One million Jews coming to the West Bank

Haaretz editor Aluf Benn on Israel’s determination towards indefinite apartheid:

The third Netanyahu government has one clear goal: enlarging the… settlements… and achieving the vision of “a million Jews living in Judea and Samaria.” This magic number will thwart the division of the land and prevent once and for all the establishment of a Palestinian state. The defense, and housing and construction ministries that are relevant to this issue will be given to Likud MK Moshe Ya’alon and Habayit Hayehudi MK Uri Ariel. They won’t be assuming these positions in order to freeze settlement construction, but rather to implement the Levy report which determined that Israel was not legally-speaking an occupying power in the West Bank and the Habayit Hayehudi platform; or in other words, to gradually absorb the West Bank into Israel.

Netanyahu has used the term “the math” to explain the political difficulties that prevented him from being more flexible toward the Palestinians. That was in the previous Knesset term, when moderates like Ehud Barak and Dan Meridor were in senior government positions. In the new government, the math acts with abundant force against a compromise in the territories. The radical right wing is strengthened and united, and those who would claim Netanyahu’s mantle need the settlers’ support and will do everything in order to bribe them and make them happy.

Lapid and Livni are supposed to represent the foreign policy moderates, but they will have a tough time competing to be heard over ministers Ya’alon, Bennett, Gideon Sa’ar, Avigdor Lieberman and Yair Shamir. Lapid will be bought with trifles like the Sharing of the Civic Burden Law so that billions of shekels will continue to flow into the settlements, and Livni is too weak to have much influence.

Netanyahu’s key task will be buying some quiet on the Palestinian issue to permit the expansion of the settlements at the small price of international condemnation. He will continue with the successful ploy from his previous term: threatening an attack on Iran and Syria, which are drawing American attention. Barack Obama is busy with calming the Iranian front and preventing an eruption in and around Syria, and is ignoring Israel’s actions in the territories. This is the deal that Netanyahu will strive to achieve with Obama during their meetings next week in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu has lost his drawing power at the ballot box but leveraged to his benefit the rift in the opposing camp and formed a government that is outwardly aggressive and inwardly nationalistic. He has bound to himself the ambitious Lapid and Bennett, who will make an effort to prove themselves, and left out in the cold the hungry-eyed Haredim who will seek to utilize every crack in the coalition to crawl back into government. And as a final bonus, Netanyahu lowered the expectations of the Likud’s incumbent ministers, who gave up their dreams of an office upgrade and pleaded to be allowed to stay in their old ones. Impressive results in comparison with the disappointing election campaign of the “strong” Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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