The Washington Post reports: As Secretary of State John F. Kerry resumes talks here Wednesday in the quest to create “two states for two people,” a vocal faction in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is, more openly than ever, opposing the very idea of a Palestinian state — and putting forward its own plans to take, rather than give away, territory.
Ministers in Netanyahu’s ruling coalition and leaders of his party, the Likud, are in revolt against the international community’s long-held consensus that there should be two states between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. In the process, they are seeking to overturn the commitments of every U.S. president since Bill Clinton and at least four Israeli prime ministers, including the current one.
While once content to simply voice their opposition to giving up what they see as Jewish land or rights in the West Bank, these two-state opponents have gone beyond shouting “no” and are preparing details of their own vision for how Israel should proceed unilaterally after the current round of peace talks fails — which they say is inevitable.
“The day after peace talks fail, we need to have Plan B,” said Knesset member Tzipi Hotovely, a rising star in the Likud party and deputy minister of transportation in Netanyahu’s government.
Instead of a sovereign Palestinian nation arising in the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital — which has been the focus of on-again, off-again peace negotiations since the Oslo Accords in 1993 — the two-state opponents envision Israel annexing large swaths of the West Bank. [Continue reading...]
M.J. Rosenberg writes: Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave a major speech the other day at Bar Ilan University. Most of it was saber rattling at Iran. But enough of it was about the Palestinians to steel my belief that negotiating with Netanyahu is a waste of time and that Kerry’s initiative is a charade.
The centerpiece of his discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was this: his demand that Palestinians recognize Israel “as a Jewish state.”
This is the nation state of the Jewish people….Recognize the Jewish state. As long as you refuse to do so, there will never be peace. Recognize our right to live here in our own sovereign state, our nation state – only then will peace be possible. I emphasize this here – this is an essential condition.
It’s a new demand, one that only became Israeli policy when Netanyahu came to office. Every prime minister prior to Netanyahu only demanded that the Palestinians recognize Israel. But then, on September 9, 1993, PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat sent this statement to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (in exchange for Rabin’s recognition of the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people). This agreement stands to this day and is recognized as binding by both sides.
The PLO recognizes the right of Israel to exist in peace and security. The PLO accepts United Nations resolutions 242 and 338. The PLO commits itself to the peaceful resolution of the conflict between the two sides and declares that all outstanding issues related to final status will be resolved through negotiations.
This commitment — encompassing Palestinian acceptance of Israel’s three long-standing conditions – led to Rabin’s agreement to begin negotiations with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu, who was then leader of the Likud opposition, vehemently opposed Rabin’s acceptance of Arafat’s concessions and began a campaign of incitement against Rabin himself. He understood then, as he does now, that Palestinian recognition of Israel meant that the largest obstacle to a land-for-peace agreement was gone. [Continue reading...]
Jamie Stern-Weiner writes: Having declared independence in May 1948, the new State of Israel was lacking in international legitimacy. Recognizing the deficiency, Israeli officials invested tremendous effort over the course of 1948-1949 in securing Israel’s admission to the United Nations.
A recent paper identifies three arguments advanced by Israeli diplomats at the time in support of Israel’s application:
- Peace: “Holding the peace process hostage” to UN admission, Israeli officials argued that the latter would advance peace talks. This approach — of insisting that UN admission precede a peace agreement — was championed by Israel’s first ambassador to the UN, Abba Eban. Speaking before the General Assembly, Eban impressed upon delegates that Israel’s admission would “contribute to the rapid conclusion of [peace] agreements.” Indeed, “nothing could be more prejudicial to the prospects of conciliation and peace than…doubts regarding Israel’s international status,” for why should the Arab states recognize Israel “if the United Nations hesitated to do so itself”?
- Equality: The UN should accept Israel’s application in order to place it “on an equal footing with the Arab states in the ongoing armistice and upcoming peace talks.” “Surely,” Eban urged the General Assembly in December 1948, “the cause of conciliation would be advanced if both parties…had the same obligations, bore the same responsibility and enjoyed the same status.” It is “obvious,” he continued, that peace efforts “would be gravely undermined” without “a serious effort…to place both parties on an equal footing.” “At every stage of its checkered relations with the Arab world,” he repeated four months later, “Israel had felt equality of status to be the essential condition of partnership.”
- Prestige: The UN’s legitimacy as a body aiming at “universality” would be undermined should it reject Israel’s application. UN prestige was particularly implicated in the case of Israel, whose establishment and recognition the UN had itself recommended. In rejecting Israel’s application, then, the UN would in effect be “repudiating its own decision.” “It would be an extraordinary paradox,” Eban declared in May 1949, “if the United Nations were to close its doors upon the State which it had helped to quicken into active life.” If it did so, “the future authority of the United Nations” would suffer.
In September 2011, after decades of fruitless bilateral negotiations, the Palestinian leadership applied for admission to the UN. Facing a certain US veto in the Security Council, the request was never voted on. [Continue reading...]
Ground breaking research performed by Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian researchers examines for the first time the regional implications of the implementation of the two-state solution.
Under the auspices of the European Union Partnership for Peace program and co-sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Israel, the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Strategic Dialogue at Netanya Academic College, in partnership with Data Studies and Consultation and the Amman Center for Peace & Development, have engaged in a two year, tri-lateral research project to examine the regional effects of a two-state solution. The research is published as an edited book in October, 2013 in three languages (English, Hebrew, and Arabic) and is being presented to key decision-makers, opinionshapers, and publics in the region, attempting to affect regional processes, by illustrating to leaders what “the day after” a peace agreement would look like.
The participating researchers, leading academics, retired generals, and former diplomats, were divided into five research teams, each one comprised of one Israeli, one Palestinian, and one Jordanian, with each team given the task to examine how the establishment of a Palestinian state would affect a certain key fields, described as follows.
The following is a summary of each research group’s findings. [Read more...]
Ian S. Lustick writes: Conceived as early as the 1930s, the idea of two states between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea all but disappeared from public consciousness between 1948 and 1967. Between 1967 and 1973 it re-emerged, advanced by a minority of “moderates” in each community. By the 1990s it was embraced by majorities on both sides as not only possible but, during the height of the Oslo peace process, probable. But failures of leadership in the face of tremendous pressures brought Oslo crashing down. These days no one suggests that a negotiated two-state “solution” is probable. The most optimistic insist that, for some brief period, it may still be conceivable.
But many Israelis see the demise of the country as not just possible, but probable. The State of Israel has been established, not its permanence. The most common phrase in Israeli political discourse is some variation of “If X happens (or doesn’t), the state will not survive!” Those who assume that Israel will always exist as a Zionist project should consider how quickly the Soviet, Pahlavi Iranian, apartheid South African, Baathist Iraqi and Yugoslavian states unraveled, and how little warning even sharp-eyed observers had that such transformations were imminent.
In all these cases, presumptions about what was “impossible” helped protect brittle institutions by limiting political imagination. And when objective realities began to diverge dramatically from official common sense, immense pressures accumulated.
JUST as a balloon filled gradually with air bursts when the limit of its tensile strength is passed, there are thresholds of radical, disruptive change in politics. When those thresholds are crossed, the impossible suddenly becomes probable, with revolutionary implications for governments and nations. As we see vividly across the Middle East, when forces for change and new ideas are stifled as completely and for as long as they have been in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, sudden and jagged change becomes increasingly likely.
History offers many such lessons. Britain ruled Ireland for centuries, annexing it in 1801. By the mid-19th century the entire British political class treated Ireland’s permanent incorporation as a fact of life. But bottled-up Irish fury produced repeated revolts. By the 1880s, the Irish question was the greatest issue facing the country; it led to mutiny in the army and near civil war before World War I. Once the war ended, it took only a few years until the establishment of an independent Ireland. What was inconceivable became a fact.
France ruled Algeria for 130 years and never questioned the future of Algeria as an integral part of France. But enormous pressures accumulated, exploding into a revolution that left hundreds of thousands dead. Despite France’s military victory over the rebels in 1959, Algeria soon became independent, and Europeans were evacuated from the country.
And when Mikhail S. Gorbachev sought to save Soviet Communism by reforming it with the policies of glasnost and perestroika, he relied on the people’s continuing belief in the permanence of the Soviet structure. But the forces for change that had already accumulated were overwhelming. Unable to separate freedom of expression and market reforms from the rest of the Soviet state project, Mr. Gorbachev’s policies pushed the system beyond its breaking point. Within a few years, both the Soviet Union and the Communist regime were gone.
Obsessive focus on preserving the theoretical possibility of a two-state solution is as irrational as rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic rather than steering clear of icebergs. But neither ships in the night nor the State of Israel can avoid icebergs unless they are seen. [Continue reading...]
Joseph Dana writes: Twenty years after the Oslo Accords were signed on a sun-drenched White House lawn, the two-state solution has become the butt of jokes, in both Israel and Palestine.
Among Palestinians, the phrase “Oslo Accords” has become a concise way to refer to land theft, economic domination and the failure of the international community to pressure Israel into moving towards a two-state solution.
Meanwhile Israel, despite a superior army, a tendency for violence and the backing of the United States, finds itself stymied by internal indecision and infighting about a sustainable solution.
Israeli settlers and their supporters in the government have taken advantage of society’s uncertainty. And the more deeply the occupation entrenches itself, the more valuable control over the West Bank becomes for Israel.
To put it simply, Israel is in the throes of creating its own worst nightmare: a binational state.
Walk around any West Bank city these days and you will find people who are quick to say that Israel wants a “South African” solution to the conflict. That is, they want to control the land and administer it through an unequal system of governance which affords privileges and rights on the basis of religion.
Many Palestinians have come to understand that Israel could not disengage from them, even if it wanted to. They see that the land of the West Bank is simply too valuable, that holding the Palestinian economy captive is too lucrative and that the appeasement of radical Jewish settlers is too convenient; for these reasons Israel is unwilling to end its control and really begin to move towards a two state solution.
All but the most starry-eyed and emotional supporters of the two- state solution can now clearly see the reality of the current situation: Israel has built its system of domination into the very fabric of life for all between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, but at the same time had been timidly reticent to take responsibility for the results of its actions. [Continue reading...]
Avi Shlaim writes: Exactly 20 years have passed since the Oslo accords were signed on the White House lawn. For all their shortcomings and ambiguities, the accords constituted a historic breakthrough in the century-old conflict between Jews and Arabs in Palestine. It was the first peace agreement between the two principal parties to the conflict: Israelis and Palestinians.
The accords represented real progress on three fronts: the Palestine Liberation Organisation recognised the state of Israel; Israel recognised the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people; and both sides agreed to resolve their outstanding differences by peaceful means. Mutual recognition replaced mutual rejection. In short, this promised at least the beginning of a reconciliation between two bitterly antagonistic national movements. And the hesitant handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat clinched the historic compromise.
Critical to the architecture of Oslo was the notion of gradualism. The text did not address any of the key issues in this dispute: Jerusalem; the right of return of 1948 refugees; the status of Jewish settlements built on occupied Palestinian land; or the borders of the Palestinian entity. All these “permanent status” issues were deferred for negotiations towards the end of the five-year transition period. Basically, this was a modest experiment in Palestinian self-government, starting with the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho.
The text did not promise or even mention an independent Palestinian state at the end of the transition period. The Palestinians believed that in return for giving up their claim to 78% of historic Palestine, they would gain an independent state in the remaining 22%, with a capital city in Jerusalem. They were to be bitterly disappointed. [Continue reading...]
The Guardian reports: Israel has said it will release “heavyweight” Palestinian prisoners as part of an agreement to enter preliminary talks in Washington, with the aim of an eventual resumption of long-stalled peace negotiations.
Hours after the US secretary of state, John Kerry, announced that the two sides in the conflict had agreed to discuss terms for negotiations, Yuval Steiniz, Israel’s minister for international relations, said a prisoner release would be carried out in stages.
“I don’t want to give numbers but there will be heavyweight prisoners who have been in jail for tens of years,” he told Israel Radio. The release of long-serving prisoners has been a key Palestinian demand.
But Steinitz said Israel would balk at agreeing on the pre-1967 border as the parameter for territorial negotiations. “There is no chance we will agree to enter any negotiations that begin with defining territorial borders or concessions by Israel, nor a [settlement] construction freeze,” he said.
Kerry’s announcement of progress in his four-month mission to revive the Middle East peace process was delivered in Amman on Friday night after four months of intensive diplomacy. It received mixed interpretations. [Continue reading...]
Rachel Shabi writes: Just for a moment, let’s feign astonishment at this new revelation: Naftali Bennett has just become the latest Israeli official to declare the two-state solution a dead end. Speaking at a conference for Jewish settlers, he said the idea of negotiating for an independent Palestinian state alongside an Israeli one was “futile” and “hopeless” and that the only Israeli approach to this conflict should be to “build, build, build” in the Palestinian West Bank (sorry, in the land that has been Israel “for 3,000 years”).
That last line should make clear that this is not a sudden Bennett endorsement of a one-state solution, with equal rights for all.
But it should, of course, be no great surprise that coalition partner Bennett, the Israeli trade minister and leader of ultranationalist party Jewish Home, should come up with this kind of comment. He is not the first to do so, either. The past few years have been studded with similar pronouncements from high-profile officials.
Just last week the deputy defence minister, Danny Danon, said that the coalition government flatly opposed a two-state solution. Another Knesset member, Tzipi Hotovely, has called a two-state solution an “illusion”.
None of that is so dissimilar from statements made by other Israeli ministers throughout the occupation. For instance, former prime minister Ariel Sharon, back in 1998, summarised the official approach when he gave this advice to the settler movement: “Everyone there should move, should run, should grab more hills, expand more territory. Everything that’s grabbed will be in our hands.” [Continue reading...]
Reuters reports: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled readiness on Wednesday to consider a 2002 Arab peace plan whose terms were recently softened to include possible land swaps between Israel and the Palestinians.
“We are listening to every initiative – the Arab initiative has been mentioned – and we are prepared to discuss initiatives that are proposals and not edicts,” he said in a speech in parliament.
Netanyahu spoke during a debate on the plan, proposed at an Arab League summit 11 years ago. Israel had rejected the initiative that offered normalized ties for it with much of the Arab world, citing its call for complete withdrawal from land captured in the 1967 Middle East war as a main stumbling block.
The Times of Israel reports: Israel and the Palestinian Authority tried to conduct backchannel negotiations, or at least initiate them, in late 2010 and early 2011 in a series of secret meetings between the prime minister’s envoy, attorney Yitzhak Molcho, and the head of PLO Executive Committee, Yasser Abed Rabbo. Abed Rabbo revealed these contacts in an interview with this correspondent here last week.
According to Abed Rabbo, during the conversations, which culminated in a meeting between him and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Molcho’s house in central Israel, Netanyahu seemed ready to renew negotiations within the framework of two states based on the June 4, 1967, lines. But the prime minister subsequently backed away from the contacts and the channel was discontinued.
Abed Rabbo said he and Netanyahu met for two-and-a-half hours in mid-February 2011, and mentioned — but did not negotiate over — various final status issues, including borders, Jerusalem and refugees. There had been no further contact since that meeting, Abed Rabbo said.
“The meeting with the prime minister occurred in mid-February, I think on the 15th,” Abed Rabbo recounted, beginning a detailed account of the contacts. “It was held in Molcho’s house in Caesarea. There were only four people present: Bibi, me, Molcho, and his wife. However, there were a series of meetings beforehand — I’d say 10 — between me and an envoy for the prime minister. The meetings were held in Jerusalem, again in Molcho’s house there. We discussed all the issues. But I sat and demanded in those meetings that Israel present its map for a two-state solution concept, and publicly declare its willingness to speak about the 1967 lines as the framework for the meetings. Molcho was not prepared to present a map and the meetings were truly exhausting, a lot of chatter without agreements. They were kept secret until now, actually. The only ones who knew about them on the Palestinian side were Abu Mazen (the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas) and Salam Fayyad (the Palestinian prime minister). (Saeb) Erekat (the head of the Palestinian negotiating team) was not in the know. [Continue reading...]
Andrew O’Hehir writes: Let’s give Mitt Romney some credit for candor on the Middle East, if for almost nothing else. President Obama’s soaring rhetoric in his campaign-style speech this week in Jerusalem, when he urged the Israeli public to “create the change that you want to see” and laid out a moral and philosophical case for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem, showed us the leader of the free world at the top of his oratorical game. But Obama didn’t go to Israel with any concrete plan to restart negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, a pair of weakened politicians who lack clear mandates from their own people. Despite vague promises to send Secretary of State John Kerry into the breach in coming weeks, it’s by no means clear that he has one.
In contrast, Romney’s infamous private summary of his Middle East policy – “we kick the ball down the field and hope that, ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it” (he never used the phrase “kick the can down the road,” although that’s how it has entered the popular discourse) – has the unmistakable tang of realpolitik rather than wishful thinking. Given the long history of failure by all sides in this arena, it’s not even cynical to suggest that this is precisely Obama’s strategy: Try to soften attitudes on the ground a little, win over a few hearts and minds on both sides, and then gratefully hand over the problem to another hopelessly conflicted president in 2017.
What we can also detect in Romney’s remark and, a little deeper below the surface, in Obama’s Jerusalem speech is the growing sense in many quarters that the two-state solution is dead – that it’s no longer practical or possible to establish an independent Palestinian nation alongside the Jewish state of Israel, if it ever was. While the “one-state solution,” however conceived, remains a semi-forbidden zone in mainstream international policy discourse, it keeps cropping up all over the place on both the right and the left. Within a few weeks last summer, leading Israeli settler activist Dani Dayan published an Op-Ed in the New York Times urging the international community to give up “its vain attempts to attain the unattainable two-state solution,” while radical journalists Antony Loewenstein and Ahmed Moor published an anthology of writing by academics and activists entitled “After Zionism: One State for Israel and Palestine.”
Less than a month later came the English translation of eminent Israeli sociologist Yehouda Shenhav’s explosive essay, “Beyond the Two-State Solution,” which imagines a bi-national, bilingual federal democracy of Jews and Arabs that would encompass the entire territory of present-day Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. Shenhav, Dayan, Loewenstein, Moor and the leadership of Israel’s staunch enemies Hamas and Hezbollah might agree about nothing else, including which day follows Tuesday and whether the sky is blue. But they’d all agree that a negotiated two-state solution won’t work. Indeed, Israeli film director Dror Moreh, who made the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Gatekeepers” and falls somewhere toward the pragmatic center of Israeli politics, recently told me the same thing. He sounded rueful about holding that opinion and thinks it’s still worth trying but suspects it’s simply too late. [Continue reading...]
Ben White writes: The slogan “two states for two peoples” has long been used by those who support the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Ironically, however, such a framework risks cementing Israeli apartheid and Jewish privilege, evoking the same sorts of arguments put forward by defenders of South Africa’s historical regime of systematic discrimination.
There are three problems with the “two states for two peoples” formulation. Firstly, the meaning of a Palestinian “state” has changed to the point that it is problematic to even use the term. Support for Palestinian statehood – at least rhetorically – has become the shared position of everyone from Tony Blair to Netanyahu, via Ariel Sharon. Some Israel advocacy groups (the slightly smarter ones) even campaign on this basis.
So what’s going on here, when someone like Netanyahu can boast to Congress how he has “publicly committed to a solution of two states for two peoples”? Well note the wording of the Israeli government’s position when Ehud Olmert was prime minister and Tzipi Livni was foreign minister.
“The government will strive to shape the permanent borders of the state of Israel as a Jewish state, with a Jewish majority.”
In other words, the question of borders is not so much about land, as it is about demographics. Another example is Yitzhak Rabin. When Shimon Peres lauded the legacy of the assassinated prime minister in November 2011, he claimed that “[Rabin's] diplomatic path has been accepted and is now held by the majority, a solution of two states for two peoples”.
But what did Rabin mean by this? Shortly before he was killed in 1995, the then-PM told the Knesset that he envisaged a “Palestinian entity … which is less than a state”. Rabin’s “permanent solution” included Jerusalem as Israel’s “united capital” (including the illegal settlements such as Ma’ale Adumim), annexation of colony blocs, the “establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria”, and a border “in the broadest meaning of that term” down the Jordan Valley. This is a road map to walled-in reservations, not statehood – and it’s remarkably similar to Netanyahu’s own vision. [Continue reading...]
Amira Hass writes: When Habayit Hayehudi party leader and rising political star Naftali Bennett calls for annexing Area C, the part of the West Bank under full Israeli security and civil control, he is following the logic of every single Israeli government: maximize the territory, minimize the Arabs.
Some may even interpret this as elections propaganda in favor of Habayit Hayehudi and endorse it warmly.
Bennett can propose annexation because every governing coalition since the Six-Day War – whether it was led by the Likud or Labor (or its precursor, Alignment) party, and whether its partners were Mafdal, Shas or Meretz – laid the spiritual and policy groundwork for him.
According to Bennett, about 60 percent of the West Bank – a.k.a. Area C – is annexable. What’s important about Area C is not whether 50,000 Palestinians live there, as democratic, benevolent Bennett claims, while suggesting to naturalize them and grant them Israeli citizenship, or whether the number is around 150,000 (as my colleague Chaim Levinson reminded us earlier this week).
Don’t worry. Even if there are 300,000 Palestinians living in Area C and all of them agree to become citizens, the Israeli bureaucracy will find ways to embitter their lives (the way it does the lives of the Bedouin in the Negev), revoke their citizenship (the way it does the residency status of Palestinians in East Jerusalem) and leave them without the little share of their land they still have (the way it did to the Palestinian citizens of Israel within the 1948 borders). This is why Bennett can allow himself to be munificent.
The true story behind area C is that there aren’t 400,000 Palestinians living there today; the villages have not expanded in accordance with their natural population growth; the number of residents has not grown; the herders can no longer graze their flocks freely; many of the inhabitants lack access to water, electricity, school and medical clinics; Israel has not been taken to the International Criminal Court in the Hague for destroying the cisterns; there are no paved roads in and between villages.
Many of the people have been living in tents and caves for 30 to 40 years – against their will and contrary to their hopes – and the Palestinian towns cannot expand properly and remove old industrial zones a reasonable distance from residential neighborhoods.
As I have said a million times and will say another million times: Area C is a tremendous success of Israeli policy and its implementers, the army and the Civil Administration. It is part of a farsighted, well-executed, perfectly thought-out policy that has succeeded precisely in that there aren’t 400,000 Palestinians living in the area. Bennett is probably decent/honest enough to acknowledge the debt he owes to the previous generations of Israeli politicians and military officials who warmed the country up for his annexation plan, ensuring its acceptance would be as effortless as a knife cutting butter in the sun.
In an interview on Israeli television in 2008, Uzi Arad, who went on to become Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser, said:
[A]t the end of the day, I don’t think the majority of Israelis want to see themselves responsible for the Palestinians. We do not want to control the Palestinian population. It’s unnecessary. What we do want is to care for our borders, for the Jewish settlements and for areas which are unpopulated and to have our security interests served well. But also to take under our responsibility these populations which, believe me, are not the most productive on earth, would become a burden. We want to relieve ourselves of the burden of the Palestinian populations – not territories. It is territory we want to preserve, but populations we want to rid ourselves of.
David Remnick writes: At a makeshift theatre in the port of Tel Aviv, hundreds of young immigrants from Melbourne, the Five Towns, and other points in the Anglophone diaspora gathered recently to hear from the newest phenomenon in Israeli politics, Naftali Bennett. A forty-year-old settlement leader, software entrepreneur, and ex-Army commando, Bennett promises to build a sturdy electoral bridge between the religious and the secular, the hilltop outposts of the West Bank and the start-up suburbs of the coastal plain. This is something new in the history of the Jewish state. Bennett is a man of the far right, but he is eager to advertise his cosmopolitan bona fides. Although he was the director general of the Yesha Council, the main political body of the settler movement, he does not actually live in a settlement. He lives in Ra’anana, a small city north of Tel Aviv that is full of programmers and executives. He is as quick to make reference to an episode of “Seinfeld” as he is to the Torah portion of the week. He constantly updates his Facebook page. A dozen years ago, he moved to the Upper East Side of Manhattan to seek his fortune in high tech, and his wife, Gilat, went to work as a pastry chef at chic restaurants like Aureole, Amuse, and Bouley Bakery. Her crème brûlée, he declares proudly, “restored the faith of the Times food critic in the virtues of crème brûlée.”
Closer to his ideological core is an unswerving conviction that the Palestinian Arabs of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem might as well relinquish their hopes for a sovereign state. The Green Line, which demarcates the occupied territories from Israel proper, “has no meaning,” he says, and only a friyer, a sucker, would think otherwise. As one of his slick campaign ads says, “There are certain things that most of us understand will never happen: ‘The Sopranos’ are not coming back for another season . . . and there will never be a peace plan with the Palestinians.” If Bennett becomes Prime Minister someday—and his ambition is as plump and glaring as a harvest moon—he intends to annex most of the West Bank and let Arab cities like Ramallah, Nablus, and Jenin be “self-governing” but “under Israeli security.”
“I will do everything in my power to make sure they never get a state,” he says of the Palestinians. No more negotiations, “no more illusions.” Let them eat crème brûlée. [Continue reading...]