I believe in another Israel – one not defined by Benjamin Netanyahu and his cronies | Naama Lazimi

I am writing this not only as a member of the opposition in the Israeli parliament, but first and foremost as a mother and a young woman in Israel living under Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. His long spell in office has left my generation disillusioned and robbed of dreams for a better future. We refuse to surrender and are fighting to preserve Israel’s identity as a liberal democracy that embraces coexistence.

The state of Israel is in the midst of a difficult war, which started after the horrifying massacre on 7 October. This war has persisted for six long, hard months, exacting a heavy toll of human lives. The only way to win this war is to reach diplomatic solutions that will bring peace to the Middle East. To that end, Israel, and Israeli citizens, need the support of the US and the entire international community.

Netanyahu’s government, with its extremist allies, lacks a clear strategy for ending this war, which is resulting in escalating violence, and alienation from the global community. It is crucial to recognise that this government does not represent the majority of Israelis, as many opinion polls demonstrate.

As a member of the Knesset, Israel’s legislature, it is very important for me to meet and spend time with the citizens whom I represent. The Israel I meet is completely different from Netanyahu’s government. Since the beginning of the war, I’ve met Arab-Jewish civil society organisations that exemplify this spirit, providing assistance across diverse communities.

This is the real Israel.

The noisy minority advocating for the destruction of Gaza is simply that – a minority. Netanyahu’s partners in the extreme rightwing government want a perpetual war and to see Israel conquer the Gaza Strip and settle there. But the broader Israeli populace desires something different. They seek the opportunity to rebuild their communities destroyed by Hamas attacks, yearning for the return of their 133 loved ones who were abducted.

Moreover, they don’t want to witness further bloodshed in Gaza; instead they want to see the elimination of the murderous terrorism that declared war on Israel and slaughtered us mercilessly on that terrible day. They want to see their sons return from the battlefield. They want a quiet home in which to raise happy children. Over the past few weeks, there has been a surge in protests demanding the return of the hostages and the replacement of the government. Thousands of Israeli citizens have taken to the streets, advocating for immediate elections, a deal for the hostages, and a more accountable leadership.

We must not allow Netanyahu – who is accused of criminal activity including fraud, bribery and breach of trust (he denies the allegations), who made dangerous alliances with extremists to form his government, and has even attempted to turn Israel into a de facto dictatorship through his government’s controversial attempt to pass “judicial reform” – to dictate our relations and divide us. We need to make a clear distinction between this extremist government and the people. When US vice-president Kamala Harris was asked if Israel is at risk of losing American support in the war, she replied that it is important to distinguish between the Israeli government and its citizens, and she is absolutely right. The Israeli people are entitled to security – as are the Palestinians. Israeli citizens are the ones thwarting Netanyahu’s authoritarianism, we are the ones holding him back in this moment.

There is no doubt the ruthless leaders of Hamas are willing to starve the residents of Gaza to death for the sake of the annihilation of Israel and the Jewish people. However, it is undeniable that this war, though initiated in response to a tragic massacre, has dragged on without clear political or diplomatic progress. The Israeli government’s persistence in sending soldiers into this conflict, despite the absence of diplomatic objectives, appears driven by a desire to stave off political instability and impending elections – and the risk of electoral defeat. With Netanyahu’s bloc facing historically low approval ratings, they anticipate that the upcoming elections will mark the end of his era in Israeli politics. Those advocating for perpetual conflict seem to prioritise power over life.

In the end, the extremists can’t be the ones designing the future of the Middle East. On both sides there are good people who yearn for a different reality – one defined by prosperity and security, not strife.

My family migrated to Israel from Morocco, following the dream of living in a nation that values life above all else. Throughout 2,000 years of exile, we dreamed of this country, which was established after the Holocaust, the most terrible genocide in history. We dreamed of a country in which life is more precious than land. Under Netanyahu and his cronies, this beautiful country is changing its very character. When I tuck my young children into bed at night, I think about the country I am fighting for, for them, about the country they deserve – one of peace, security and prosperity. And with strong American support, I know that we will succeed. Netanyahu will fall and the extremists will fall.

To the citizens of the US and the entire world, especially those of Jewish descent, I have one request: do not abandon us. Stand with us as we strive for a better tomorrow, for Israelis and Palestinians alike. A liberal-democratic government is not a distant dream but the will of the majority. Together, we can forge a path towards peace and security, fulfilling the aspirations of all who call this region home.

  • Naama Lazimi is a member of the Knesset for Israel’s Labor party

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First appeared on www.theguardian.com

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