The Likud Knesset members' show of strength in presenting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a list of opponents of the temporary settlement freeze is damaging and unnecessary.
Suddenly, long after Netanyahu laid out his position on settlements at a speech at Bar-Ilan University - where he tried his best not to offer commitments, but instead spoke in double-talk intended for both Washington and the settlers - the Likud lawmakers are refusing to accept what most of the public realized ages ago. Namely, that Israel cannot engage in sophisticated delay tactics, and that it must make at least one small goodwill gesture so the world, led by the United States, believes it is truly interested in negotiations, let alone peace.
Amid the bluster of Likud ministers Limor Livnat (who labeled the Obama administration "terrible," then later retracted her statement), Moshe Kahlon (who prodded Netanyahu to convene the Knesset faction for consultations on a decision already made, a commitment already given), Gilad Erdan, Silvan Shalom and Yuli Edelstein, Netanyahu is being depicted as a tragic hero about to embark on a fateful decision.
This is, of course, grotesque and ludicrous. In May 2003, the Likud government headed by Ariel Sharon adopted the Middle East road map, which called for a complete halt to settlement building and the dismantling of outposts. Netanyahu's order for a temporary freeze is a small step, one that may not even prove consequential in the long term, rendering the Likud chorus of resistance all the more shrill, artificial and ultimately troubling. Many vocal opponents of the freeze are the heads of regional councils who have promised their constituents to fight any "concessionary" agreement, and who have received - explicitly or implicitly - a vow from Netanyahu that he would not work against their interests.
If Netanyahu surrenders to pressure on such an inconsequential, elementary matter, he will certainly not be able to stand before the settlers if and when the real moment of truth arrives. Likud's blusterers - some of whom denigrated the Obama government as "anti-Semitic," an evictor of Jews - want to prove that the prime minister can be pressured and extorted, to show the U.S. president who is really in charge of Israel. Netanyahu must prove to himself, his government and this country's citizens that authority lies with him, not with those orchestrating calculated resistance.
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