Chris McGreal writes: Binyamin Netanyahu’s appearance on Meet the Press this weekend was telling.
Interviewer David Gregory called him the “leader of the Jewish people”. That’s certainly how the Israeli prime minister would like to see himself, and he wouldn’t be the first.
Israeli leaders have long claimed the mantle of voice of the Jewish people around the world and protector of the Diaspora. Part of that is rooted in the idea of Israel as a safe haven, and the desire of every Israeli government to draw in new citizens. A few years back, Ariel Sharon tried to tell Jews in France that they were so persecuted they needed to move to Israel for their own protection. This at a time when Hamas and Islamic Jihad were blowing innocents to pieces in Jerusalem restaurants and on Tel Aviv buses. There was no rush to the El Al flight from Paris.
But there is also the global aspect. Netanyahu stood before the United Nations last year and claimed to speak for hundreds of generations of Jews across the world. It was an attempt to elevate himself above a mere political leader to claim to represent the full weight of Jewish suffering in justifying his government’s stance towards the Palestinians.
Gregory’s slip – he later corrected himself by tweeting that it would be better to call Netanyahu the leader of Jewish state – was revealing of a mindset in certain sections of the American press that has a hard time dealing with the fact that Israel’s prime minister might not be the leader of an entire people, but just another politician less worried about the common good than shoring up his power.
That was where Meet the Press was revealing on a second point. It threw up evidence of just how successful Netanyahu has been at putting his political interests before those of Israel’s future, which should lie in keeping the ever-dimming prospect of a two-state solution alive.
There wasn’t a single mention of the Palestinians during the 15 minute interview. Gregory didn’t ask about them, and Netanyahu didn’t talk about them. Thus the fate of several million people living under varying degrees of an occupation that continues to plunder land, maintain discriminatory laws and administrative procedures – such as rationing water to Arab villages while their neighbors in the Jewish settlements have unlimited supplies – remains in limbo. Netanyahu’s government, meanwhile, pays lip service to the creation of a Palestinian state while pursuing policies intended to stave off the day of its birth. [Continue reading…]