Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Netanyahu Must Present a Coherent Settlement Strategy

December 23, 2013 2:04 am 0 comments

The Psagot Settlement. Photo: Wikipedia.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu enjoys enormous public support. Most Israelis, including many of those who generally oppose his policies, supported his single-handed global campaign against a nuclear Iran and the delicate diplomacy he employed in resisting unreasonable demands from President Obama whilst retaining the support of the American people and Congress.

Given this level of support, Netanyahu has a rare opportunity of developing a coherent policy strategy, which is currently lacking, particularly with regard to the settlements.

He has a better understanding of the world of diplomacy than any other Israeli politician. But heading a coalition government comprised of conflicting groups ranging from Tzipi Livni’s dovish Tnuah to Naftali Bennett’s hawkish Bayit Yehudi – not to mention the factions within Likud itself – has made it extraordinarily difficult to develop a coherent strategy.

Besides this, Netanyahu faces ceaseless pressure from the Americans and Europeans, is often intimidated by a rabidly hostile media and unduly influenced by fickle public opinion polls. These elements combined, frequently divert him from his course and result in paralysis, zigzagging and the implementation of contradictory policies and statements which benefit our adversaries and confuse our friends.

For example: Netanyahu condemns Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority for their intransigence, incitement to hatred, calls for the demise of the Jewish state and criminal behavior. Yet, in order to placate the Americans and the dovish elements of his coalition, he frequently praises Abbas as a “genuine peace partner”.

But it is the absence of a coherent policy in relation to settlement construction which has most undermined our global status. On this explosive issue, over which there are serious and legitimate divisions within Israel, the Prime Minister’s inconsistencies have been a major contributing factor towards alienating our allies.

Netanyahu reassures right-wing elements that he will continue authorizing settlement construction. But in response to American pressure, settlement construction has largely been frozen. This erratic approach and repeated contradictory ill-timed statements have heightened divisiveness within the country and enabled our adversaries to depict us as duplicitous.

It has also led to a bizarre blurring of issues. For example, Netanyahu sought to compensate the abominable decision to release Palestinian terrorists with blood on their hands by authorizing more construction, unintentionally conveying the perception that settlement construction was a form of retribution against Palestinian malfeasance and terror.

Virtually the entire world is deluded into believing that settlements represent the principal obstacle to peace. In addition to making Israel appear dysfunctional and devious, our contradictory policies enable our enemies to blur the distinction between construction in the major settlement blocs and east Jerusalem which will always remain part of Israel, and the isolated outposts and settlements located in heavily Arab populated areas within the disputed territories.

Our enemies exploit this confusion to convince much of the world to denounce all construction over the green line as illegal, even including the Jewish suburbs of east Jerusalem. They leverage this further by using it as a benchmark to define our future borders as limited to the green line with minor adjustments – without reference to defensible boundaries.

With the ongoing confrontation with the Americans, domestic party political considerations can no longer justify the government’s burying its head in the sand and avoiding this issue. To avert disaster, Netanyahu must now seize the moment to develop a coherent and consistent government policy.

He must strive, initially behind closed doors, to formulate a long-term strategy to be endorsed by leaders of the coalition. They should resolve, as a matter of policy, to commit to intensifying construction in those areas over the green line which would unquestionably be retained by Israel. But in isolated settlements primarily located in the disputed territories in Arab populated areas, a status quo in relation to expansion should be maintained.

Adopting such a policy would deeply distress some of the most idealistic and Zionist elements in the country. But nevertheless, even those who unreservedly support all aspects of the settlement enterprise and the legitimate right of Jews to live anywhere in Eretz Yisrael must face the harsh realities confronting us and recognize that the time has come for clarity and tough decisions. The government must act rationally and adopt policies promoting the national interest and protecting the security interests of the nation which is facing a bitterly hostile world.

To persist with maximalist positions in this situation could threaten core security and other crucial areas where we are being pressured to make additional concessions. For example, it is insufficient to merely demand that Israel maintain a presence in the Jordan Valley. We must also resist efforts to impose the 1949 armistice lines with minor adjustments. We must insist on adherence to UN resolution 242 which refers to defensible borders. We must never concede to the division of Jerusalem. The government must accept the daunting responsibility, set aside emotions and act rationally and pragmatically. Our leaders should realize that if they do not succeed in achieving minimum long term security and recognition of the need for defensible borders, their failure will haunt future Israeli generations.

We are under no illusions. The current Palestinian leadership has displayed virtually zero intentions of reaching a settlement. They depict themselves as occupied underdogs in order to obtain more territory from us. Whatever concessions we make, they will readily accept but their goal remains the dismantling the Jewish state in stages.

Regrettably, the Americans are promoting an Alice in Wonderland scenario based on the false premise that there is a Palestinian peace partner and are pressuring us into further unrealistic concessions that would threaten our security. This is compounded by Secretary of State John Kerry, who not so long ago described Syria’s Bashar Assad a as a “reformer”, now frenetically seeking to compensate for his dismal political failures by engineering a cosmetic peace settlement at Israel’s expense.

If, when negotiations collapse, we become the losers in the blame game, we could face devastating repercussions.

The potency of our adversaries should not be underestimated. It is highly unlikely that we will be able to accept the Obama Administration proposals. The BDS movement has made massive progress in Europe and is gaining ground amongst liberals and in academia in the United States. Our enemies are determined to replicate the boycott against apartheid in South Africa and bring Israel to its knees. We are dangerously isolated.

Netanyahu’s leadership qualities will now be put to the test. He has popular support and no real competitor and thus in a position to pressure his coalition leaders Lieberman, Lapid, Bennett and Livni – and the hawks dominating his own Likud party – to work together in the national interest to craft common denominators for achieving a comprehensive strategic policy. This must be designed to enable us to stand firm and united to confront the mounting international pressures facing us in the months ahead.

If extreme right or left ideologues are unwilling to agree to a consensus on these issues, Netanyahu must seriously consider dissolving the government and creating a new coalition committed to broad policy guidelines which 75% of Israelis would enthusiastically support.

Should he achieve this goal, he would undoubtedly be recorded in history as a great leader who overcame partisan politics and intrigues and succeeded in adopting a coherent policy reflecting the national interest.

The writer’s website can be viewed at www.wordfromjerusalem.com. He may be contacted at ileibler@leibler.com

This column was originally published by the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture First English-Language Trailer Debuts for Natalie Portman’s Hebrew Film ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness,’ Based on Amos Oz’s Memoir (VIDEO)

    First English-Language Trailer Debuts for Natalie Portman’s Hebrew Film ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness,’ Based on Amos Oz’s Memoir (VIDEO)

    The first English-language trailer for Natalie Portman’s directorial debut — A Tale of Love and Darkness — based on Israeli author Amos Oz’s memoir, was released on Thursday. The movie, originally filmed in Hebrew, tells the story of Oz’s childhood in Jerusalem at the end of the British Mandate and the early years of Israel’s independence. Portman, who was born in Israel and speaks fluent Hebrew, plays the lead role of Fania, the author’s mother. She struggles to raise her son as she deals with inner demons, a […]

    Read more →
  • Features As Berlin Prices Rise, Israelis Turn East for German Real-Estate Bargains

    As Berlin Prices Rise, Israelis Turn East for German Real-Estate Bargains

    JNS.org – Sonnenallee, a street in Berlin’s Neukölln district, looks like it comes straight out of an Arab city — so much so that it goes by the nickname “Gaza Strip.” Kebab and bakery shops are advertised in Arabic; men sit in men-only coffee shops; and bridal shop windows showcase glittery, not-so-stylish gowns. But take a random turn, and you’ll find a swath of bars, burger joints, and Indian restaurants where hip Berliners announce that they have arrived to urban coolness. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Slays in ‘Wonder Woman’ Trailer (VIDEO)

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Slays in ‘Wonder Woman’ Trailer (VIDEO)

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot engages in fierce action sequences in the new Wonder Woman trailer, which Warner Bros. premiered during the San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday. The nearly 3-minute trailer, the first to debut for the superhero film, shows scenes of Diana, princess of the Amazons, fighting alongside men in the battle against the world’s toughest enemies. The first shot of the video shows Wonder Woman discovering a man, Steve Trevor (played by actor Chris Pine), washed ashore. The clip then takes viewers to the all-female island where Wonder Woman was born. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    Is diplomacy worthwhile, even if the end result isn’t what we hoped for? That is the question, among many others, posed by the new play Oslo, by J.T. Rogers. Making its New York debut at Lincoln Center, the play examines the secret diplomatic process that led to the historic 1993 peace accords. The character of Shimon Peres makes an appearance onstage — and he, along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, tower over the proceedings. But they mainly do so in absentia. Instead, […]

    Read more →
  • Spirituality/Tradition Sports Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    JNS.org – Other than being part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, Sandy Koufax and Dean Kremer have something else in common: a respect for Jewish tradition. Koufax — who was recently ranked by ESPN as the best left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball (MLB) history — decided not to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because the game fell on Yom Kippur. “I would do the same,” Kremer said in an interview. Last month, the 20-year-old Kremer became […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    The famed lead guitarist of British rock band Queen, Brian May, encouraged Jewish singer-songwriter Adam Lambert to perform in Hebrew during their upcoming joint concert in Israel, an entertainment industry advocacy organization reported on Tuesday. During a recent interview with Israeli television personality Assi Azar, May was played a 2005 video of Lambert singing the popular song Shir L’Shalom, (Song for Peace). May was so impressed by Lambert’s singing of the Hebrew track that he told the American singer, “We have to do that. Let’s […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    JNS.org – Kenyan-born marathoner Lonah Chemtai is expected to compete for Israel at the Olympics Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil next month after gaining a last minute approval. “I am very proud [to represent Israel] and I hope to achieve a new personal best time,” Chemtai told Reuters. Chemtai, who grew up a rural village in western Kenya, first came to Israel in 2009 to care of the children of her country’s ambassador to Israel. The 27-year-old runner recently gained […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    To date or not to date? That is not the question for most Modern Orthodox singles in New York. The question is when will they find their future spouses, and when will their families stop nagging them about having babies? Inspired by the success of the Israeli show “Srugim,” Leah Gottfried, 25, decided she would create and star in her own show, “Soon By You.” “Dating is so serious already,” Gottfried said. “We wanted to take a lighter approach and laugh at the […]

    Read more →