American conservatives have correctly supported the right of Israel to exist, viewing the state as an example of a peaceful, economically successful, and increasingly pluralistic oasis surrounded by enemies. However, the Jewish state’s policies over the last few years have changed dramatically, and conservatives cannot turn a blind eye to this transformation.
Benjamin Netanyahu is now the second longest serving leader in Israeli history. When elected in 2009, he was a centrist, and respected American leadership. But as the ineffective Obama Administration left the Middle East in bedlam, Netanyahu has led the Jewish state to embody the very thing it sought to destroy: intolerance.
In 2014, tunnels into Israeli territory were discovered built by Hamas, the Palestinian terror force. War broke out for the third time in a decade, with 2,100 Palestinians killed.
After this conflict, Netanyahu out-maneuvered the moderate elite by pouncing on the fear of Jewish public opinion. In the lead up to the 2015 election, Netanyahu’s party trailed in the polls. On election day, he concocted a sham that, “Arab voters are headed to the polling stations in droves. Left-wing NGO’s are bringing them in buses.” The false story tapped into Jewish voters’ racism, winning his party (Likud) the election.
Then, Netanyahu created a coalition of far-right parties unlike Israel has seen in recent times. The new alliance opposes the creation of a Palestinian State, which in part rendered Hillary Clinton’s efforts as Secretary of State useless.
Since then, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition has warped the nation into an ugly beast of nationalism and discrimination through fear.
Netanyahu’s coalition has marginalized Israeli Arab citizens, creating an internal divide that weakens the country. In 2014, the Israeli Supreme Court upheld a law that allows 434 Israeli towns to reject housing applicants based on “undesired” identity. Currently, 90% of Israeli Arabs live in exclusively Arab communities. Separate is not equal: the Jewish household median annual income is nearly 75% higher than that of Israeli Arabs.
In December 2015, Minister of Education Naftali Bennett banned Borderlife, a novel describing the romance between a young Jewish Israeli woman and a Palestinian man, from high school reading lists.
Now, even non-governmental organizations seeking to address the regions’s conflict are being targeted. Aylet Shaked, the minister of Justice, spoke about the upcoming “transparency bill” that forces NGO’s to announce if they receive more than half their funding abroad, saying that “some countries have found a way to interfere in the internal affairs of Israel.”
But how exactly do these NGO’s interfere?
B’Tselem, a respected human rights group, released a video in Hebron showing an Israeli soldier mercilessly executing a Palestinian. The video leaves little room for the imagination: the victim, lying on the ground, is largely ignored by paramedics, soldiers, and fellow Palestinians until a nearby uniformed soldier raises his weapon and shoots him in the head.
Rather than raise alarms, however, the video was met with overwhelming praise by Israeli leaders. Netanyahu, Bennett, and the far-right government at large supported the crime. When Moshie Ya’alon, the Defense Minister, insisted on a lawful investigative procedure, he was shunned by the public and forced to resign by the Prime Minister.
In his resignation, Ya’alon said, “I fought with all my might against manifestations of extremism, violence, and racism in Israeli society.”
Ya’alon was no leftist; he did, though, believe in the significance of rule of law in a just, secular system. The human rights groups largely believe in this too. Fear of terrorism does not warrant criminal violence nor legal discrimination.
While it may be hard for conservatives to hear, Israel is going through dark times. For the Jewish state to survive and embody the hopes that American conservatism has vested in it, it will need to correct its course, and begin restoring the principles that made it the beacon of hope in the Middle East that western nations have always believed it to be.