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Netanyahu's iron wall.

Just as Kofi Annan was leaving town and Dennis Ross was arriving, and just as Benjamin Netanyahu was once again donning the skullcap and visiting fortified settlements and celebrating another triumph over U.S. "interference," I managed to ask Netanyahu in public whether he still believed in the relevance of Vladimir Jabotinsky. He affected not to understand the question. The only things that mattered, he replied, were Israeli "security" and a further renunciation by Arafat of the Palestinian covenant. This, I thought, was somewhat beneath him. The covenant made by Jabotinsky's Revisionist movement predates the P.L.O. covenant by some decades and calls for permanent Israeli control of "Judea and Samaria" along with the aspiration for much of what is now Jordan. Is it quixotic and irrelevant to mention it? I don't think so.

A few weeks ago in this holy city a public lecture was offered by Benzion Netanyahu. It was in honor of a man named Abba Ahimeir. Neither of these two men is, perhaps, as well-known as he ought to be. Benzion Netanyahu, 87-year-old father of the present Israeli Prime Minister, is a scholar rather than an intellectual and the author of a brilliant and exhaustive account of the anti-Judaism of the Spanish Inquisition. (He may be mistaken in thinking of that episode as typical of Jewish-gentile relations, but he has certainly succeeded in showing the energy and persistence of medieval anti-Semitism, and the explanatory power of the phenomenon.)

Abba Ahimeir was a writer and activist in British Mandate Palestine and a zealous lieutenant of Jabotinsky. In the pages of the magazine Doar Hayom during the late twenties and thirties, he wrote a celebrated column titled "From the Notebook of a Fascist." He hymned Mussolini, referred to Jabotinsky as "Our Duce" and even went so far as to say that Hitler was on the right track except for his excessive anti-Semitism. (Jabotinsky himself demurred a little on that last point.) Still, the Revisionist Betar movement did parade with torches and colored shirts, and had a generally friendly attitude to the emerging "New Order" in Europe until it was almost too late. Ahimeir, said Netanyahu senior, had been his mentor. And it is very well attested that Benjamin Netanyahu makes few moves without consulting his revered papa, who also rose to be Jabotinsky's secretary and pallbearer.

In more or less voiding the Oslo accords, and in demanding that Arafat have supreme power as a policeman over his own people (but no power of any other kind), Netanyahu is in fact operating in the spirit of Jabotinsky's famous essay "The Iron Wall," which basically states that there is only one language that Arabs understand. It is obvious, at any rate, that Netanyahu's loud and repetitive slogan about "security" is a cover for a much deeper ideological commitment. One recent news account and one editorial column, both taken from the Israeli daily Haaretz, help in emphasizing this fairly obvious point.

On March 27 Ha'aretz correspondent Shani Litman reported an address by Netanyahu to a forum of right-wing retired officers and security men in Tel Aviv. "We are making a constant effort to preserve the maximum," the Prime Minister told this audience, "including territories I would fight for even if they had no security value." (Emphasis added.) Writing in the same newspaper two days previously, Israeli analyst Akiva Eldar disclosed the following about a "memorandum of understanding" signed between Israeli and Palestinian security chiefs this past December 17. Their meeting was facilitated by the C.I.A. station chief in Tel Aviv/Jaffa. The Palestinian side undertook to combat underground groups and exchange information on their sympathizers. However, wrote Eldar,

Netanyahu forbade representatives of the IDF [Israeli Defense

Forces] to meet with their Palestinian and American counterparts

for the purpose of establishing a joint monitoring mechanism

that would supervise the implementation of the memorandum. It

is difficult to fathom how this very same individual, who swears

allegiance three times a day to the cause of the security of Israel's

citizens, is willing to forgo a formal Palestinian commitment

to confiscate illegal firearms and prevent their entry into

the Palestinian Authority. The reason for Netanyahu's position

is that he is opposed to a concomitant Israeli commitment to

confiscate firearms in the possession of Jews who plan, or support,

terrorist actions. [Emphasis added.]

Netanyahu does not depend on the clerical and nationalist extremists just for votes. He depends on them as allies against the Israeli left and as shock troops for the West Bank. Moreover, they are his ideological forebears. On the same day that Dennis Ross arrived from Washington on yet another voyage of "mediation," it was discovered that the Israeli Defense Ministry had begun covertly recognizing certain "unauthorized" settlements in Samaria and connecting them surreptitiously to the electric and water grids. This process is known as "laundering" of settlements, which are manned by the most intransigent and fanatical elements of the Greater Israel movement. (The main new Samarian "strongpoint" at Rehalim is financed by Rechavam Ze'evi, the leader of the Moledet party, which demands the expulsion of all Palestinians from the occupied territories.)

The Clinton Administration persists in talking as if the only difference concerned "percentages" of territory, and the pace at which these would be turned over to self-rule. Nothing could be more naive--or more cynical. On the evidence of his own words, Netanyahu is not sincere in using "security" as his excuse for delay and obfuscation. On the evidence of his own actions, he is not even sincere in demanding that the wretched Arafat act merely as a police proxy. The work of annexation and colonization goes on, Oslo or no Oslo, because it is mandated by high priests and racial nationalists, some of whom at least have taken their leaves from the same notebook that was once penned by Abba Ahimeir. In the name of the father...
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Title Annotation:Minority Report; the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu allows annexation and colonization to continue in the occupied territories, despite the peace accord
Author:Hitchens, Christopher
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Apr 27, 1998
Words:980
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