Shameful crocodile tears of Netanyahu, the great phoney
It is not a common thing for an Israeli prime minister to apologise for the killing of a Palestinian, and it is definitely not something you would expect to hear from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Nevertheless, looking straight to camera, he apologized to the family of Yakub Abu Al-Kiyan, an assistant school principal from the Bedouin village of Umm Al-Hiran in the Negev desert, who was shot dead in his car by police during a dawn raid to demolish the tiny hamlet in January 2017.
For anyone unfamiliar with Netanyahu’s phoney nature, his “heartfelt moment of repentance” might have come across as an act of courage in public service, but a closer look at what he said leaves the opposite impression. He “revealed” that law enforcement officials had “said he was a terrorist. Yesterday we found out he was not a terrorist,” but they had “turned him into a terrorist to protect themselves and hurt me.”
Yes, you read correctly; the aim of covering up the truth was to hurt Netanyahu. So this was not a heartfelt apology from someone who felt the pain of the family of a wrongly killed person, or the remorse of one who has ultimate responsibility for the security forces for not being able to prevent the tragedy that has befallen a family or bring to justice those who caused it. Instead it was an act of sheer opportunistic cynicism in order to discredit those law enforcement officials who, by coincidence, are also the ones who had recommended he be indicted on three charges of corruption. Even for Netanyahu, this was a new low.
Netanyahu has exploited an avoidable killing to further his unscrupulous attempts to escape justice. His “apology” has given us a glimpse into the conspiratorial, manipulative and paranoid Netanyahu state of mind; a claim that the cover-up was not to save the skin of security forces who killed unlawfully, which is not a rare occurrence given Israel’s policy on the West Bank and Gaza, but that it was done to hurt him. Instead of calling for a thorough investigation by an independent body, Netanyahu gave us a show of self-pity with one aim in mind — to question the integrity of the former head of the police and former state prosecutor.
From an internal investigation of the tragic events that day in Umm Al-Hiran by Israel’s internal security service Shin Bet, we have learned that the victim was attempting to leave the village, driving slowly and showing no sign of trying to ram the security forces. It was only after they shot at him that the car picked up speed, veered off course, struck a policeman and killed him. It may be that he accelerated when he was shot at in order to escape the bullets, or he was already badly hurt and lost control.
For anyone unfamiliar with Netanyahu’s phoney nature, his “heartfelt moment of repentance” might have come across as an act of courage in public service, but a closer look at what he said leaves the opposite impression.
There was no evidence that he planned to attack policemen, and nothing to suggest that he was a member of a radical movement and a terrorist, as was claimed later by the public security minister. Shin Bet’s inquiry concluded that there was no act of terrorism. Worse, Al-Kiyan was ignored by medical teams who were close by, and left to bleed to death.
For over three years, until Netanyahu’s act of shedding crocodile tears, the official version of the incident insisted that Al-Kiyan was a terrorist, in a concerted effort by the police and the general prosecution to cover up what might well have been an act of unlawful killing by the policemen who fired the deadly shots. Does anyone believe Netanyahu didn’t know this all along? And why should the prime minister, who has a special relationship with the truth, and more recently with reality, be so eager to share his tears with the public and apologize to the victim’s family?
There is one reason, and one reason only; that the police chief Roni Alsheikh and state prosecutor Shai Nitzan, who Netanyahu accuses of concealing the truth, are the very same people who recommended he be indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. After more than three years of investigation, all of a sudden Netanyahu has turned into a knight in shining armor, coming to the defense of human rights and especially those of Palestinians. Who knows — will his next career move, if not convicted by the Israeli courts, be to join B’Tselem?
The sad reality is that no single person in Israel is more to blame for inciting hatred against Palestinian-Israelis and questioning their loyalty to the state of Israel than Netanyahu himself. He didn’t miss an opportunity to use his country’s Arab community and their representatives in the Knesset as the punch bag in consolidating his electoral base. He was the one calling on his supporters during election day in 2015 to rush to the polling booths because “the right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves,” questioning the legitimacy of their participation in the election. Netanyahu is the one who falsely claimed that a vote for the left meant a coalition with “Arabs who want to destroy us all.” This is the real Netanyahu, who delegitimized a fifth of the Israeli population while entrenching their daily discrimination for his own selfish political gain; and examples like this are only the tip of the iceberg of his many incitements against the Palestinian citizens of Israel.
No, Mr Netanyahu, you are not in the same boat as Mr Al-Kiyan. He lost his life for being a Palestinian, and you, in your way-too-long years in power, have done more than anyone else to cheapen the lives of Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line, and with impunity. So please save the grieving Al-Kiyan family and the rest of us your shameful crocodile tears.
- Yossi Mekelberg is professor of international relations at Regent’s University London, where he is head of the International Relations and Social Sciences Program. He is also an associate fellow of the MENA Program at Chatham House. He is a regular contributor to the international written and electronic media. Twitter: @YMekelberg