During a speech on the floor of the US House on Tuesday, Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) argued Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a “strongman” who has based his career on “injecting fear and resentment into political affairs, when you use the backdrop of terrorism and the understandable fear of the Israeli people as political tool for years and decades,” which is jeopardizing a two-state solution that would recognize the “fundamental rights” of Palestinians to their own state and allow Palestine to exist “without occupation,” and provide the best opportunity for long-term peace.
Gutierrez said, “As the right-wing government of Netanyahu, consolodates power and becomes in many ways the one party rulers of Israel, a number of things are changing that should be of concern to all Americans. Specifically, the increasing dominance of the Likud Party, as the one party in Israel jeopardizes the two-state solution that I, and many others in the United States and Israel, feel is the only way to achieve long-term peace in the Middle East. There is a retrenchment of hard-line policy aimed at solidifying alliances with smaller religious and hard-line parties that keep Likud in power. That will make it harder for Israelis and their allies in America, and anyone who seeks lasting peace, to maintain progress toward a two-state solution.”
He added, “Right now the Knesset is considering legislation to legalize all Israeli setllements in Palestinian territories on the West Bank, even those constructed on private Palestinian land. Boom. 400,000 people in settlements across the West Bank, it’s all legal because they say it’s legal, but it’s not. And Israel is destroying Palestinian homes at a pace faster than we’ve ever seen before. It is provocative, sweeping, and designed to make it harder to ever reach an agreement with the Palestinians. The plan to restrict the Muslim call to prayer in Jerusalem has been revived, again to placate hard-lined religious constituents by Prime Minister Netanyahu. There is no clearer statement to people of the Islamic faith that they do not matter, that they do not belong, and that they will not be tolerated than to restrict the Muslim call to prayer in Jerusalem, a city that has heard the Muslim call to prayer for thousands of years.”
Gutierrez continued that “what is going on in Israel with Prime Minister Netanyahu presents a cautionary tale about the consequences of following a political strongman. The strongman has to keep proving that he’s a strongman over and over. Like other strongmen who write fear into leadership, when you base your political career on injecting fear and resentment into political affairs, when you use the backdrop of terrorism and the understandable fear of the Israeli people as political tool for years and decades, this is the kind of policy that results. There is an appetite for constant escalation of what you are doing to stand up to the enemy you have constructed, an enemy based on, but not the same as the enemies that fight against the state of Israel, and tolerance and peace, in real life. Strongmen construct a foil, in this case on the Palestinians, but sometimes exaggerated beyond recognition, and they need to feed the thirst for more and more action to attack the caricature that they have constructed. But strongman politics in Israel has the impact of making a long-lasting solution that brings peace to the Middle East even harder to achieve. The fundamental rights of Palestinians to have their own state, a state alongside the Israeli state, where they have the same basic rights and dignity to govern themselves and raise their families in peace, that is what most Israeli and Palestinians and people of around the world have been fighting for. If we are ever going to achieve the permanent peace that allows Israel to exist without fear, and Palestine to exist without occupation, we must continue to fight for a two-state solution.”
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