Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is fluent in English, but doesn’t always fully grasp the nuances of politically correct English.
For instance, any Israeli policy that speaks of segregation on buses is sure to set off sparks of fury in Washington. Netanyahu recognized this, but only after his defense minister announced last week that Palestinian workers in Yehudah and Shomron would be forbidden from riding the same buses as “settlers.”
To be sure, the policy is reasonable and justified by the security situation. It is obvious that there is animosity between Palestinians and Jews in Yehudah and Shomron and that packing them into crowded buses at the start and end of each day is a prescription for disaster.
As Jewish Home MK Moti Yogev put it, the mix “created a situation in which tens of thousands of Palestinian laborers, including thousands of illegal infiltrators, filled the bus lines, and made it impossible for the residents of Yehudah and Shomron who require public transport to return to their homes.”
The bottom line is that the policy of integration, which was first implemented only two years ago, makes it impossible for many Jews to board the bus home at the end of the day, and uncomfortable or dangerous for those who do get on.
These laborers, who frequently harass women and children, are no Rosa Parks refusing to sit in the back of the bus in the Montgomery, Alabama, of the 1950s. They are “soldiers” in a war of attrition, who seek to rid Yehudah and Shomron of “occupiers” through a series of violent acts that have been sanitized as “national resistance.”
Netanyahu made a more egregious slip on Election Day, when he urged right-wing voters to come to the polls using terminology that made the U.S. administration and leaders in European capitals see red. “The right-wing government is in danger,” the prime minister said. “Arab voters are going en masse to the polls. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them on buses.”
While the prime minister’s critics are obsessing over his use of the word “Arabs” and claiming that he is thus trying to delegitimize the Israeli Arab public, they are being disingenuous. Netanyahu was trying to get his supporters to vote, especially in the face of an unprecedented, foreign-funded campaign to defeat him.
He was warning his constituents that the opposition was extremely well organized — by 11 a.m. on Election Day, 10 percent of the Arab vote, which sides with the Left, had cast their ballots, as opposed to 3 percent in normal years.
As he later clarified, “what’s wrong is not that Arab citizens are voting, but that massive funds from abroad from leftwing NGOs and foreign governments are bringing them en masse to the polls in an organized way, thus twisting the true will of all Israeli citizens who are voting, for the good of the Left.”
(If a Democratic candidate in a U.S. congressional race would have pleaded with his supporters to come to the polls because the Republicans were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on busing their supporters, would he arouse such outrage?)
Still, Netanyahu made a mistake, and is trying to fix it. Toward this end, he met last Thursday with the head of the Joint (Arab) List, Aiman Odeh, in a bid at reconciliation. Netanyahu put forth plans for improving the housing and employment situations for Arabs, but all Odeh wanted to talk about afterwards was Netanyahu’s Election Day remarks.
The prime minister must learn from his mistakes and proceed with caution. There is no doubt that his new government, which is much more right wing than his previous one, will come under scrutiny. This will require him to become as fluent in politically correct English as he is in English.
At the same time, it behooves Western leaders to have a little perspective about such slip-ups. As Hamodia’s military correspondent A. Pe’er notes this week, the leadership of the Palestinian Authority is openly supportive of “national resistance,” which puts Jews at risk of being killed or wounded by Molotov cocktails, stones or cars that plow into crowds.
It would be refreshing to see a little of the outrage displayed toward Netanyahu’s comment on the Arab vote directed at Palestinian officials who earlier this month visited the families of three terrorists who lynched Israeli soldiers in Ramallah in 2000 to present them with “plaques of honor.”
According to Palestinian Media Watch, the official, Issa Karake, a member of the Palestinian Authority parliament and head of the PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, said that Palestinians have an unequivocal right to “resistance” and “struggle” – PA euphemisms for violence against Israel. He called the murderers of Israelis “heroes.”
By all means, hold Israel to a higher standard. But not to a double standard.