Netanyahu the Palestinian

PHILADELPHIA – In January, Israeli voters will go to the polls for an election that promises to hand Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu a renewed mandate. Few prospects are more loathsome to the Israeli left, US President Barack Obama’s administration, most European leaders, or many American Jews.

But no one regards the prospect of another Netanyahu government with more anguish than the Palestinians. In the Arab-Israeli conflict’s long, tortured history, they have reviled no Israeli prime minister – with the possible exception of Ariel Sharon – more than Netanyahu. The reason is simple: he is one of them.

Literally, of course, he is not. But, unlike previous Israeli prime ministers (again, with the possible exception of Sharon), Netanyahu has emulated the Palestinian political strategy of sumud, or steadfastness.

The philosophy of sumud is rooted in Palestinians’ implacable belief in the righteousness of their cause and the justness of their methods. It operates both passively and actively in Palestinian culture, demanding stubbornness and tolerating ruthlessness, violence, and duplicity.