Netanyahu Fell Into the Palestinians' Diplomatic Trap

Netanyahu is correct in his assessment that America and Israel are in a state of strategic withdrawal, following the overthrow of their ally Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

Aluf Benn
Aluf Benn
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Aluf Benn
Aluf Benn

The third intifada is inevitable. It will erupt if the United Nations recognizes a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders because the decision will not be implemented automatically, and the Palestinians will go to war to demand their sovereign rights and to expel the Israel Defense Forces and the settlers from their territory. It will also erupt if the United Nation is deterred from declaring independence for Palestine or hedges its decision in an attempt to placate Israel. In that case, the Palestinians will start an uprising because of their frustration at the loss of international support.

The timing of the third intifada and the immediate excuse for its outbreak are as yet unknown. Neither is it certain that the Palestinians will wait until the U.N. General Assembly in September. Human action is guided by expectations of what will happen rather than by what actually does happen. If we are waiting for a crisis in September, it is likely to erupt earlier. The calm of the past two years has been undermined, and the territories are already abuzz with activity: rockets from Gaza to Ashdod, terrorist attacks and shooting incidents in the West Bank. From here, the path to a conflagration is short.

The prime minister is trapped. Nothing he does will prevent the approaching intifada. He won't surrender now to Palestinian demands and freeze the settlements and agree to withdraw to the Green Line, in a desperate attempt to stop the train on its way to the wall.Not only would such proposals lead to his political demise, they also contradict the strategic logic that guides Netanyahu. In his view, the revolutions in the Arab world will lead to the elimination the West's protectorate regimes and their replacement by Iranian satellites. Handing over the West Bank and Jerusalem to the Palestinians, according to his thinking, will turn them into "a base for Iranian terror" and make life in Israel intolerable.

In his distress, Netanyahu has focused on preventing initiatives for an enforced agreement. Like all his predecessors since 1967, the current prime minister also fears the day when the president of the United States will order him to leave the territories - as presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower did to Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion at the conclusion of the Israeli War of Independence and the Sinai Campaign, when they forced him to withdraw from Sinai. Israeli foreign policy has, for the past 44 years, strived to prevent another repetition of this scenario through a combination of intransigence and a surrender of territories considered less vital (Sinai, Gaza, the West Bank cities, South Lebanon ), in order to keep the major prizes (East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Golan Heights ).

Netanyahu is now visiting Western capitals, pleading with world leaders not to turn their backs on Israel in order to buy the affection of the Arab revolutionaries. He has warned his interlocutors that if they expel Israel from the West Bank and Jerusalem, they will only broadcast weakness and facilitate the rise of Iran. He has offered them ransom in the guise of vague promises about a future withdrawal. Meanwhile, he has no buyers for this merchandise, and even if he garners a few Western votes against the declaration of Palestinian independence at the United Nations, the decision will pass by a large majority, and the intifada will erupt the following day.

Netanyahu is correct in his assessment that America and Israel are in a state of strategic withdrawal, following the overthrow of their ally Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. It is clear that a flight from the territories under threats of an imposed agreement, or in a third intifada, will be interpreted as weakness. But like every tragic hero, Netanyahu has trapped himself. Had he continued with the Annapolis process after coming to power, instead of throwing the policy review into the trash can, his situation today would have been better. At the time, Mubarak was securely in power, America had proposed a new leaf to the Arabs, and Israel could have jumped on the bandwagon and said "Yes." Had Netanyahu accepted former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's map at the time, as a basis for negotiations, the world would have cheered him, and he could have asked for the adjustments that are important to him, such as recognition of a Jewish state and an IDF presence in the Jordan Valley.

But Netanyahu refused to discuss the core issues, beyond vague declarations ("Bar Ilan 1" ) and fell into the diplomatic trap set for him by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. President Barack Obama. Now it's too late. The world sees Netanyahu as recalcitrant and stubborn and hopes for his downfall. He will not be able to prevent the third intifada, and like its two predecessors, it will cost Israel unnecessary victims and ultimately lead to the withdrawal Netanyahu tried to prevent.



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