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 Middle East Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Jewish former CNN host Larry King asked a Saudi Arabian fan if taking pictures with Jews is allowed in his country, before agreeing to pose for a photo with the man, The New York Times reported on Wednesday. The world-famous interviewer was leaving the Ritz Carlton hotel in Washington, D.C. with a New York Times reporter when a “dark-skinned man” approached and asked to take a picture with him, according to the publication. Whereupon, King asked the fan where he was from. When the man said Saudi […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    British-Jewish business tycoon Lord Alan Sugar joked on Wednesday that London synagogues will likely be empty during Yom Kippur with congregants fleeing to watch the match-up of two leading English soccer teams known for having hordes of Jewish fans. “Spurs V Arsenal cup game drawn on most important Jewish festival,” Lord Sugar pointed out on Twitter. “Both teams have loads of Jewish fans. Conclusion Synagogues will be empty.” North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal FC will go head-to-head in the Capital One Cup third-round […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Two Jewish men were the only unwitting participants in a social experiment conducted by Jimmy Kimmel, for his popular TV show. As part of a candid-camera-like sketch featured Monday night on Jimmy Kimmel Live, the host devised different street scenes to observe human behavior — in particular, to see how long it would take people walking down California’s bustling Hollywood Boulevard to notice and interact with others in distress. One scene involved a man in a Spongebob Squarepants costume who had “fallen down” on the sidewalk and needed help […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    A major Jewish organization rebuked actress Natalie Portman on Monday for saying in a recent interview that Jews put too much emphasis on teaching about the Holocaust relative to other genocides. The Israeli-born movie star told the U.K.’s Independent that the Jewish community needs to examine how much focus it puts on Holocaust education over other issues. She said she was shocked when she learned that a genocide was taking place in Rwanda while she was in school learning only about the horrors of the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    JNS.org – A new book that draws parallels between the Holocaust and the Palestinian Nakba (the Arabic term for the displacement of Palestinian refugees during Israel’s War of Independence) has sparked outrage ahead of an official book launch, to be hosted by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute on Sept. 7. The Zionist organization Im Tirtzu wrote a letter to the institute demanding that it cancel an event it planned in honor of the book’s authors, under the title The Holocaust and […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Famed actress Natalie Portman warned on Friday against the use of Holocaust education to evoke fear and paranoia. In an interview with the U.K. Independent she added that the trauma should make Jews more empathetic to others who have also experienced hatred. “Sometimes it can be subverted to fearmongering and like ‘Another Holocaust is going to happen,’” the Israeli-American star said. “We need to, of course, be aware that hatred exists, antisemitism exists against all sorts of people, not in the same way. I […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    The Tribalist, by Louis Marano, is ostensibly a work of fiction but at its core a kind of love song by a gentile journalist for the State of Israel, and especially its secular Zionist core. (Because of the relentless attacks by left-wing polemicists on Israel’s allegedly “messianic” fringe, it’s often forgotten that most of Israel’s founders and all its leaders have been secular Zionists.) The author, the product of an Italian-American family in Buffalo, served two tours of duty in […]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Rugelach Roundtable: Does Beloved Pastry Need Dairy to Taste Good?

    Rugelach Roundtable: Does Beloved Pastry Need Dairy to Taste Good?

    JNS.org – Rugelach (singular: rugala) are a beloved traditional Jewish pastry, with a quirky history to boot, but they often present a kosher conundrum. Though parve rugelach are often a preferred dessert after a meat meal for those observing kosher laws (which stipulate a waiting period between eating meat and dairy), some of today’s most popular rugelach are known for their dairy fillings. Pastry chef Paula Shoyer—author of the books “The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy” and […]

    Read more →