Chutzpah has long been a key ingredient of Israeli political strategy. When subtle tactics fail to assuage local resistance or international scrutiny, Israeli authorities will often confront their opposition with ferocious gall, pursuing their objectives with the weight of sheer self-confidence. When that attitude pays off — as it so often has for Israel — the hubris of the authorities metastasizes, emboldening them to be even more aggressive and zealous with their plans.
This quality, which hasbarists like to tout as an endearing cultural trait, did not do Israel any favors last week. In a brazen executive move, Defense Minister Benny Gantz outlawed six leading Palestinian human rights groups as “terrorist organizations,” accusing them — without showing any proof — of serving as arms of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
According to media reports, Gantz may have issued his orders without consulting the prime minister and other cabinet members, nor properly informing Israel’s allies abroad, including in Washington. While some Israeli newspaper editorials criticized the government’s refusal to present evidence for its decision, they have mostly done so from the view that the lack of transparency hurts rather than aids the state’s justified actions against these groups.
But poor planning is not the story here. Even if he acted alone, Gantz was effectively fulfilling a central doctrine of the Bennett-Lapid government popularly described today as “shrinking the conflict.” Though attributed to the Israeli philosopher Micah Goodman and his book “Catch-67,” it is in fact a decades-old policy that has been repackaged to reflect a core consensus in Israeli politics: that apartheid must stay, and Israel must have the audacity to defend it.