Israeli right-wingers unfazed by Obama-led summit
Right's attitude is that Netanyahu withstood Abbas' pressure, is heading to N.Y. without preconditions.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could not have hoped for a more comfortable political atmosphere for his trip to New York for his summit with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. President Barack Obama. The vocal Likud rebels have been keeping relatively quiet, and none of his "ideological" ministers have come out and said anything against him. In general, the attitude on the right is that Netanyahu has managed to withstand Abbas' pressure and is heading to the summit without preconditions.
The only real exception to the quiet was from Minister without Portfolio Benny Begin (Likud) and the people in the settlers' protest tent outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem. Otherwise, the media was dead silent.
MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), one of the ideological rebels, explained the silence Monday: "We all know that this summit has no significance. There is no possibility of achieving anything, so there is no real argument about where we are going. There is a united front in the Likud for now."
Hotovely and her Likud colleagues Danny Danon and Yariv Levin are the only remaining potential rebels for now - and they are also waiting for the fog to clear.
"There is no need to come out against something that is not happening," said Hotovely. "We support construction in Judea and Samaria, we have said that. As long as that is the situation, the prime minister can go off and we wish him well," she said.
Netanyahu's coalition also looks more stable than ever: On the eve of Rosh Hashanah he visited Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and it was one of the warmest and friendliest meetings the two have ever had.
Rabbi Yosef praised Netanyahu profusely and noted Shas' loyalty to Netanyahu's government. That is enough for Netanyahu.
The only other important right-wing party in Netanyahu's coalition, Yisrael Beiteinu, is also keeping silent. This is due to a strategic decision by party chairman and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman that Yisrael Beiteinu will not involve itself in the peace process.
In the settlers' protest tent Monday, people were still arguing over whether to send Yesha Council of settlements head Danny Dayan to New York, too. Dayan's role in New York would be keep an eye on Netanyahu to make sure he didn't "sell out the settlements" to Obama. Dayan did not want to go, since he had no meetings scheduled there yet.
But it seems someone is keeping an eye on Netanyahu from far away - Begin, the most senior politician to visit the protest tent Monday.
He said he did not take the New York summit lightly, and quoted the book of Proverbs: "Happy is the man who feareth always."
He explained to the protesters: "Your steadfastness is important and strengthens us, and the positions you represent are important. It is impossible to trample the rights of Jews to settle in the Land of Israel. The attempt to force the government of Israel to accept preconditions to negotiations, and even more so in order to begin negotiations, and even for a meeting, that it must immediately and eternally freeze the laying of every brick in Judea and Samaria - this attempt has been thwarted. Common sense prevailed," said Begin.
In an interview with Army Radio Monday morning, Begin said, "We have faced far-reaching statements from nations that have categorically denied the rights of Jews to reside, live and develop a normal community life in Judea and Samaria."
"We all know it was proven to all, in the most distressing way possible, that uprooting the settlements in Gaza not only did not bring security, it did not even bring a single day of quiet ... Tomorrow in New York, I do not think there will be much gained from the summit," said Begin.
Yesha Council director general Pinhas Wallerstein nevertheless pressured Dayan to fly to New York. In the end Dayan decided to stay and protest from the tent at the Prime Minister's Office.
The protest tent was set up Monday, and is supposed to be dismantled this evening. In the meantime the heads of the local authorities in the West Bank were there to protest Netanyahu. Benjamin Regional Council head Avi Roeh held a meeting on council business. Various MKs and ministers dropped in to visit.
After Begin left, MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) arrived. He cheerfully told those present that they could go home, since "they are going for a photo-op. The Palestinians are trying to take advantage of Obama to pressure Israel. But Bibi is showing determination. Obama will learn who he is dealing with, and a redeemer will come to Zion. There will be no freeze, since there are no good-will gestures from Arab states," said Rotem.