Public Apathy Gives Netanyahu Advantage in Direct Talks

People think Netanyahu is bluffing, which is convenient for a politician who wants to turn his back on prior positions without incurring any criticism or coalition turmoil.

Aluf Benn
Aluf Benn
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Aluf Benn
Aluf Benn

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is embarking on direct negotiations for a final status agreement with the Palestinians from a better position than his predecessors, Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, who were in touching distance of an agreement but encountered Palestinian rejection.

Netanyahu is popular among the public and enjoys unrivaled political strength, unlike Barak, whose coalition broke apart prior to his departure for the Camp David summit. Olmert lost his public backing as a result of the Second Lebanon War.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in New York on July 8, 2010. Credit: Reuters

Any agreement Netanyahu would arrive at would be met with overwhelming public support. Beyond that, the prime minister has another advantage: Expectations for the renewed negotiations are negligible. The small number of people actually interested in the peace process think Netanyahu is bluffing.

Such public apathy is convenient for a politician who wants to turn his back on prior positions without incurring any condemnation, criticism or coalition turmoil. It's what Netanyahu needs to prepare the general Israeli public, the forum of seven inner cabinet ministers and the international community for a change in his approach to managing the conflict.

The prime minister is entering negotiations with two primary demands: Palestinian recognition of Israel as the "state of the Jewish people"; and the stationing of the Israeli army in the Jordan Valley, along the eastern border of a future Palestinian state, as a buffer against the smuggling of rockets and other heavy weapons.

He also wants Jewish settlements in the Etzion Bloc to remain in Israel, as well as Ma'aleh Adumim and Ariel, and he is committed to the unity of Jerusalem. These principles are no different from what Barak and Olmert proposed to the Palestinians at Camp David and Annapolis, respectively.

Since resuming the post of prime minister, Netanyahu has not set foot anywhere beyond the so-called Olmert map - which roughly follows the route of the security barrier, with lands swaps. More importantly, he has not said that the settlements are important for Israel's security.

This is not to say he has decided to evacuate settlements beyond the settlement blocs and hand them to the Palestinian state. It does, however, mean that his opening position provides room for compromise with the Palestinians as long as they don't take an "all or nothing" stance.



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN


בנימין נתניהו השקת ספר

Netanyahu’s Israel Is About to Slam the Door on the Diaspora

עדי שטרן

Head of Israel’s Top Art Academy Leads a Quiet Revolution

Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

Skyscrapers in Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv.

Israel May Have Caught the Worst American Disease, New Research Shows

ג'אמיל דקוור

Why the Head of ACLU’s Human Rights Program Has Regrets About Emigrating From Israel


Netanyahu’s Election Win Dealt a Grievous Blow to Judaism