In his first major international interview since returning to power, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to CNN earlier this month. He demonstrated that he is still a prolific liar misleading the public very deliberately about various policy issues.
One thing stood out throughout the entire interview: Netanyahu is still the same unashamed master of spin and manipulator that he has always been. The same man who, in order to protect himself from potential imprisonment for corruption, bribery and fraud, formed a coalition with extreme far-right politicians, including the openly racist and anti-Arab Itamar Ben-Gvir.
Such coalition partners longed to be in power and are ready to defend him as long as they keep their positions and he needs them badly. Together, they are taking Israel into unchartered waters; the apartheid state is ever more racist and fascist and, above all, it’s a regime with neo-Nazi ministers. Any chances of peace with Palestinians have now all but vanished.What about Netanyahu’s six major lies in that CNN interview? When he said that he had made “peace for peace” with Arab countries without offering anything in return, he was referring to the Abraham Accords signed during his previous tenure as prime minister. The fact is that he made promises in return for the Accords to be signed, including a promise not to annex the West Bank, and yet we see daily annexation of land in all but name. He also promised to lobby Washington on behalf of the United Arab Emirates, one of the normalisers, to buy the US-made F35 fighter jet. He deliberately dropped any reference to the coercive role played by former US President Donald Trump in negotiating the Accords. Trump pushed for them through a combination of threats and incentives to the Arab signatories, which eventually included Morocco and Sudan. As a habitual liar, though, Netanyahu has no intention of keeping the promises that he makes.
The Israeli leader then went on to talk about the Russia-Ukraine war, and said that the United States transferred a “huge chunk” of Israel’s military supplies to Ukraine. In fact, the supplies were American weapons stockpiled in Israel for US forces to use when necessary. They have been used before, and the idea of Israel acting as an American arms depot goes back to the 1973 Arab-Israeli war when the Pentagon came up with the idea of having arms and military equipment prepositioned and available in the region, mainly for the protection of Israel and for use in future conflicts.
Netanyahu claimed that he will allow the Palestinians to govern themselves. This is a double lie because self-governance was part of the Oslo Accords agreed in 1993 by his predecessor Yitzhak Rabin and the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. According to Oslo, the Palestinians should by now have some kind of independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital; they should be enjoying their full national rights and sovereignty, including freedom of movement and travel. However, they have ended up worse than they were before Oslo. Moreover, Netanyahu’s concept of Palestinian self-rule gives Israel the “overriding” power in all security issues. In practice, this means continuous occupation with Israel having a major military presence on the ground, as it has now. This makes the idea of Palestinian self-government an empty slogan because Israel — under Netanyahu and his predecessors — hasn’t fulfilled any of its obligations under Oslo.
Although he has made it clear that he will not accept a Palestinian state, this hasn’t stopped Netanyahu from bleating that the Palestinians have never accepted Israel as a state, but even that is a lie. The Palestine Liberation Organisation recognised Israel’s “right to exist” in September 1993 in return for the occupation state accepting the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. All subsequent deals between the two sides have been based on this principle. If Netanyahu is correct in his claim, then how does he explain the fact that successive Israeli governments, including those led by him, have held numerous rounds of direct talks with the PLO and the Palestinian Authority?
One of his biggest lies concerning his domestic policy came when he claimed that his judicial reforms will align the occupation state with other “democracies” in the world. In fact, what he is doing here is making Israel more extreme and less democratic than it has ever been (if it ever was). This is why there are huge protests against his plans taking place across Israeli.
Again, with no sense of shame whatsoever, Netanyahu peddled the idea that Israel’s occupation is better not only for Israel but also for its victims. He said that every time Israel “moves out” from some occupied land another “radical” force takes over. He cited, as examples, south Lebanon and Gaza, saying that the vacuum created by the Israeli departure was filled by an “Iranian proxy” in Lebanon — Hezbollah — while in Gaza Hamas took over. The facts show that Israel was actually defeated in Lebanon and had to leave, while Hamas won the “free and fair” 2006 democratic legislative election and Ismail Haniyeh was the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority in both Gaza and the West Bank. Neither Israel and its allies, nor the Palestinian Fatah movement accepted the election result, and Israel under Netanyahu has propped up the undemocratic PA led by Mahmoud Abbas ever since.
Furthermore, the idea that Israel’s occupation is better for the people under occupation is, generally, a preposterous claim to make decades after the international community celebrated the end of colonisation ushering in independent states all over the world. By making such a comment, Netanyahu wants us to believe that occupation is the only solution for the suffering of millions of Palestinians who have either lived under Israeli military rule for the past seven decades, or been dispossessed and live in squalid refugee camps as a direct result of the occupation. This explains why he has gone “around the Palestinians” to make peace with other Arab countries without doing anything to solve the fundamental issue of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. That is the root cause of the problem, not Palestinian resistance or Palestinians seeking their legitimate rights.
In other parts of the same interview, the demagogue Netanyahu exposed his racism for all to see when he claimed that Arab culture celebrates death while Jewish culture celebrates life. The underlying tone of such a comment from a person in power is particularly offensive to millions of people around the world, including the Palestinians whose land Israel occupies and whose rights, guaranteed by international law, have never been recognised by the settler-colonial state. Making such a comment on live television means that he is living the lie that his anti-Arab prejudice is justified because his race is supposedly superior to others.
The makeup of Netanyahu’s current government makes it impossible to see how progress can be made towards peace in the region. If the Israeli prime minister himself is openly rejecting the idea of the two-state solution, whereby a Palestinian state exists alongside Israel, his other extreme far-right ministers can hardly be blamed for pushing their own racist agendas.
The impunity granted to Israel by the US, the EU and the UK, to name but three culprits, means that Netanyahu can lie blatantly and get away with it. Nobody is going to call him out, and he will still have access to the mainstream media to continue his prolific lying.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.