections:
“There is a rightist public that is deeply connected to Likud that Netanyahu reached in the final days. He used the most fraudulent and racist utterances that exist. And it worked.…something should be learned from the principal motif that caused this process. He more or less defined half the nation as traitors. That’s the rhetoric,” Herzog reportedly said. He also said that Netanyahu "humiliated 20 percent of Israeli citizens for the sake of his election campaign," a reference to Netanyahu's appalling racist call on election day to right-wing voters to rush to polls and vote to protect the right-wing government because Israeli-Arabs (who are full citizens of the State of Israel) were voting "in droves."
Netanyahu's racist and divisive rhetoric was condemned worldwide and provoked an especially sharp response from the White House.
On Fareed Zakaria's CNN show this morning, Elliot Abrams tried to defend Netanyahu by attacking President Obama, while former US Ambassador Martin Indyk pointed out Netanyahu's boorishness and that almost every friend Israel has in the West has been slapped in the face by what Netanyahu has repeatedly done.
Indyk was far more polite than I would have been. Netanyahu is viewed as a deceptive, deceiving conniver whose word cannot be trusted – the same exact view many Israeli politicians, even many Likud politicians privately, have of him.
Having important world leaders view its prime minister as an untrustworthy liar and as a craven and wholly self-serving person does not bode well for Israel, and puts Israel into far greater danger than a left of center prime minister ever could.
So too the switch from having US support for Israel being a largely depoliticized bipartisan thing to a heavily politicized partisan one. That switch – again caused directly by Netanyahu, this time in conjunction with his close political adviser, Israel's ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, a man many veteran Israeli diplomats believe has violated the rules of his office and who therefore should be removed – will certainly hurt Israel and may very likely endanger it in years to come.
Netanyahu is essentially a narcissistic megalomaniac with his own version of Jerusalem Syndrome, to boot.
And the saddest thing is that so many right-wing Israelis and their Diaspora supporters, like Abrams, fail to understand any of this.
I have a personal beef with Abrams that goes back to the summer of 1984 when he was Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. Abrams promised me that within one month there would be clean drinkable water brought into the hellhole Sudanese refugee camps that were then housing more than 10,000 Ethiopian Jews and hundreds of thousands of other refugees. If not, Abrams said, I could call him a liar.
The context of this promise was my attempt and the attempts of others, especially Nate Shapiro of the American Association for Ethiopian Jews, to get the US and/or Israel to launch a rescue operation to save those Ethiopian Jews, who faced special persecution both in Ethiopia and in the Sudanese refugee camps that went way over and above the danger and suffering everyone else there was suffering because of the massive drought.
I told Abrams that I would call him on this, and if in 30 days the water wasn't there, I would call him a liar and tell as many people as possible that he lied. He reiterated his promise.
After the month passed without any clean drinkable water getting into those camps – and without any evidence that Israeli agents tried to bring in any or that America had – I called him up. His secretary answered. Abrams wasn't there. I left a message that went something like this, "I gave you more than a month. There's no drinkable water getting into those refugee camps and no evidence the Israelis or the US made any significant effort to get any water in. He said if the water wasn't in inside those camps in 30 days, I could call him a liar. There's no water. Tell Elliot I said he's a liar. If he has any information I'm missing that shows the water actually was brought in the camps, or anything else mitigating, have him call me." Abrams never made that phone call. I was at the time a staunch conservative Republican with close ties to the Reagan Administration and to several Republican senators and politicians and in no way could be viewed as an enemy of Reagan or his administration.
In November, there was finally a US-Israel rescue of Ethiopian Jews from those camps – no thanks to Elliot Abrams, who played no discernible positive role in it.
Wikipedia has nice brief summary of some of the other bad things Abrams did, for those of you too young to have memories of him in his heyday. Here's a brief excerpt:
During investigation of the Iran-Contra Affair, Lawrence Walsh, the Independent Counsel tasked with investigating the case, prepared multiple felony counts against Abrams but never indicted him. Instead, Abrams cooperated with Walsh and entered into a plea agreement wherein he pled guilty to two misdemeanors of withholding information from Congress. He was sentenced to a $50 fine, probation for two years, and 100 hours of community service. However, Abrams was pardoned by President George H. W. Bush, in December 1992 (as he was leaving office following his loss in that year in the U.S. presidential election). On February 5, 1997, the D.C. Court of Appeals publicly censured Abrams for giving false testimony on three occasions before congressional committees. Although a majority of the court voted to impose a public censure, three judges in the majority would have imposed a suspension of six months, and a fourth judge would have followed the recommendation of the Board on Professional Responsibility that Abrams be suspended for a year.
For more than 30 years, I've found Abrams to be a pompous ass and a political hack, not a real diplomat, and his behavior today is really no different from his behavior 31 years ago. Then Ethiopian Jews and lots of other refugees died in part because of it. Now Abrams and his ilk endanger far more Jews – and the entire State of Israel – simply because they lack the integrity to tell Netanyahu that enough is enough.
But enough is enough and, sadly, we will all see this play out before our eyes in the coming months and years.
Israel will survive Netanyahu's premiership, but it will likely do so in a weakened condition and in a much more isolated position than it was in before Netanyahu recent stints as prime minister. And that cause of that added weakness and isolation is almost exclusively Netanyahu himself.