Netanyahu’s Jewish-State Strategy

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Second, the strategy appears to have been aimed at forging greater Israeli unity and taking the wind out of the opposition’s sails. In the months leading up to his Bar-Ilan speech, Netanyahu and opposition leader Tzipi Livni were bitterly at odds over the Palestinian-state issue, with Livni claiming it was Netanyahu’s recalcitrance that was preventing peace with the Palestinians and ruining Israel’s image in the world. After June 14, Livni lost that weapon against Netanyahu and indeed has been more or less drifting in the political wilderness.

More significantly, Netanyahu’s speech was aimed both at the Israeli left of center and right of center. It emphasized the desirability of ceasing to rule over the Palestinians, an issue particularly important to the former; and, in the context of demilitarization, the gravity of Israel’s security needs, of particular concern to the latter. A recent poll indeed indicates that Netanyahu and his coalition are doing much better than Livni and the opposition. Netanyahu’s successful blending of mainstream right- and left-wing themes in his Jewish-state strategy undoubtedly has something to do with it.

Third, and most important, Netanyahu’s strategy is aimed, as one Israeli analyst has put it, at “convinc[ing] the U.S. administration that he is not the factor obstructing its efforts to make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track.” There, it is harder to say that it’s working.

If President Barack Obama is impressed by the fact that the Palestinians reject even the possibility of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, he has yet to show it. Not even the fact that Abbas, after continuing to stonewall negotiations despite Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech and despite the ten-month settlement moratorium he instated last November, finally entered the talks in September only to promptly leave them with the demand that Netanyahu extend the freeze, seems to have suggested to the administration that the classic “two-state solution” paradigm is, once again, flawed and overlooks the Palestinians’ deep-seated inability to compromise with Israel.

Instead, this month the administration persisted in zealous efforts to get the sides to restart the talks, which seemed to have become an obsessive goal divorced from the empirical record. For Israel, this means ongoing pressure and potential internal dissension, balanced by no gain. If the U.S. involvement has now waned, it’s only because of the upcoming elections. However they turn out, it seems safe to say that for Netanyahu “convinc[ing] the U.S. that he is not the factor obstructing [a solution]” will continue to be hard work.

To sum up, Netanyahu’s Jewish-state strategy appears to have been effective in restoring Israel’s standing as a party that has demands of its own and does not just submit to demands; and particularly in enhancing Israeli unity and weakening Netanyahu’s opposition. That the strategy has—for any dispassionate onlooker—exposed the Palestinians’ ongoing extremism does not, however, seem to have lifted the blinders from a president deeply invested in the notion of compensating them for ostensible grievances.

Was the Jewish-state strategy, then, a wise one for Netanyahu to adopt, or at least the best one available?

Not necessarily. The notion of a sovereign Arab state squeezed in beside Israel in the tiny, forty-mile-wide territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan is inherently gravely dangerous. It may seem almost tautological that, if such a state were to be effectively demilitarized as Netanyahu posits, it could not threaten Israel. But as T. S. Eliot once observed, “Between the idea/And the reality…Falls the shadow.” Demilitarization as stipulated in a formal peace agreement could easily turn into something else, especially if negotiated on the Israeli side by a prime minister less deep and serious than Netanyahu.

That said, the strategy at this point appears to be doing more good than harm.

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  • seadog1946

    Bibi is clever/Jewish… if one were to recognize Israel as the "Jewish State of Israel" then any criticism of Israel is criticism of Jews which is anti-semitism/hate-speech… which puts a check mark next your name in the US State Department's "The Office of the Special Envoy To Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism (SEAS)".

  • waterwillows

    The world can look at Pakistan which was created as a country, at the same time Israel was and see the total difference.
    There is no shortage of muslims lands for this group to move to.

    • ajnn

      Around 100 million persons were displaced from their homes in 1945-1950. Including 800,000 Arabs Jews who were forced from their homes by the Arabs and came to Israel as legal Refugees.

      Of the 100,000,000 only the 400-600,000 Palestinian Arabs are still looking to return.

  • Henry

    the only answer to all problems is Matthew 22:37-40
    there is no other name in all heaven that gives salvation.

  • ObamaYoMoma

    The fact of the matter is there is no peace possible, and as soon as the Israeli Left comes to that conclusion the better off Israel will be. The jihad of conquest being waged against Israel is a lesser jihad of the greater global jihad, and like the greater global jihad at large, there is no peace possible as the main goal of Islam is to subjugate the world via the imposition of Sharia. Hence, there is no peace possible for Israel and also the non-Islamic world.

  • Shalom Freedman

    This piece is outstanding as it gives an understanding of the strategy of Prime Minister Netanyahu in insisting on recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

  • Ron P.

    Netanyahu has expressed pure logic by all standards, even Islamic. The Palestinians are doing the opposite, as Hornik states: "Palestinians have noted in reply that Israel has signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan without demanding that these countries formally recognize Israel as a Jewish state."

    Why the opposite? Simply because there can be no such thing as a "peace treaty" without recognition – even if unstated. It's understood, and implied. A country like Egypt doesn't sign "peace treaties" and its Prime Minister, Anwar al-Sadat, doesn't get awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for signing treaties with phantoms. His traveling to Israel was also defacto recognition. Even the Pope's visit is defacto recognition of Israel, maybe even of an Israel that truly never left in spirit.

    It's also logical to realize that signing any kind of agreement with a Palestinian leader, controlling an undemocratic people by force and donations, has little real value in the future. The fact that Hamas exists and is growing in influence with outside help, makes any deal with Palestinians worthless even "before" it is signed. If the Palestinians will not acknowledge the existence of Israel as a national entity, they have a right to be bypassed.

  • Wesley69

    Netanyahu is the best man in place to stop an unfavorable settlement being forced upon Israel. His idea of a demilitarized Palestinian state in exchange for Palestinian recognition of a Jewish Israel was a wise move. Then again, whenever Israel has exchanged territory for peace with the Palestinians, it has failed.

    But this fact can not be ignored – ANY SETTLEMENT without Hamas will not work and is bound to fail. Netanyahu, I am sure, understands this. He also has little wiggle room with his own people with the status of Jerusalem and the right of return for Arab refugees.

    Netanyahu is also waited for November 2nd. Major Republican Congressional victories will reduce Obama's pressure on Israel to achieve a comprehensive peace plan.

  • ajnn

    "Palestinianism" lacks the basic requirements of legitimate national identity: a separate, unique linguistic, cultural, ethnic, or religious basis."

    There is international law on this point.

    International Law requires that a group have some characteristics of a real country to be considered a 'nation'. A unique and unified culture, language, history, religion are ppart of this. But also is some geographic basis.

    The palestinian arabs have never been a country with their own borders. more importantly, over the last 50 years they have not 'controlled' or exercised 'jurisdiction' over any defined area. Jordan, today, does not count for the Ppalestinian Arabs. The arabs have not managed police, law courts, military control, economic control, etc over any defined area. They were given a chance under the Oslo Accords, but never set up the institutions of government.

    • ajnn

      The Palestinian Arabs also have problems with the other characteristics of a 'country'.

      Arabic is a common language, but it is also common for the rest of the Middle East and North Africa. it does not separate them from the other 300+ million arabs in the region.

      The same for religion (islam – the same as the other 300 million in the region),
      There is just not much to establish the Palestinian Arabs beyond the fact that 80% or more of them came from Syria as guest workers in the 1920's and 1930's.