Alongside all the apocalyptic descriptions – some of them surely justified – of what is in store for Israel after the new government is sworn in, we must leave room for another, more optimistic view: The new government may bring the end of apartheid closer, certainly closer than any conceivable centrist government would have done.
Though this is not its desire or intention, this extreme right-wing government is the only one that is likely to disturb the stagnant water in which Israel has wallowed for decades, shatter some of its lies and deceptions, show Israel’s true face to Israelis and the world and perhaps bring about a healing upheaval that will change the seemingly eternal status quo.
The first signs of this are piling up, inspiring hope. Public debate in Israel has stirred to life, after being comatose for years. The conversation in the West is also showing signs of a shift in the attitude toward its precious Israel, the state that is untouchable.
This is not about the theory according to which the worse things are, the better. Nor is it a desire to destroy everything in order to rebuild, or to punish a state that deserves to be punished. This is a sober approach, which recognizes that Israel became an apartheid state the moment the occupation became permanent, and that apartheid is an intolerable phenomenon that Israel will never end of its own accord.
Anyone who understands this can only hope for a sharp jolt that will remind Israelis: Friends, you are living in pre-Mandela South Africa, even if there are those who make sure to conceal this from you. Benjamin Netanyahu’s sixth government will bring the good news. You can’t be fooled again. Perhaps it will also bring the jolt.
If we had a centrist government again, everyone would be so satisfied. Israelis would continue to believe they live in a democracy, the world would believe the occupation is temporary and stems from the security needs of the world’s only Jewish state. After all, Israel has a government, and it believes that the “conflict” must be resolved. There’s even a solution on the shelf, two states, let’s sing “Kumbaya.”
The new government will say “no” to all of these. There is no solution, no intention to end apartheid; the occupation is not related to security, but rather to the belief in Jewish exclusivity in this land and to messianic impulses. Annexation is already here, and now we will shove all of this into your surprised faces. The world is somewhat stunned by this government; it, like many good Israelis who thought everything was fine, doesn’t know what to do with it.
Amos Harel wrote that giving Bezalel Smotrich powers in the West Bank could lead to international sanctions on Israel and bring to an end the semblance of judicial oversight of the occupation. Mordechai Kremnitzer wrote that the systematic fraud which Israel perpetrates on the international community has been removed, and it is now clear that Israel’s main consideration is to take over more and more territory (Haaretz Hebrew, Dec. 7). In other words, an end to the bluff. Both of them acknowledge the deception, but both warn against it being undermined by the terrible new government as a result of the international price that Israel will pay for tearing off the mask.
This is a puzzling approach. If it is obvious that we have apartheid and that no one in Israel will put an end to it, then we should look with longing toward sanctions, the only means other than war that can end apartheid. The Netanyahu-Smotrich government is the only one that may accelerate this process, and anyone who does not want apartheid forever should rejoice in it.
We are nagged by doubt. The international community, led by the United States, will do everything possible to continue to lie to itself and avoid punishing Israel, even after 55 years of occupation. There are sanctions that are liable to cause great pain to every Israeli. But in all honesty, is there any other option that can give us hope?