Boyd: As recent corruption scandals show, Prime Minister Netanyahu is wrong for Israel

Ryan Boyd, Columnist

Late last month, Israeli police recommended indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in two separate corruption cases. There are also two ongoing corruption investigations into a plethora of former Netanyahu aides. And as if that were not enough, Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife, has already been indicted for fraud — she stands accused of misusing more than $100,000 in public funds. It seems as though these rampant and egregious abuses of power may actually bring down the teflon prime minister. And it’s about time.

Not only is Netanyahu corrupt, as prime minister he has empowered the most ideologically radical elements of Israeli society and inflicted long-lasting, and perhaps irreversible, damage to the Middle East peace process.

To stay in power, Netanyahu’s Likud Party has partnered with some of Israel’s most conservative parties, including the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party and Jewish Home, an Orthodox party that seeks to expand Israeli settlements. To placate his coalition partners, Netanyahu has taken a series of increasingly divisive positions. For instance, this past summer, the prime minister — at the urging of ultra-Orthodox activists — decided against establishing a permanent pluralistic prayer section at the Western Wall for Reform and Conservative Jews. According to an op-ed in The Times of Israel, Netanyahu’s message to the more liberal elements of the Jewish diaspora was clear: “We don’t really want you.”

In another attempt to maintain his grip on power, on election day in March 2015, Netanyahu warned, “Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls.” For Netanyahu, Arab-Israelis are tools for scaring his base into voting, not important members of Israel’s wonderfully pluralistic society. Bibi’s bigoted comments are not befitting anyone holding elected office, let alone the prime minister.

Further, Bibi’s endorsement of a bill that passed last March, which bans supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement from entering Israel, is patently illiberal. I am personally against BDS — I think it is a harmful and misguided movement with significant anti-semitic elements — but I, and many others, recognize that banning political opinions with which you disagree is antithetical to the central tenets of democracy. Additionally, Netanyahu has viciously attacked opposition parties and the press; he has even adopted President Donald Trump’s “fake news” moniker for articles he dislikes, cementing his status as a full-blown wannabe strongman.

Yet, Bibi’s open contempt for liberal Jews, Arab-Israelis and democracy pales in comparison to his disdain for the two-state solution. New York Times columnist Tom Friedman calls Netanyahu “the father of the one-state solution,” and for good reason.

Netanyahu has allowed settlement building to continue unabated, and even encouraged it. While settlements have not expanded at a faster rate under Bibi than his predecessors, his government has been steadily increasing the number of government-issued permits for new development, especially in highly problematic areas that will significantly hamper peace efforts. Members of the international community have repeatedly warned the prime minister about the deleterious effects these settlements have on peace efforts, but, if anything, these messages of caution have only amplified Netanyahu’s desire to increase Israeli development in the West Bank.

Bibi’s inflammatory language and intentionally counterproductive actions have also contributed to an environment of distrust. Prior to the 2015 election, Netanyahu claimed that while he was prime minister, there would never be a two state-solution. This was a remarkable about face: Just six years earlier Netanyahu unequivocally stated his support for a two-state solution. Bibi later explained that he was simply saying that the Palestinian leadership is too weak and radical to be effective negotiating partners. He is correct in saying that Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, is weak. And he is right to say that Hamas’ control of the Gaza strip is a significant barrier to productive peace talks. But the prime minister’s own record shows that this explanation is insufficient.

Netanyahu campaigned vigorously against the 1993 Oslo Accords, authorized settlement expansion and chastised the Obama administration for supporting the standard two-state solution plan that American presidents have embraced for years. Bibi’s record, then, shows that he has been an opponent of potential two-state solutions since well before Abbas became the PA leader and Hamas took control of Gaza.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has divided Israeli society, disregarded democratic norms, insulted the Jewish diaspora and hampered the peace process. The prime minister’s latest abuses of power only serve as a reminder of how wrong he is for Israel.

Ryan Boyd is a Weinberg freshman. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected] The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.