SMC Reacts to Netanyahu Victory

Last Tuesday, incumbent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secured a fourth term after a turbulent re-election campaign. Netanyahu’s triumph was met with mixed reactions from various students at SMC, both Jewish and of general Middle Eastern descent. SMC student Rachel Friedman was “over-the-moon thrilled” with Netanyahu’s victory. She described Netanyahu as “the Winston Churchill of our time,” and emphasized that Israel is the only place where “every type of person -- Blacks, Whites, and ‘Middle-Eastern-looking-people’ -- all vote and have the same rights.” Friedman also expressed confidence that Netanyahu and his party have “done a very good job of keeping Israel safe.”

Mati Geula Cohen, SMC student, activist, and founder of the Young Jewish Zionists, was also pleased with the results. He too emphasized that Israel is a democratic country and viewed the election as “a very fair and accurate assessment of the public’s opinion.” “Contrary to popular belief,” Cohen added, “the elections very well showed this public opinion, highlighted by the voting for Likud [Netanyahu’s party.]” Though he preferred candidate Naftali Bennet, he was supportive of Netanyahu. Cohen reiterated that the people in Israel have a need for a “strong and stable leader,” which they see in Netanyahu.

Other SMC students had vastly different opinions. Hamza Alam and Khizr Mirza were both disappointed to hear the news of Netanyahu’s re-election. “He’s a douche. He kills innocent people,” Alam said, referring to Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip last summer, which left more than 2000 civilians killed.

Mirza Khizr was also critical of Netanyahu’s foreign policy, and argued that while both Israel and Palestine are at fault for the conflict, Israel has at times been justified in its defensive posture. Mirza also noted that being from Saudi Arabia, he is exposed to an entirely different news angle than most Americans and is more conscious of the mistreatment that Palestinians face.

Though some were opposed to Netanyahu and his policies, the majority of students questioned on campus seemed to be in favor of his mandate. Daniel Ferszt, who was in Israel prior to the elections, was “absolutely pleased with the results.” When asked about Netanyahu’s main rival, Isaac Herzog, Ferszt said he would feel “conflicted” and “let down” had he won the election, though he did not necessarily disagree with Herzog’s policies. “Right now, Israel needs Bibi Netanyahu,” Ferszt said. Ferszt sees Netanyahu as a strong figure that can stand his ground in the international community and will not back down under pressure. Ferszt described him as “bold, charismatic, and bright.”

Others were indifferent towards him and waiting to see how his new term pans out before casting judgment. "I can’t say that I agree with him on all of his policies. I don’t disagree with him on all of his policies," said Rabbi Eli Levitansky, director of the Chabad Club on campus. "From my perspective, I think that the most important factor is the non-negotiable element of Israel not giving away any land. On a lot of different levels, but just on a historic level, every time they have given away land, it’s proven to do the opposite of what it’s supposed to accomplish. It brings more danger and greater elements of war. On that part, if that’s what he will actually follow through on, I’ll be glad he got elected."