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Netanyahu is Doing What the Palestinians Haven't Been Able to; Destroying Israel's Image in America

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition are undermining Israel's most valuable asset; its reputation as a liberal democracy in a region where few exist. For decades, most Americans have viewed the Palestinian conflict through the prism of a democratic Israel facing off against dangerous extremists bent on the destruction of the Jewish state. Netanyahu's actions as Prime Minister are slowly changing that impression.

In December, Netanyahu was again sworn in as Prime Minister to lead the most right-wing government in Israel's history, including senior officials known for "expressing racist and Jewish supremacist views." One member of Netanahu's cabinet, Itamar Ben-Gvir, the minister who oversees the police, is an extremist on the fringes of Israeli politics, with past convictions for incitement to violence and support of a Jewish terror group.

And, just this week, Netanyahu's Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich claimed there’s “no such thing” as a Palestinian people during a speech in Paris. Smotrich, a far-right settler leader who opposes Palestinian statehood, called for the Palestinian town of Hawara in the West Bank to be “erased” after an attack that killed two Israelis.

Smotrich’s comments may be good politics among Israel's right-wing, but they will do nothing to soothe tensions after a year of deadly violence in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. More than 200 Palestinians and 40 Israelis or foreigners have been killed. The current violence has been exacerbated by Netanyahu's plans for a de facto annexation of the West Bank.

American University: "In a Dec. 28 tweet, Netanyahu announced that his government’s guidelines will include the principle that “the Jewish people have an exclusive and unquestionable right to all areas of the Land of Israel,” including the West Bank, occupied by Israel since 1967 and populated by a Palestinian majority."

Netanyahu has further inflamed passions in Israel with his plan to allow parliament to overturn Supreme Court decisions and give his legislative coalition the final say over all judicial appointments.

Critics argue that the plan will destroy Israel’s delicate system of checks and balances and move the country toward authoritarianism. Coincidentally, it would also allow Netanyahu to evade conviction in his corruption trial.

Netanyahu’s proposal has sparked weeks of protests by tens of thousands of Israelis and drawn criticism from business leaders and legal experts. Many military reservists have threatened to stop reporting for duty if it passes. Demonstrations intensified this month with close to half a million Israelis protesting Netanyahu's plan last weekend. Even some of Israel’s closest allies, including the U.S., have argued for a compromise, but Netanyahu has refused to negotiate on the issue.

After decades of American support for Israel, it's becoming harder to ignore the erosion of democracy and the treatment of the Palestinian people. According to a recent Gallup poll, support for Israel is waning in the US and Democrats are now more sympathetic to Palestinians than to Israelis. And some Israelis are warning that Netanyahu's actions are undermining the nation's greatest strategic partnership.

AP: [Israeli] "Opposition leader Yair Lapid suggested on Kan radio Wednesday that the new government has squandered a measure of goodwill with the U.S."
"It has “managed to destroy one of the greatest strategic assets we’ve ever had,” Lapid said. “I can’t explain to you how powerful it is when you, as prime minister or foreign minister, enter every room in the world and everyone knows that you are there and you got Washington’s backing. We don’t have that anymore.”

#internationalrelations #Israel

By: Don Lam & Curated Content

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