Anshel Pfeffer

Netanyahu’s toxic legacy

Netanyahu's toxic legacy
Benjamin Netanyahu tours the city of Lod (Photo: Getty Images.)
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A week ago Israel was about to have a new government supported by right-wing, left-wing, centrist and Arab parties which was to concentrate on a 'civilian agenda' and 'reconciliation'. Five days of internecine violence shattered that illusion. It’s still Netanyahu’s Israel.

I’ve yet to see real evidence Netanyahu somehow engineered these dual crises in Gaza and between Jews and Arabs in Israel but it’s a direct result of his policies. He inherited in 2009 the previous government policies of blockading Gaza but in 12 years did nothing to change it.

In regard to Jewish-Arab relations, Netanyahu did everything to exacerbate generations-old hatreds between communities, not because he’s a racist, but because an us-against-them mindset held his electoral base together. For political reasons, he also degraded the Israeli police.

The subject of repeated police corruption investigations, Netanyahu has underfunded and politicised the police so it became more a paramilitary security force and much less a public service. The results were clear this week in Jerusalem and Lod and lead directly to this crisis.

The heavy-handed over-policing in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah and Al Aqsa is in stark contrast to the way police neglected Arab neighbourhoods and towns in recent years, allowing them to descend in to gang warfare as murder-rates have rocketed, few deaths are properly investigated.

One Arab resident of Lod told me this week: 

'How do you expect us to calm down when the police come here only when the victims are Jews? When an Arab murders an Arab, they come the next day, arrest a member of each family and then release them for lack of evidence. That’s all.'

The Jewish residents of Lod have no higher regard for the police who weren’t there this week when their homes, property and synagogues were being attacked by mobs. Instead far-right Jewish activists came to Lod, exacerbating tension. The local Jews have mixed feelings about them.

'I hate everything they represent but [the racist football hooligans and extreme settlers] saved our homes when the police didn’t turn up,' is the most depressing sentence I heard this week repeated by Jewish residents of Lod. What do you do when only militias are there for you?

The Arab-Jewish conflict began before Netanyahu’s birth and Gaza was blockaded since the Hamas coup there two years before he came back to power, but he’s done everything in the last 12 years to entrench the siege mentality on both sides and inflame sectarian hatreds. This is Bibi’s legacy.

Written byAnshel Pfeffer

Anshel Pfeffer is a correspondent for British and Israeli newspapers and the author of Bibi: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu.

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