Posted on April 27, 1998 in Washington Watch
On the eve of yet another round of peace talks with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has invited the leader of the Modelet Party to join his coalition government.
The Modelet Party (Homeland Party) is not another far right Zionist grouping. It’s founding principle, as stated in its charter, is the call to transfer Arabs out of “Eretz Israel.”
“The sure cure for the demographic ailment is the transfer of the Arabs to Arab countries as an aim of any negotiations and a way to solve the Israeli-Arab conflict over the land of Israel.”
By “Arabs” the Modelet Party means not only the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza. They also seek to “cleanse” Israel of its Palestinian Arab citizens. And by “demographic ailment” the Modelet means not only the presence of Arabs in their midst, but also the “troubling high birth rate” of the Arab population.
While such racism puts the Modelet Party in the same camp as the Le Pen nationalist movement in France or the David Duke movement in the United States, even those bigots do not call for the forced expulsion of the communities they see as polluting their respective societies.
The Modelet Party differs only slightly from the racist effort founded by the late Meir Kahane. In fact, the Modelet Party’s leader Raveham Ze’vi (who will now sit in Netanyahu’s cabinet) has been described by the respected Israeli commentator Nahum Barnea as “Kahane in a general’s uniform”–referring to his days in the 1970s as the brutal military commander of the West Bank.
Ze’vi has a controversial past. Allegations of his connection with organized crime resulted in his being denied the post of police commissioner in the Shamir-led government in 1989. He is also widely remembered for having caused a diplomatic flap in 1991 when as Likud Minister without portfolio he called then U.S. President George Bush “an anti-Semite and a liar.”
When Shamir agreed to go to the Madrid peace talks, the Modelet and an allied party, Tehiya, bolted the government and brought about its collapse.
More recently Ze’vi has continued his inflammatory rhetoric. He has called Palestinian Authority President Yasir Arafat a “war criminal” and Egypt’s President Mubarak a “liar.” He led violent protests against Netanyahu’s decision to sign the Hebron agreement and has repeatedly pledged his commitment to annulling the Oslo accord.
Given this background one might well ask why Netanyahu has brought Ze’vi and his party into the government and why there has been no reaction to this disturbing move.
Ze’vi’s only pledge to Netanyahu apparently is that he will not support a no-confidence motion. But he has reaffirmed his strong opposition to Oslo and to surrendering any more land to the Palestinians. He has also refused to alter his party’s position on “transfer.”
One might argue that many of Ze’vi’s positions are held by others in the Knesset, even in the Netanyahu government. Ariel Sharon, for example, has also referred to Arafat as a “war criminal.” Rafael Eitan, the former general who called Palestinians “drugged cockroaches,” called in the 1980s for the forced transfer of one million Palestinians from the West Bank. And the majority of the current Likud coalition continues to support the claim to all of “Eretz Israel”–while hypocritically insisting that the Palestinians change their national covenant.
Has Netanyahu merely added a vote to protect his coalition government, as some analysts speculate? Or has he added an ideological partner to his government to strengthen its resolve?
Is it not appropriate to ask the Netanyahu government for an explanation of this most troubling addition at this most sensitive moment? It would be inconceivable for a center-right coalition in France to invite Le Pen to join its government, just as it would be impossible for the U.S. Republican Party to seek the support of David Duke.
Imagine the tremors that Ze’vi’s appointment must be causing among Israel’s Palestinian Arab citizens, and all those Palestinians, who in this year of Israel’s 50th anniversary, are reliving over again the horrors of forced expulsion from their homes and villages.
Surely the addition of Raveham Ze’vi to the government should not be allowed to pass without protest.
Netanyahu’s argument that he needs votes to remain in power is the basest of falsehoods. As elected Prime Minister he has the option to create any coalition government he chooses to create. Should he agree to honor the Oslo Accords and make the required withdrawals from the West Bank, he may lose the support of the ultra right. But it has already been made clear to him that he can, if he wishes, form a new government of at least 85 Knesset members if he agrees to a just peace with the Palestinians.
It appears that it is not to protect his government, but to protect his hold over Eretz Israel that has motivated the addition of Ze’vi to the cabinet.
Arabs should demand his immediate ouster.
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