Another election is coming, and along with it a host of right-wing pundits are seeking to convince the public that Benjamin Netanyahu isn’t really right-wing. Those who endorsed the boycott of a right-wing government led by Naftali Bennett, Gideon Sa’ar and Ayelet Shaked, and accepted with equanimity a government consisting of left-wing parties and Ra’am, cannot let Netanyahu live down the fact that in 2009, for example, he failed to form a right-wing government. Because when it comes to Netanyahu, they only remember the tiny details and forget all of his strategic achievements, while blatantly ignoring historical context.
It appears that Netanyahu, who fought an all-out war against Iran’s nuclear program and was a catalyst for the United States’ withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal, the reimposition of sanctions and the inclusion of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations, is not right-wing enough for them. The person who took Israel’s tiny, centralized, socialist economy and spearheaded free market policies, while advancing Israel’s natural gas project against all of its opponents, thus turning Israel into an economic power, is not right-wing enough for them. The person who pioneered a series of new alliances in Europe, Africa and Asia, and above all else brought four new peace agreements that completely altered the previous pro-Palestinian paradigm in the Middle East, is not right-wing enough for them. Indeed, the very same Netanyahu under whose leadership the Jewish population in Judea and Samaria doubled over the past decade without conceding an inch of land is not right-wing enough for them.
Despite all of these mega-achievements, right-wing pundits kept protesting: “But he didn’t evacuate Khan al-Ahmar.”
In addition to the exaggerated weight these pundits give to minor issues, they also endeavor to obfuscate historical context. It’s impossible to understand the 1997 Hebron agreement, for example, without understanding the entire Oslo period. Netanyahu’s inclusion of the reciprocity clause at the time of the agreement’s ratification, which essentially prevented the Oslo Accords and the entire diplomatic process from progressing, was a dramatic initiative.
We must also place Netanyahu’s 2009 Bar-Ilan speech in historical context. Those were not the heady Donald Trump years, and Israel was not as strong or influential as it is today. They were the days after the Olmert government, and the ink from that government’s plan to evacuate all of Judea and Samaria and divide Jerusalem was still wet. Barack Obama had entered the White House, ushering in doomsday prophecies of a diplomatic tsunami against Israel. In this context, Netanyahu spoke about the historical right of the Jewish people to their land and Israel’s security needs, and in indirect terms also discussed the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state under strict conditions, in order to avoid diplomatic concessions.
Similarly, we can discuss the judicial reforms that never came to fruition. Even in the full right-wing government established in 2015, Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party had 10 Knesset members who exercised veto power over such changes. They received a degree of support from Shaked, Sa’ar and Benny Begin. Not to mention the fact that the public mood at the time was relatively indifferent to such issues. Few people, if any, understood the gravity of the matter and its ramifications in terms of the country’s Jewish and democratic character, as many have come to understand it today.
We can continue debunking all the various grievances cited to weaken Netanyahu’s right-wing credentials. But perhaps the time has come to ask those who can’t appreciate the tectonic changes he instituted about their own right-wing credentials? It would also be interesting to see when they finally shed the false prophecies of “right-wingers” like Bennett, Sa’ar and Shaked. Are they waiting for a government with Balad in order to finally wake up? And how is it possible that these same “right-wingers” haven’t aimed one iota of the criticism unleashed against Netanyahu throughout the years at the outgoing government and the dangerous initiatives it pursued?
Dr. Limor Samimian-Darash is a senior lecturer at the Federmann School of Public Policy and Government at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.
Be a part of our community
JNS is your ideological home. Situated at the center of the pro-Israel ecosystem, we provide readers with the critical context they need on issues facing Israel and their Jewish world.
You can help support our efforts — and enjoy an ad-free experience, as well as premium content and other community benefits.
Join our community and help us continue to keep you engaged and informed.