Amira Hass: Netanyahu is less of a liar than past Israeli PMs

By Amira Hass, Haaretz – 16 Nov 2011

Merkel, Sarkozy and Obama, do not believe Netanyahu, but it seems that they and their governments are pissed off at him because he’s not as good a liar as his predecessors in the Prime Minister’s Office

Amira Hass

Amira Hass

Does Benjamin Netanyahu lie more than other politicians? That, at least, is the impression one gets from various reports in the press. But does he lie more than other prime ministers about Israel’s strong (lack of ) desire for peace with the Palestinians? To say that would be downright mendacious.

The mouth speaks peace while the hand drives the bulldozer – the essence of Israeli policy. Yitzhak Rabin may have had a few slips of the tongue that gave hope to those of us who recoil from yoking God and real estate together. But it was during Rabin’s second term that the bypass roads to the settlements were built, making Psagot and the Etzion Bloc part of Jerusalem. It was during his watch that Hebron was punished with a ruinous curfew because a Jew massacred Palestinian worshippers. It was during his tenure that the closure policy was perfected, cutting off the Palestinians in East Jerusalem and in the Gaza Strip from the other territories occupied in 1967. Succeeding Israeli governments merely continued down the same slope.

The characterization of Netanyahu as a liar rests on two problematic assumptions. One, that consciously-chosen words are supposed to tell us something about intentions and policies. There is no area where Israel has used declarations by leaders to cover up intentions more than in our relations toward Palestinians (on both sides of the Green Line ). Contracts with architects, expropriation orders, checks to contractors. These are the words that speak the truth.

The second assumption is that the prime minister is the one who makes the decisions. But when it comes to our attitude toward Palestinians, the democracy, for Jews, is paramount. Every prime minister was and is the loyal representative of the decisions of the majority of the Jewish public and their pockets. The majority that went to watch the air strikes on the Gaza Strip from a nearby hill and fills Mann Auditorium, the one that relaxes in parks that used to be Palestinian villages and stands to attention during the Holocaust Day siren. It’s not mathematical gymnastics that give Netanyahu’s coalition its stability.

Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy and Barack Obama, we are told, do not believe Netanyahu. But it seems that they and their governments are pissed off at him because he’s not as good a liar as his predecessors in the Prime Minister’s Office. They’re angry because he doesn’t bother to cover up the gap between the words and the bulldozers. It makes it harder for them to conceal the falsehood in U.S. and European policy. A policy which supposedly seeks peace in the region and a state for the Palestinians; in practice, one that collaborates with Israel’s aim to impose a capitulation arrangement on the Palestinians.

Netanyahu is lying? On its website, the OECD states: “The common thread of our work is a shared commitment to market economies backed by democratic institutions and focused on the well being of all citizens.” Those who admitted Israel as a member knew that featured among the institutions backing its market economy are the Civil Administration, the Interior Ministry and the Jewish National Fund. Any resemblance between them and democracy and the well-being of all citizens is purely coincidental.

A major explanation for the lie can be found in the truthful words of Andrew Shapiro, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs. “Israeli technology is proving critical to improving our Homeland Security and protecting our troops,” he said on November 4 in remarks to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

And what’s true for the United States is also true for its European allies. “[Jo]int exercises allow us to learn from Israel’s experience in urban warfare and counterterrorism,” Shapiro said – and without the occupation there would be no urban warfare.

There’s more: “[W]e don’t provide assistance out of charity. We provide assistance because it benefits our security … we support Israel because it is in our national interests to do so.” So who would get caught up in trifles like exercising the Palestinians’ right to self-determination?

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