Editor's Note: Just two years after Benjamin Netanyahu took office as leader of Israel for the first time nearly two decades ago, Palestinian writer Edward Said predicted in the pages of The Progressive that he would be a disaster for peace efforts between Israelis and Palestinians. As the right-wing favorite celebrates an election victory that will begin his fourth (and third consecutive) term as Israeli prime minister, Netanyahu's recent speech to U.S. Congress was a thumb in the eye to the Obama Administration, seeking to undo the U.S.-led international effort to reach a nuclear accord with Iran. On the eve of the election, Nentanyahu warned Israelis that "Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves," and declared that there would never be a Palestinian state on his watch.
Said observed Netanyahu's disinterest in peace, and his hold on the United States, in our March 1998 issue:
By what perverted, diseased logic can Benjamin Netanyahu proclaim to the world that he wants the peace process to continue at the same time that he says the West Bank and Gaza are part of the land of Israel? . . . The first challenge, then, is to extract acknowledgment from Israel for what it did to us and to other Arabs whose sons and daughters were killed in its wars, conquests, military occupations, settlements. This is a moral mission for each of us to pursue by not forgetting, by reminding each other and the world, by testifying to the continued injustice against us. I simply cannot imagine that history will ever excuse us for failing in this task. But then, I believe, we must also hold out the possibility of some form of coexistence in which a new and better life, free of ethnocentrism and religious intolerance, could be available. It is the present poverty of Zionism and Palestinian nationalism that accounts for the void in vision and moral energy that we suffer from today. I am certain that if we present our claims about the past as ushering in a form of mutuality and coexistence in the future, a long-term positive echo on the Israeli and Western side will reverberate. It is also evident to me that we cannot detach our views of Israel from our attitudes and policies towards the United States. Since 1949, America has poured about $140 billion into Israel. Not only is this a major financial investment, but the American political establishment has a long-term investment in the country, as well. To expect the United States to lessen support of Israel, or even to become critical of it—these are real possibilities, in my view—requires a massive campaign in the United States on behalf of Palestinian political and human rights. This is so obvious as not to require much insistence here.
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