The right-wing, racist Defence Minister of Israel, Avigdor Lieberman, has rejected the accusations of his rival in racism and extremism, Naftali Bennett, that he is following a defeatist – or "leftist" as he put it – policy towards the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Accusations of weakness and a failure to use violence and force are the last thing anyone wants to hear from a member of an extremist national party affiliated with the major Zionist schools of thought, such as that of Jabotinsky, who advocated the sanctification of power and violence in order to occupy Palestine and oppress its people, the so-called "Iron Wall" strategy. This was not to be a last resort, but the preferred doctrinal and ideological option. Lieberman's natural response, therefore, was to point out that seven Palestinians had just been killed by his soldiers, and 500 others had been wounded on that day alone. That was his way of proving that Bennett's accusations were unfounded.
Both of these men believe in the ideological concept of the Iron Wall, which brings together almost all Zionist currents with the objective – according to one reading, at least – of forcing, in this context, the Palestinian Arabs of Gaza to understand and acknowledge that resistance in any form, including the peaceful Great March of Return protests, will not weaken Israel's resolve. The Iron Wall here is an end, not just a means to achieve better conditions in the negotiation process. Despite this, we can say that the spat between Lieberman and Bennett is related to the use of force and its purpose.
Lieberman went on the attack and accused Bennett in turn of being a radical messianic Jew. Bennett's Jewish Home party is the more extreme version of the Mafdal Party (National Religious Party), which calls for the integration of the Torah, the people, and the land, and does not conceal its religious motives behind fighting the Arabs and the Palestinians. It also views the Zionist project as an important part of religious salvation, as confirmed by Yeshiva Mercaz HaRav Kook, led by Rabbi Kook.
Lieberman and Bennett do not differ in their racist vision and perception of Arabs in general (and the Palestinians in Gaza in particular) as belonging to an underdeveloped and backward society. They believe that those in the occupied territories do not deserve equality in their homeland and are the lowest class of citizens. Meanwhile, those in Gaza are seen as a mere humanitarian or environmental problem in need of quick solutions so as not to pollute the shores of Ashkelon or explode in the face of the masters in Tel Aviv.
As such, the two men are accused by other Zionist trends of crushing and combating what they call Israeli democracy, and of eliminating any reasonable political solution with the Palestinians, even if the latter is led by the moderate Mahmoud Abbas.
An ideological reading is not enough to explain the internal dispute between the settler, secular nationalist, right-wing – represented by Lieberman – and the national religious-settler right of Naftali Bennett. They are both minor politicians who seek to please Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, so they do not, under any circumstance, criticise him directly. Both covet the position of Minister of Defence, occupied by Lieberman at the moment, which is considered to be a prestigious position in Israel. Regardless of who sits in the defence chair, though, the victims, in any case, are the vulnerable Palestinian people who will, nevertheless, continue to resist honourably until the brutal Israeli occupation ends.
This article first appeared in Arabic in the Palestinian Information Centre on 3 October 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.