The Knesset’s opening session was characterised by a series of regurgitated arguments which portray Israel’s self-imposed superiority in the Middle East. Benjamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres attempted to frame the usual recriminations within the recently changed scenario incorporating the peace negotiations and the new Iranian leadership. Invoking threats and the illusion of peace, both leaders sought to prioritise Israel’s security at the expense of projecting blame upon political opponents.
Personal reflections and convictions mingled with conventional political rhetoric adhering to Western opinion created an imbalanced assessment of Israel and the Middle East, in particular with regard to recognition of the Jewish state and Iran’s nuclear programme. Both Netanyahu and Peres embarked upon a portrayal of the allegedly victimised Jewish state undergoing a natural evolution which is hampered by hostility, eliminating any historical reference to the reasons for any hostility against the state of Israel.
The previous arguments about Iran’s nuclear programme under Ahmadinejad have now been projected onto the current Iranian leadership, with Peres insisting that Iran should be judged “by deeds and not words, even if the words sound sweet to ears used to hearing [former president] Ahmadinejad”. The same logic applied to Israel would render the state which the UN propelled to official recognition in severe violation of international law, including the use of chemical weapons upon the Palestinian population.
Peres stated that Israel ‘has changed beyond recognition’, referring to demographic growth without any mention of the atrocities committed in order to secure a perpetually expanding state which fails to comply with international law. The view of Israel as a state remains disassociated from the history of Palestinians, while the occupation which usurped the homeland of the indigenous population needs to be protected, according to Peres, who also described the current peace negotiations as ‘not only a strategic, security and economic interest, but also a moral call enshrined in our heritage’.
Even the deterrents imposed upon migrants from Africa have been hailed as important in order to preserve “Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic country”. While deploring the breaching of borders due to undocumented arrivals, Israel upholds the settler-colonial agenda which has been displacing Palestinians continuously since the Nakba.
Netanyahu elaborated on his perception of a peace process – one that would see Palestinians relinquishing the right of return to obtain ‘an end to the conflict’. Peace, according to Netanyahu, should be based upon the dynamics of hegemony imposed upon an oppressed population – a necessity in order to control Israel’s demographic growth. The Palestinian media representation of their land was also criticised, as well as an opinion broadcast by the Palestinian Authority regarding the creation of a Palestinian state without recognising the Jewish state, which Netanyahu claims is a ‘basic historic fact’.
However, a contradiction resonated within a report in the Times of Israel, which states that ‘Netanyahu said Israel did not need that recognition from the Palestinians’. Quotes from Netanyahu’s speech reveal the opposite; it is replete with pleas for recognition. While possibly Palestinian recognition of the Jewish state would change little within the framework of the state and its fictitious legality, a move towards recognition would be tantamount to a repudiation of the Palestinian homeland – treason towards memory and resistance. It is this scenario which Netanyahu aspires to – repudiation from Palestinians of their right to land, memory and return.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.