Netanyahu claims Israel is a model for human rights and tolerance. Here's where the Middle East's next dictator got it wrong.
The Israeli prime minister took to Twitter calling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a dictator.
Erdogan, the dictator who sends tens of thousands of political opponents to prison, commits genocide against the Kurds, and occupies Northern Cyprus, preaches to me, to Israel, and to the Israel Defense Forces, about democracy and the ethics of war. A joke.— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) March 13, 2019
“It’s best that he doesn’t get involved with Jerusalem, our capital for 3,000 years. Erdogan can only learn from us how to respect every religion and protect human rights,” Netanyahu said.
The Israeli prime minister’s tweets took a moral high ground, by emphasizing Israeli respect for religions, and human rights.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s words, however, coincided with entirely contradictory claims. Only two days prior, he boldly declared, “I would like to clarify a point that, apparently, is not clear to slightly confused people … Israel is a Jewish, democratic state. This means is that it is the national state of the Jewish people alone.”
This came following criticism by Israeli model and actress Rotem Seyla, who criticized her government’s inequality and lack of respect for Arab rights.
The second contradiction is ongoing, and continues in the form of religious strife seen in Jerusalem since last February, following a decision by Israeli Minister of Internal Security Gilad Arad, who closed off the holy mosque’s ‘Bab al Rahma’ gate.
The gate was actively used by Muslim worshippers, after Jerusalemites managed to open it following a 16-year closure. Since then, the mosque’s worship areas have been desecrated, as Israelis stormed into the mosque with their shoes.
Nevertheless, Benjamin Netanyahu continues to promote Israel as the "only democracy in the Middle East," ahead of early Israeli elections on April 9. Netanyahu’s political record, however, does not support his claims.
‘One prime minister to rule them all’
Netanyahu isn’t only a prime minister.
He made a habit of assuming other key ministerial roles when unable to find candidates that pleased him, now a defining mark of Israeli politics since he assumed power nearly 10 years ago.
He has assumed complete control of the Israel military, foreign diplomatic service, and controls various state organs under the prime minister’s office. These include the Mossad spy agency and the ‘Shin Bet’, Israel’s internal security agency.
This is by no means the first time Netanyahu has held more than one cabinet portfolio. In previous elections, Netanyahu was minister of regional cooperation and finance, as well as minister of foreign affairs and communications at the same time.
Currently, Netanyahu is also the minister of immigration, health, foreign affairs, and more recently the minister of defence as well. This came after the resignation of the former defence minister Avigdor Lieberman, following a flare-up in the conflict with Gaza strip last year.
His tenure as minister of communication, which controls all media in Israel, would come back to haunt him as scandals broke out over controversial dealings he engaged with during the time. He would resign the post, in favor of Likud right-wing Knesset member Ayoob Kara, who holds the position currently.
He was later implicated in an abuse of power scandal that erupted over accusations that became investigations into his acceptance of bribes and positive media coverage in exchange for tax relief cuts. This would later go on to be known as case 4000.
“The heart of democratic government is legal equality between its citizens,” says International lawyer Hassan Imran, speaking to TRT World.
“This is nowhere to be found in Israel, which implements a racist policy towards Palestinians living in the Israeli interior, even if they hold Israeli passports,” he says.
Imran also adds that Benjamin Netanyahu shows clear signs and inclinations of being a dictator, only restricted thus far by the legal and political system of Israel, which forces him to be a "dictator in democratic disguise.”
“Netanyahu is a deeply populist politician, and therefore is always ready to adapt his ideology by any means necessary to remain in power, even if it damages the judicial system,” says Imran.
He adds that the Israeli right is willing to sacrifice anything to keep him in power, given their perception that he protects them from Arabs, and maintains the integrity of the Jewish state.
Power at any cost
Netanyahu has weathered more coalitions and alliances than can be named, throughout his decade leading the Israeli government, shedding ideologies with ease depending on the tone of public opinion.
Initially, his party identified with the right, and then shifted towards the ultranationalist hard-liner right. Their current stance reflects their original ideology before they were forced to make concessions in their alliance with other Israeli parties.
The Jewish Power Party, also known as “Otzma Yehudit,” one of the extremist Jewish parties was founded six years ago. It is called, and identifies by those who belong to it, as anti-Arab racist. Its president, Mikhail Ben Ari, incited the Israeli public against the 1,700,000 Palestinians in the Israeli occupied interior.
He threatened them, "If you oppose the Jews, you will not survive, you will not be deported or stripped of Israeli citizenship. You will be shot, that is what the Arabs understand," he said.
Not only did Netanyahu decide to allow the “Otzma Yehudit” to enter the Knesset, but he also enabled them to join the ruling government, after deciding that the ruling Likud party would join forces with the ultra-Orthodox “Otzma Yehudit,” for fear of losing votes, if one of the right-wing parties failed to enter the Knesset.
The questionable coalition only raised concerns in the Israeli parliament by the opposing left over whether centrist or leftist parties were being eroded into a minority in parliament. More critically, they questioned whether the Israeli government led by Netanyahu still believed in liberal democracy, given his repeated alliances with extremist Jewish parties.
Throughout their alliances of convenience, Netanyahu's willingness to do anything to remain in power is laid bare.
Benjamin Netanyahu stands as the longest-serving prime minister in Israel's history following David Ben-Gurion, pushing laws the Knesset saw as unnecessary, such as the Jewish National Law passed by the Knesset in July of 2018, recognizing the Jewishness of the state and granting the right of self-determination to Jews. Legislation ensuring that its official language is Hebrew, ensures that Palestinians in the occupied interior are a minority in Israel, and are not recognized as equals to Jews.
Today, Netanyahu faces multiple accusations against him by the Israeli public prosecutor, who is set to charge him with betraying public confidence, corruption and exploiting his position as prime minister to accept bribes in exchange for tax breaks and positive media coverage.
To date, he has allied himself with extremist parties ensuring a longer stay in power. The Israeli judiciary has expressed its doubts about his ability to balance more than four ministerial portfolios,
Nonetheless, he still promotes his country as the only democracy in the Middle East to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Benjamin Netanyahu has emphasized the continuation of Arab-Israeli rapprochement, in public and private talks, describing them as “an important message for the vision of peace – peace through strength."
In his Twitter, Netanyahu revealed that he was in contact with Arab and Muslim countries that had been hostile to Israel, even recently.
More than ever, it seems that no one remains who has not normalized ties with Israel, to reveal Netanyahu’s true colors except for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.