Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not want to release U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” during the two previous election campaigns. He had a reason.
As opposed to the “Bibi-ists” who will enthusiastically justify every move he makes, and then the exact opposite – the hard right, a major part of the base of support that is keeping Netanyahu alive – is made up of people with an ideological backbone.
They aren’t losers, and it is impossible to twist them around your finger with marketing tricks such as ridiculous comparisons to President Truman’s recognition of the Israeli state in 1948 or the UN vote approving the Partition Plan on November 29, 1947.
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The deep right has had its doubts about Netanyahu for a long time, and understands quite well that he is once again selling them the dish of a Palestinian state, only this time it is covered with promises of the annexation of certain parts of Judea and Samaria. Yes, it is the same Palestinian state from the Oslo Accords, which are even quoted in the beginning of the new plan, the same state they protested against until the blood flowed. And by the way, for all of those who are really energized – whether positively or the opposite – by the word annexation, let us remind you that even the “super leftist” plans, such as the Geneva Initiative, for example, include annexation of part of the settlement blocs and land swaps. So what.
Ambiguous talk about imposing sovereignty in the West Bank is nice, the Jordan Valley is cute and the pro-Israeli tone – which humiliates the Palestinians – is certainly pleasant to a certain extent to right-wing ears. But the aspirations of the settlers Netanyahu took along with him to the United States as a bulletproof vest, along with his most right-wing minister, Yariv Levin, are much larger.
This plan may be more generous toward Israel than previous frameworks, which also required more from the Palestinians than what they were willing to give – so in the end they were doomed to fail.
But to the extent it has the right to exist outside of the world of political spin, this plan does include a number of bones that will still get stuck in the throats of the settlers. The freeze on construction in the settlements, establishing a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem and the establishment of a political entity that recognizes Palestinian sovereignty – all these are hard things to swallow at a time that the settlers are already feeling they are being discriminated against, because they think they have nobly given in over their historic right to settle in Areas A and B.
So what happened this time, on the eve of the third Knesset election, that has caused Bibi’s marketing machine to work with such great effort to sell this plan as a diplomatic Big Bang? The simple explanation is that the sand in Netanyahu’s clock is running out. Desperate Netanyahu is betting on the right. It’s not that wild a bet. Not a single settler from Eli or Shavei Shomron will protest the release of the peace plan and vote in anger for Nitzan Horowitz or Benny Gantz. At most, they will move to Naftali Bennett and Bezalel Smotrich, who in the end will take their place alongside daddy when they are needed. Maybe here or there Netanyahu will manage to pick up a few votes from the soft right, those who are sick and tired of Netanyahu, his criminal cases and family – and who are also taking a side-glance at Kahol Lavan.
It is still too early to determine the life expectancy or level of seriousness of the plan, especially when the Palestinians – who nonetheless fill some sort of role in this region despite the imperial behavior of the United States and Israel toward them – are not even willing to discuss it. It is not unreasonable to assume that its fate will be similar to that of framework of President X or the Road Map of President Y.
What is certain is that Israel has accused Benjamin Netanyahu of the crimes of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust, in an indictment that was filed with the court on Tuesday. What also is certain is that Avigdor Lieberman eliminated Netanyahu’s political escape route – once when he did not join his government coalition in April, and a second time when he announced that he and his soldiers in the Knesset would oppose granting Netanyahu immunity from prosecution.
Something else that is certain is that even a coalition of 61 right-wing Knesset members, loyal and subjugated to Netanyahu, will not save him from sitting in the dock. Most of all, Netanyahu wants to conduct his trial from a position of power, after he saw what happened to the common citizen Ehud Olmert when he reached the court as just one of the people, and not as prime minister. All the rest, with all due respect, is just background noise.