Democrats giddy at rise of Bennett and Lapid

Yair Lapid, Israel's new foreign minister, has pledged to improve relations with US Democrats (Ilia Yefimovich - DPA)

Michael F. Brown

The Electronic Intifada  /  June 19, 2021

Democrats and many of their liberal allies in the US are giddy over the political demise of Benjamin Netanyahu – temporary as it may be – and the rise of new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, his foreign minister.

They often fail to note that Bennett is farther to the right than Netanyahu.

Lapid, despite his own racism, is there for damage control purposes. His role is to allay Democrats’ concerns regarding the anti-Palestinian racism that continues to course through Israel and the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

Chuck Schumer, Senate majority leader, signaled the Democrats’ unwillingness to confront long-standing reality. This is not a problem of one Israeli administration or another, but a far deeper concern as Israel’s governing institutions are increasingly viewed as akin to those of apartheid South Africa and the Jim Crow south.

Schumer maintained “we are hopeful that we can now begin serious negotiations for a two-state solution.”

Disconnected from the fact that Bennett is even more opposed to a two-state solution than Netanyahu, he urged “the Biden administration to do all it can to bring the parties together and help achieve a two-state solution where each side can live side by side in peace.”

Bennett, it should be recalled, stated in 2016 that Donald Trump’s election victory was “a tremendous opportunity for Israel to immediately announce its intention to renege on the idea of establishing Palestine in the heart of the country – a direct blow to our security and the justice of our cause.” To be clear, Bennett thinks of the occupied West Bank as “the heart” of Israel.

He then added, “The era of the Palestinian state is over.”

Schumer’s take is not just ignorant but dangerous. It demonstrates a failure to grapple with the reality of Israel and its racist direction.

DMFI obfuscates

Leaders such as Schumer fall too easily for Israel’s claims of reworking relations with Democrats after the Netanyahu steamroller – to Republican delight – attempted to ride over President Barack Obama, while alienating many grassroots Democrats as well as some congressional Democrats.

Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), always ready to paper over Israel’s apartheid, approved Lapid’s remarks on resetting his country’s relationship with Democrats.

Lapid asserted, “The management of the relationship with the Democratic Party in the United States was careless and dangerous.”

He added, “The outgoing government took a terrible gamble, reckless and dangerous, to focus exclusively on the Republican Party and abandon Israel’s bipartisan standing” before acknowledging that “we find ourselves with a Democratic White House, Senate and House and they are angry.”

Lapid claimed Israel would change the way it works with the Democrats.

He’s the “good guy” intended to offset any “bad guy” activity by Bennett. Those liberals who already embraced the claims of concern from Israel’s ambassador to the US and UN, Gilad Erdan, for the rights of Black Americans, are every bit as likely to accept Lapid’s softening of Israel’s actions.

Indeed, Lapid is already trying.

Regarding genocidal chanting at a flag march Tuesday in occupied Jerusalem, Lapid declared: “It is incomprehensible how it is possible to hold the flag of Israel in hand and yell ‘Death to the Arabs’ at the same time.” Yet the Israeli flag is now being compared to the Confederate flag.

He added, “That is not Judaism or Israelism, and that certainly isn’t what our flag represents.”

Yes, such racist expressions are far out of step with Judaism, but the Israeli and American governments fund such bigotry in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories every day. Still, there are Democrats in Washington eager for softer rhetoric of this sort that better obscures the apartheid reality.

Democrats play along

Earlier in the week, DMFI showcased the many Democrats naively thinking peace with Bennett – a man who favors annexation of large chunks of the West Bank and compared Palestinians to monkeys – is a serious prospect. Many also cited the new coalition as the most diverse in Israel’s history.

Here, diversity is little more than a buzzword intended to suggest that apartheid policies in Israel and the occupied territories can’t possibly be real.

DMFI highlighted all of the following tweets:

Mark Mellman, who heads DMFI, which retained genocide-promoting board member Archie Gottesman following a belated apology, is also working closely with Erdan to improve Israel’s standing with Democrats:

DMFI, well aware of how Democrats view diversity as opposed to the largely white Republican Party, put out its own statement stressing the coalition’s inclusiveness.

“It will also be Israel’s most inclusive government ever, with Arabs, women, and Jews of color holding vital cabinet ministries. With Mansour Abbas’ Ra’am Party joining the coalition, Israel is now the only country in the Middle East where Jews and Arabs govern together.”

Yet as Kenneth Roth, who heads Human Rights Watch, noted: “If the new Israeli coalition government wants really ‘to repair Israeli ties with the US Democratic Party and the Jewish diaspora,’ it could start dismantling apartheid in occupied Palestinian territory that the Netanyahu government did so much to build.”

At some point, Abbas and his Ra’am Party will have to recognize that American politicians and organizations like DMFI and AIPAC are using them as a fig leaf covering up Israel’s discriminatory policies.

Ayelet Shaked, a participant in the new coalition government, is a promoter of genocide against Palestinians. Yet the Israel lobby group AIPAC is associating her with “democracy” and “diversity.”

Whatever.

Still, too many congressional Democrats accept such notions even as grassroots Democrats challenge these fabrications.

As Philip Weiss at Mondoweiss wrote: “Israel’s P.R. problems aren’t going away with the new right-wing PM, and are sure to continue once the honeymoon is over.”

He added: “It’s a Humpty Dumpty situation … one that Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid will be able to do nothing about.”

Meanwhile, Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian animus continue to run rampant through the Republican Party.

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist