Likud a Better Choice than Hamas


How could it happen? Why did Israeli voters return Benjamin Netanyahu to power? Glad it was spring break when the news came down, otherwise my campus would have erupted in protests. For obscure reasons–though I suspect backdoor Anti-Semitism–quite a few people out my way demonize Israel and equate Palestinians with a seven-year-old being pummeled by a band of sixth grade bullies.

I'm no fan of Benjamin Netanyahu. I think his recent speaking stunt before the U.S. Congress was reprehensible, that he is an anachronism, and that his utterances are more provocative than effective. But if I were an Israeli, I probably would have voted for him. That's because, for all his faults, Netanyahu is right to oppose the creation of independent Palestinian state as long as Hamas pulls the power strings. The nature of Hamas is among the many things Americans don't get about the conflict. Here are a few more:

1. The Palestinian/Israeli conflict cannot be explained via Israeli bullying.

Let's dispense with the nonsense that the Palestinians are innocent victims in this conflict. Hamas is a terrorist organization that calls for Israel's annihilation. In 2014, Hamas and its affiliates launched 4,005 missiles into Israel. It was also responsible for 15 terrorist attacks inside Israel and the loss of 47 lives.

The anti-Israel crowd likes to dismiss these terrorist acts by pointing out that far more Palestinians have died than Israelis. That doesn't make the Palestinians innocents–just militarily ineffective. (Israel's Iron Dome defense system is reasonably good at shooting down rockets.) It was the Palestinians who launched a new intifada against Israel in 2014, not vice versa–just as they launched the first one (1987-93) and the second (2000-05). Funny thing about that–when you attack someone, they tend to fight back rather vigorously.

Those who argue that disproportionate power justifies the use of terror lack moral authority. It is a classic means-justify-the-ends argument that ignores famed examples of using moral force to subdue superior firepower: the Gandhi movement in India, the U.S. civil rights movement, "people's power" in the Philippines, Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution, Serbia's Optor protests against Slobodan Milosevic, Ukraine's Orange Revolution….  One could make the case that Hamas are, at best, fools to think attacks on Israel do anything other than ensure Likud's success.

2. Hamas is a terrorist organization.

A better approach would be to look at what Hamas stands for and what it does and conclude the obvious: Hamas is a terrorist organization that, given the chance, would behave with all the brutality of ISIS or Boko Haram. It tries to hide its desire to destroy Israel by claiming that it is only trying to "liberate [its] homeland." But most of that "homeland" just happens to be land marked "Israel" on a map near you–and I'm not talking about West Bank settlements. Despite its in-principle acceptance of a two-state solution, it also calls for Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine and Gaza. Only a naïf thinks that's acceptable.

Want to see Hamas's real stripes? Check out Hamas leader Khaled Marshaal's recent plea for Iran to "liberate" Palestine by attacking Israel. I wonder how the US would react if a Mexican leader based in Tijuana traveled to Moscow and asked Vladimir Putin to help liberate California. I wonder how we'd react to missiles flying across our borders. Need I remind how the entire country went into lockdown after 9/11, or that the Gallup Poll revealed that 88% of Americans supported the decision to wage war against the Taliban?

3. Israelis reelected Netanyahu because peace isn't immanent.

Why not reelect a security-first candidate at a time in which peace is unlikely? That's what Americans did in 2004 when wars raged in Afghanistan and Iraq–wars I hasten to add were not related to the very survival of the United States. Is anyone out there seeing "moderates" with whom Israel can reasonably negotiate? Don't tell me it's Mahmous Abbas or the Fatah Party; Israel correctly sees Abbas as a powerless straw man who can't sneeze unless Hamas loosens his noose.

Likud supporters also lack moral force, but they're not crazy when they see a return to 1967 borders as dangerous. West Bank settlements are based upon a buffer-zone notion of border security. Without them Israel is just ten miles wide at its narrowest point, which would open the possibility of daily showers of Hamas rockets upon Tel Aviv that even the Iron Dome couldn't counter. As uncomfortable as it sounds, until peace actually breaks out, those settlements might be the best hedge against another full-scale war. Likud says it deals from strength rather than weakness. Israelis apparently agree.

4. Israel is a democracy.

How did Netanyahu win? He won because Israel–unlike any other nation in the region–is a democracy. Democracies some times return messy results, or do smug Americans believe that George W. Bush was the best candidate we could have elected? Democracy is particularly thorny in Israel because it also has a broader electorate than others in the region and because it's a parliamentary democracy. Arabs and Palestinians make up about 21% of Israel's population and can vote. They are disproportionately represented in parliament, but they can/do vote for president. 
The Knesset's (Parliament) 120 seats are proportionately distributed. Likud won just 30 of them–six more than Isaac Herzog's runner-up Zionist Union Party–and is still 31 seats shy of a majority. Herzog has rejected a call to support Likud, which means Netanyahu must cobble a coalition from among the eight other parties that won seats in the Knesset.

If you really hate Netanyahu, you might not have him around for long. In parliamentary democracies, when the government loses its majority, new elections must be held.  It's going to take at least four parties to obtain a 61-seat majority and thus far only the Jewish Home Party (8 seats) and the centrist Kulanu Party (10) are on board. Netanyahu simply won't have the power to put his incendiary rhetoric into action. What could change that is if the West does something stupid such as launching a boycott against Israel, or if the United States rescinds its veto of Palestinian statehood. Such actions would probably hand Likud an outright majority in new elections.

5. People who live in glass houses…

After the stolen election of 2000 and the money-driven U.S. elections since Citizens' United it boggles the mind that the United States would tell other democracies how to conduct their affairs. And doesn't a majority of the current Congress favor mass deportation of illegal immigrants and immigration restriction? Hmmm…. The GOP or Likud? Can I get back to you?

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