In a closed meeting in 2011, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he opposes a bi-national state, asserting that it would be a "disaster for Israel." When this was reported on these pages, it may have been the first time that such remarks on the part of Netanyahu were published in the media. Since then he has repeated the idea several times, in various ways. Like with other security and political issues, he talked and talked, but never did anything to eliminate the threat.
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Four and a half years later, when Palestinian murderers are running amok on the streets of Jerusalem armed with knives, the citizens of Israel are getting a first significant glimpse into the reality of a binational state; a little taste of what is to come if, instead of breaking apart into two states, the Israelis and Palestinians continue to move toward a single state.
That same Netanyahu who warned of a binational state exacerbated the severity of the threat in recent years, both actively and passively. He continued to move more and more Israelis deeper into the territory of a future Palestinian state, outside the settlement blocs that Israel seeks to annex as part of a peace agreement. During a Likud faction meeting on Monday, he even boasted that over the past six and a half years, the number of settlers in the West Bank grew from 280,000 to 400,000. Whether willingly or forcibly, blindly or with eyes wide open, Netanyahu is threatening to turn Israel into the Middle Eastern version of Yugoslavia.
Netanyahu and his cabinet ministers continue treating what has been happening over the past month in Jerusalem and across Israel as a round of violence or a wave of terror that will soon pass. This is reminiscent of the briefings Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon gave during Operation Protective Edge, stating that Hamas is begging for a cease-fire. Not unlike their insistence on defining the 50-day clash in Gaza as an operation and not a war, they are now rejecting the term "third intifada" outright.
Even more disconcerting is the tendency by Netanyahu and his ministers to disassociate the current crisis from its context. As if this is a natural disaster that has emerged and is out of our control, and not a man-made development for which Israel might be at least partially responsible. Netanyahu has been talking in recent days about a century of terrorism against Jews between Jordan and the sea. He is right, but he is also ignoring 48 years of occupation, and is refusing to admit that, maybe – only maybe – they have something to do with the current wave of violence.
A security cabinet meeting Netanyahu convened early Tuesday evening ended after 1 A.M., but that didn't stop the prime minister's spokesmen from updating the media just an hour after the session began in order to make the 8:30 P.M. television news. Netanyahu barred the ministers from giving interviews, but in the middle of the meeting sent his trusty mouthpiece, Minister Yuval Steinitz, to talk about its results at the Channel 2 studio.
It's doubtful that the cabinet's decisions will dramatically change the situation on the ground. The explosion that we are experiencing is part of an "atomization" of the conflict; the fight isn't against the Palestinian Authority or Hamas, but against an entire generation of young Palestinians, some of them kids, who don't see a future for themselves. They are frustrated, desperate and incensed. They hate Israel as much as they hate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
In the current situation, the capability of dealing with the situation is limited. There are many means of defense – deploying troops to Jerusalem, severe punishment, closures, arrests and house demolitions. But even if this quells the current wave of unrest, the calm would be only temporary – until the next one, which will be even more difficult.