Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has reassured settler leaders in the West Bank that he is willing to stand up to American pressure, describing his three “No’s” to President Biden’s requests made at their meeting on August 26. A report on Bennett’s description of his pushback is here: “Bennett tells settlers he said no 3 times to Biden, on Iran, consulate, building,” by Shalom Yerushalmi, Times of Israel, September 27, 2021:
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett recently told settler leaders that he pushed back against United States President Joe Biden on Iran’s nuclear program, the reopening of the American consulate in East Jerusalem, and Israeli settlement building, during his meeting with the American leader at the White House in August.
The Biden administration is holding indirect negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program, which have been stalled since June. The new administration has also announced plans to reopen its Jerusalem consulate, which had served Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and acted as a de facto US mission to the Palestinians.
When the Trump administration moved the US embassy to Jerusalem, the mission was subsumed into the embassy as the Palestinian Affairs Unit, which was regarded by Palestinians and others as a major blow to their diplomatic standing. Israel opposes the reopening of the consulate.
The administration has also voiced support for a two-state solution and has been reported to convey its disapproval of settlement construction to Jerusalem on multiple occasions.
Bennett, a former director of the settlement umbrella movement who opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state, reassured the settler leaders that construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem would not slow despite US pressure.
“We know what the Democrats are saying,” Bennett told them. “The settlements are illegal and all that. They told me to build less. Guys, you know where I’m coming from. I’m committed to you — as it was, so shall it remain.’”
“I told Biden ‘no’ three times,” he said during the September 9 meeting with leaders of the Yesha Council settlements umbrella group, sources present told Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language sister site.
“Once on the Iranian issue, but I can’t tell you exactly about what — they requested something and I said ‘no.’ The second time was about the Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem — it won’t happen. And the third time was about settlements.”
What could Biden have asked Bennett to promise about Iran? Most likely, he wanted Bennett’s commitment not to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities as long as in Vienna a return by Iran to the talks about the 2015 deal is still possible – i.e, Iran returns to the negotiating table that it left in June. Israelis have been warning for months that Iran is marching pell-mell toward a nuclear weapon; many of Israel’s leaders, including the IDF chief of staff Aviv Kochavi, have said that Israel is prepared to go it alone, if necessary, to prevent Iran from acquiring a bomb. Biden wants to hold Israel back, still deluded in his thinking about Iran’s intentions, still putting his faith in those Vienna negotiations which Iran is deliberately drawing out, by leaving the talks in June and at the same time continuing to hint it will return to the table. The Israelis understand, as the Bidenites apparently do not, that Iran is merely buying time, while it continues to enrich uranium to an ever-higher level, from 60% to weapons-grade 90%, and progresses to the point of manufacturing a nuclear weapon. Unlike the U.S., Israel is not deceived about Iranian intentions, and it cannot wait much longer before launching its own attack on Iranian facilities. Hence Bennett’s first “No” to Biden.
The second “No” was to Biden’s request to reopen the “consulate to the Palestinians” in east Jerusalem. When the American Embassy in Israel was moved to Jerusalem, the consulate was closed and the “consular affairs” office was folded into the Embassy. Biden wants to reopen that consulate, which is rightly understood by the PA as a way to help legitimize the Palestinian claim to Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state. No other country permits a foreign consulate in its capital, whose functions are mainly to service the needs of people hostile to that same country; yet Israel is expected by the Bidenites to do so. Bennett knows that such a consulate cannot be opened without the approval of the host country; he’s told Biden, flatly, “No.” If there is to be an American “consulate to the Palestinians,” it will have to be placed where it rightly belongs, in the capital of the P.A., Ramallah.
The third “No” by Bennett was to Biden’s request that there be no more approvals of settlement building in Judea and Samaria (renamed by the Jordanians in 1950 as “the West Bank”). Bennett is deeply committed to the settler movement. He was for a long time the head of the Yesha Council, the political body representing the settlers. He knows that so much of Jewish history was made in Judea and Samaria, and for that reason alone he will not halt the settlement building, which would imply a possible softening of Israel’s claim to that area. And he further knows that the nearly half-million Israelis who now live in the “West Bank” can not be uprooted. He remembers that removing the 8,500 Israelis who were forcibly pulled out of Gaza In 2005 was a national trauma; uprooting half a million Israelis from the West Bank would be impossible. And Bennett knows that Israel was, and remains, perfectly entitled to build those settlements. The Mandate for Palestine, Article 6, explicitly calls for “encouraging close settlement by Jews on the land.” What “land”? The land that the League of Nations set aside for the future Jewish National Home, which extended from the Golan in the north to the Red Sea in the south, and from the Jordan River in the east to the Mediterranean in the west. Bennett also knows that as a matter of national security,Israel needs to keep control of the West Bank, especially of the Jordan Valley. U.N. Resolution 242 allows Israel to keep land it won in the Six-Day War that it needs to hold onto if it is to have “secure [i.e. defensible] and recognized boundaries.” In addition, the half-million Israeli civilians living in the West Bank also help, by their presence, to secure the area; the adults have all served in the IDF and constitute a kind of auxiliary force to help defend the Jewish state against aggressors from the east.
Once more, let’s listen to what Prime Minister Bennett told Biden in no uncertain terms.
“I told Biden ‘no’ three times,” he said during the September 9 meeting with leaders of the Yesha Council settlements umbrella group.”
No to a promise not to use force against Iran, No to allowing the American “consulate to the Palestinians” to reopen in Jerusalem, No to a freeze on settlement building.
Bennett has now openly committed himself to his three No’s. He won’t, he can’t, he will flatly refuse, to back down. What oh what will the Bidenites do now?