Benjamin Netanyahu and the Death of the Zionist Dream

April 21, 2019
Israel’s founding fathers are turning in their graves.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the press at the Knesset in Jerusalem

Avi Shlaim writes in the New York Times, “From the 1920s onward, the Zionist movement was split into two groups that put forward rival ideas of the Jewish state, one liberal, the other right wing. David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding father and its longest serving prime minister, was the leader of Labor Zionism, the liberal vision; Zeev Jabotinsky was the founder of Revisionist Zionism and the spiritual father of the Israeli right. Mr. Ben-Gurion embodied the liberal Zionist dream of a free, independent and egalitarian Jewish state. Mr. Jabotinsky was an ardent Jewish nationalist who laid claim to Jewish sovereignty over the whole of the territory between both banks of the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.”

“Although he led the opposition to mainstream Zionism, Mr. Jabotinskywas, in fact, the main architect of the strategy that guided the entire movement in the confrontation with the Palestinians — the strategy of the “iron wall.” This strategy consisted of two stages: First, build an iron wall of Jewish military power to compel the Arabs to recognize that the Jewish state was there to stay. Then negotiate with the Arabs about their rights and status in Palestine. The essence of the strategy was negotiations from strength. The risk inherent in it was that military superiority would lead to diplomatic intransigence.”

David Ben Gurion and Israeli official holding up Declaration of Independence, 15 May 1948

“Benjamin Netanyahu, who won a fifth electoral victory last week in an election that was essentially a referendum on his leadership, is in many ways the heir to Mr. Jabotinsky’s legacy. His father, Benzion Netanyahu, was Mr. Jabotinsky’s secretary and the editor of the Revisionists’ daily newspaper, HaYarden; his party, Likud, is the successor to the post-independence Revisionist party, Herut.”

“With last week’s victory, Mr. Netanyahu is now on course to become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, surpassing Mr. Ben-Gurion. By trouncing his left-wing opponents and beating a challenge from a new centrist party, Mr. Netanyahu gained more than just another term in office: He secured a fresh mandate for his idea of Greater Israel.” (more…)

Avi Shlaim is an emeritus professor of international relations at Oxford University and the author of “The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World.”

© Copyright JFJFP 2017