And the Walls Come Tumbling Down: Israeli PM Netanyahu on Notice from both Left and Right

By Carlyn Meyer

If there was any doubt about which side came out stronger from the failed Kerry peace initiative, it’s been put to rest by events since. Neither side wanted to be the first to disrupt the talks and be blamed for their demise. Once Netanyahu reneged on releasing the last contingent of Palestinian prisoners, under an agreement he made with Senator Kerry as incentive for Palestinian participation, Abbass fought tit-for-tat. First, he filed petitions for recognition with fifteen new international agencies. When Bibi called foul and still refused to hand over the prisoners, Abbas announced an agreement between Fatah and Hamas to reconcile.

Prime Minister Netanyahu should have known something was up. PM Netanyahu surely recognized trouble for Israel after a “senior US negotiator” (later revealed to be Martin Indyk) gave an interview to popular Israeli journalist Nahum Barnea that ran in Israel’s largest Hebrew-language daily. In it he said:

“There are a lot of reasons for the peace effort’s failure, but people in Israel shouldn’t ignore the bitter truth – the primary sabotage came from the settlements. The Palestinians don’t believe that Israel really intends to let them found a state when, at the same time, it is building settlements on the territory meant for that state. We’re talking about the announcement of 14,000 housing units, no less. Only now, after talks blew up, did we learn that this is also about expropriating land on a large scale. That does not reconcile with the agreement.”

In quick succession, chief Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni held an unauthorized meeting in London with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas; the US and most of the world announced it would deal with a new technocratic government in Palestine so long as it adhered to Quartet principles; and yesterday Finance Minister Yair Lapid gave PM Netanyahu a six month deadline to make peace with the Palestinians and to stop building outside the near-Jerusalem settlements..

The abrupt break-up of the peace talks was the best thing to happen for Palestinians in years. Twenty years after the Oslo process turned into the ‘walking dead]’, Israel itself drove the final stake through its heart by stone-walling and refusing to negotiate seriously and constantly trying to back Abbas into the corner he now occupies.

NETANYAHU ATTACKED FROM BOTH LEFT AND RIGHT

According to most accounts, Netanyahu sees the handwriting on the wall as clearly as Daniel. He ‘supports’ a two-state solution as essential to Israel remaining democratic and Jewish into the future.. Along with his cohorts on the Israeli right, however, he envisions a rump Palestinian state, one not only demilitarized but accepting IDF troops stationed in the Jordan Valley for ten-plus years, sliced up by an eery and imposing barrier wall and a ‘border’ defined not by the pre-war 1967 boundaries but by decades of Israeli usurpation and settlement of Palestinian land.

Big on bluster and having no strategic options of his own to offer, Netanyahu is out on a limb with nothing but air under his feet. Instead, he face almost universal condemnation of the occupation, more economic pressure from Europe, a growing BDS movement and dissatisfaction in the business community. Famous for indecision, he’s overreached and drawn the ire of both left, right and centrist Israeli politicians

Enter Yair Lapid, head of centrist party Yesh Atid. According to the Jewish news service Ynet, pLapid read the riot act to the Prime Minister Monday night.
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“Extreme right-wing forces are pushing us toward the delusional idea of annexation…but we will not allow this to happen. Yesh Atid will not only bolt from the government, it will bring it down… There’s no reason to continue building settlements in areas that won’t remain inside Israel’s border in any future accord, and there’s no reason to invest billions in infrastructure that we would eventually give the Palestinians as a gift… “

Perhaps alluding to the 2002 Arab Peace Agreement, recently reaffirmed by the Arab League, he added:

“{Israel} needs to come to the next round of peace talks with detailed maps, prepared by us, that express a side national consensus. These maps would allow us to formulate a three-part move that, at the end of which, we will be completely separated from the Palestininans and reach a wide-reaching accord with the moderate Arab states.”

Lapid called on Netanyahu to reach a treaty with Palestinians within the next six months, pointedly before new Palestinian elections take place.

Meanwhite, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman took Netanyahu on from the Right:

“”What happened yesterday, when four senior ministers gave public addresses one after the other with each proposing a different political solution, was a grotesque performance,..one minister spoke of annexation, another minister spoke of deliberation, a woman minister spoke of segmentation, and the last spoke of stagnation. That is not a government policy. We need to cut down and adopt a single political plan to bind all parts of the coalition.”

MOMENTUM SHIFTS TOWARDS PALESTINIANS

Freed from the confines of the US framework for negotiations, the Palestinian President Abbas rapidly built on his diplomatic strategy and reconciliation talks. President Abbas had already stated that Israel must freeze all settlement building for three months and agree to first negotiate borders before the Palestinians would return to the talks. Lapid’s plan dovetails with Abbas’ pledge.

The two wings of Netanuahu’s coalition are closing in on him with Lapid. Conditions are being set for the possible collapse of Netanyahu’s fragmented coalition. If the right wing falls off, The Labor Party has pledged to join a new coalition with a peace agenda. Still, the right will do everything in its power to maintain control. A month ago, Israelis ‘in the know’ were saying Netanyahu was secure. But Israeli politics is fierce and unpredictable. Nothing stays the same for long.

Both sides will go back now and try to put their houses in order for the next round, perhaps initiated by the two parties themselves.

Carlyn Meyer, former editor of the blog Read Between the Lines writes on politics from her home in Chicago.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

The Young Turks: “It’s Great News, So Why Is Israel Upset?”

7 Responses

  1. We’ve seen Israeli leaders overreach before, the bombing campaigns in South Lebanon and Gaza and the boarding of the Mavi Marmara for instance.

    I’m hopeful for some kind of meaningful progress, but that six month deadline? A lot can happen in six months, it’s plenty of time for people to lose interest and forget and if that happens we’ll be right back to the start only with more facts on the ground.

  2. Nonsense. The Israelis have no intention of ever giving up the occupied territories. If Abbas had really been serious he would have applied to join the ICJ, and disolved the PA and then the wall would have come tumbling down instead of continuing to act as a police force for the Israelis on international monies at no cost to Israel.

  3. Dream on….Israel will not give up any part of Jerusalem nor any important settlement blocks and positively control of the Jordan river valley…there is no way they can trust any deal made with any Palestinian leader,considering the turmoil going on around them…fair or unfair,that’s the reality

    • Israel, under PM Ehud Barak, withdrew from Lebanon almost 15 years ago but it has been an almost completely stable border since 2006.

      The same rationale can occur with respect to Palestine.

      Mutual deterrence has prevented further armed conflict between the IDF and Hezbollah since 2006.

  4. “Enter Yair Lapid, head of centrist party Yesh Atid……..”

    Yair Lapid in 2013 was picked by Time magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential persons and hailed as a rising star in Israeli politics. His focus on advancing the interests of the Israeli middle class and curtailing the privileges of the ultraorthodox Jewish community found a wide audience among Israeli voters

    Six months into his first term his unpopularity ratings have rose to 75% in polls in Israel by the end of 2013. It is estimated that if his party had to face elections today they would retain no more than ten Knesset seats.

    Lapid is viewed as a novice on foreign affairs issues. He had earlier in his term as finance minister stated that he would support normal Jewish settlement growth in the West Bank and only changed his tune once the BDS movement was seen as endangering the Israeli economy. He had, before his ministerial appointment, advocated a “high fence” between Jews and Palestinians and his call above for a “complete (separation) from the Palestinians” above is a reiteration of his prior position.

    Lapid’s threat to withdraw his centrist party from the Likud-led coalition may result in the rise of a more right-wing prime minister – such as Bennett or Lieberman.

    • “Lapid’s threat to withdraw his centrist party from the Likud-led coalition may result in the rise of a more right-wing prime minister – such as Bennett or Lieberman.”

      Yes, that could be the result. In practical political terms, numbers-wise, that may be why he and Livni have not left the coalition. It seems clear, however, that non-Likud parties are in flux and trying to figure out which alliances best serve their interes.

  5. Do not forget the Demographic Bomb; Greater Israel will soon be loosing its Jewish majority within five years or less. The only solution is two states. Israel will not allow a census because they might loose already. They do not fear the One State Solution enough and it will be their undoing!

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