Bibi and the Politics of Fear

Bibi’s shocking eleventh hour campaign pronouncements, whipping up a frenzied panic about Arab Israelis exercising their right to vote, rejecting the creation of a Palestinian state while he remains in office and refusing to relinquish any West Bank settlements, not to mention his paranoid claim regarding an international conspiracy plotting against him, confirmed what everyone already knew. Israel’s only chance to end its interminable conflict with the Palestinians, negotiating a two state solution, was dead in the water.

In his recent speech before Congress, Bibi accused Iran of gobbling up Middle East capitals, implying it spearheaded a monolithic Shia movement in the way Cold War hawks believed Russia masterminded a unified communist effort to secure world domination. But demagogic rhetoric aside, he deflected attention away from Israel’s brazen effort to gobble up land in the West Bank and establish settlements that dot its entire length and breadth, housing more than 350,000 citizens.

In his tendentious speech, Bibi suggested anything short of Iran’s capitulation provided grounds for walking away from negotiations over their nuclear program. But any serious negotiation involves hammering out a good enough solution for both sides, not about demanding total victory. While he accuses Iran of harboring extremist intentions, political and diplomatic intransigence represents a cornerstone of Bibi’s leadership and expresses his own radical agenda, especially when it comes to addressing Israel’s immediate existential threat, its relationship with the Palestinians.

Bibi suggests he is ready to talk peace but has no suitable partner, which means no one is willing to accede to his demands. But Israel’s policy should involve cultivating and empowering political moderates and marginalizing extremists. Asserting there are no reasonable Palestinian leaders to work with undermines the political leverage of those who could engage Israel in meaningful dialogue and empowers extremists.

Moreover, Bibi’s adamant refusal to identify a suitable negotiating partner perpetuates a dreary status quo, consigning both sides to a vulnerable truce fractured by periodic armed conflict. He fashions himself as a defiant and courageous guarantor of peace and a champion of Israel’s national interest. But the opposite is true. Bibi’s intransigence guarantees future conflict and war.

Unfortunately, as significant numbers of voters allow Likud to remain in power, swayed by Bibi’s manipulative rhetoric, Israel will continue to require a protective wall around it and an Iron Dome  above it to maintain an illusion of security. This illusion will be rudely and tragically broken, however, when Israel’s Palestinian neighbors become desperate enough again to resist its occupation and engage in renewed fighting. This is the bitter fruit of Bibi’s cynical politics of fear:  it poses a grave threat to Israeli society by creating the very situation he promises to avoid.


Neal Aponte, Ph.D.
Editor of Delano