Analysis

Netanyahu Is Doing Everything to Appease the Settlers, but Even This Won't Be Enough

If Amona were an Arab village, the prime minister would have incited against the protesters. But as the illegal West Bank outpost was evacuated, he kept silent.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Tel Aviv conference, January 31, 2017.
Eyal Toueg

Netanyahu kept quiet on Wednesday. Perhaps the difficult scenes at Amona took him back to his and his family’s private trauma, when they were evicted after the ‘99 elections from the Prime Minister’s Residence.

“I understand what it’s like to lose a home,” he told Amona residents a few weeks ago, when he was called to see them late at night from that peeling residence he had returned to eight years ago.

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Israeli settlers scuffle with security forces at the Amona outpost, northeast of Ramallah, on February 1, 2017 as they evict the hardline occupants of the wildcat settlement outpost in line with a High Court ruling that determined the homes were built on private Palestinian land.
JACK GUEZ/AFP

Netanyahu kept quiet as hundreds of brainwashed, hot-tempered hooligans (who on Channel 2 were called “guys,” “youths” and “enthusiasts”), entrenched themselves in the illegal outpost, rioted, cursed and threw debris and liquids on police officers. If Amona were an Arab village in the eastern Sharon, Netanyahu would have launched a series of ranting, inciting tweets against the protesters.

But the settlers are his pets, Amona is above the law and he already hastened to promise to build for its 40 families, who for 20 years knowingly robbed private Palestinian land, a new settlement. Whatever the cost. Money is no object when we’re dealing with the precious settlers.

He didn’t see fit to issue some formal denunciation even when his coalition member, MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi), a famous feminist, compared the Amona evacuation to the rape of a woman. The settler party’s leader, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, also swallowed his tongue.

The Amona evacuation, which was dragged out for years, will be registered on Netanyahu and Bennett’s names. Neither of them will be able to make political capital from the other’s distress. Maybe there’ll be no distress. The prime minister and defense minister have recently approved building thousands of housing units throughout the West Bank, most of them in the settlement blocs.

Officials say that without a nod from the White House, Netanyahu wouldn’t have dared to approve this wave of construction, or to commit to building a new settlement for the first time in about 25 years, before meeting U.S. President Donald Trump.

If Netanyahu believes this will satisfy the settlers, he’s in for a bitter disappointment. They are far beyond the stage of mere construction. They are demanding annexation and Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank, as Bennett said in the Knesset on Wednesday.

After he returns from his visit with Trump, they will serve Netanyahu with a pile of checks to sign and he won’t be able to call for restraint in the name of some international pressure.

The obscene bill legalizing land confiscation and illegal outposts is expected to pass in the Knesset next week with the support of the prime minister, who warned repeatedly of the legislation’s legal and international repercussions. That too won’t satiate Bibi and Bennett’s constituency. The settlers always deserve more and always, praise God, there’s someone who pays.