Don’t treat Bibi like the devil. He is just a realist

Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu arrives in London next week. When he does so, he will be feted by our local Jewish leaders. They will throw him a reception and compete for the photo opps. Behind the scenes, however, there is no doubt that there is a great deal of suspicion and even distaste regarding this particular Israeli Prime Minister.

A large proportion of Anglo-Jewry still regards him as a crazy right-winger, a cheerleader for the detested settlers. He is seen as dangerous for Israel and slimy, to boot. They are — let’s admit it — embarrassed by him.

This swathe of the community seems to regard Mr Netanyahu as a curse who has to be endured until Israel’s real ruler, Ehud Barak — or the next Labour leader — returns to power.

Israelis, in this narrative, have been driven temporarily insane by Palestinian violence, leaving Israel’s left temporarily bleeding.  But one day the country will come to its senses, and Bibi and his ilk will be out on their ear.

Diaspora Jews need to rethink their position vis-a-vis the Israeli premier

Well, grow up, guys. The reality is that Bibi is in the PM’s chair because the Israeli public took a sober, rational look at the options and voted for Likud, Yisrael Beitenu and Shas.

Israel’s left is not “bleeding”, it is dead. Less than 10 per cent of Israelis voted for Labour. And less than three per cent voted for Meretz, so beloved of Diaspora liberals.

That so many here in the UK seem to think that only madness can explain Israel’s shift to the right shows not only a complete detachment from the political reality on the ground, but an extremely condescending attitude towards the Israeli public. The Israeli left is dead is because it deserves to be.

On the one hand, its demise was because it was too successful. Likud — and the majority of Israelis — came round to its platform of a two-state solution, genuinely believing that only a separation from the Palestinians could stop Israel from being overwhelmed by them. So there was no longer any reason to vote Labour. On the other hand, Labour failed because Palestinian terror convinced Israelis that the final settlement they so craved was just not possible at the present time. But the left could not adjust, and pushed relentlessly for an immediate resolution. Again, there was no longer a reason to vote for Labour.

Of course, diaspora Jews who continue to support the Israeli left hold perfectly legitimate political opinions which are still on the Israeli political map. But only just. The fact is that the left-wing voices we hear so loudly in our community — from Meretz UK, British Friends of Peace Now, and from thousands of individuals — are very, very marginal in an Israeli context.

Naturally, it is easier to continue pushing for a quick settlement from the comfortable distance of the diaspora — just as it is easier to be radically right-wing. But when even leftists like Yuval Rabin, son of Yitzhak, appear publicly with Bibi; when Ehud Barak is considered virtually indistinguishable from Bibi politically; when former IDF Chief-of-Staff Moshe Ya’alon — who comes from a left-wing background — joins the Likud, perhaps it is worth asking whether they know a thing or two that we don’t, instead of treating Bibi as the devil.

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Miriam Shaviv blogs at thejc.com/miriam_shaviv

    Last updated: 4:51pm, August 20 2009