Opinion

Netanyahu’s (Last?) Chance

Israel Harel
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in Jerusalem, June 16, 2020
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in Jerusalem, June 16, 2020Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Israel Harel

A small group, whose attitude toward Benjamin Netanyahu is “trust, but verify,” met with the prime minister this week. Their impression was that despite his troubles, he radiated confidence and strength; he was sober and focused on his goals.

Those goals related primarily to two issues: The application of sovereignty and the fight against the coronavirus. Contrary to the disinformation in the media, Netanyahu is determined to implement U.S. President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century,” if only with a “humble beginning.”

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On Wednesday, Israel Hayom diplomatic correspondent Ariel Kahana reported that in this “humble beginning,” Netanyahu plans to apply Israeli sovereignty to about 10 percent of Judea and Samaria, comprising “the heart of the historical Land of Israel.” The proposal submitted to the Knesset won’t include any mention of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu, per this report, terms the move a “first tranche.” In subsequent installments, sovereignty will be applied to the Jordan Valley and the major settlement blocs.

Only time will tell whether this time, for a change, Netanyahu will demonstrate resolve and implement this plan without the consent of the Americans (who have conditioned their support on the consent of Kahol Lavan).

A few months ago, Kahol Lavan leaders Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi were photographed in the Jordan Valley, where they grandly pledged that it will remain in our hands forever. Today, they’re putting spokes in the wheels. And if that’s how they’re behaving over the Jordan Valley, there’s virtually no chance they’ll agree to apply sovereignty (as part of that “10 percent”) to Hebron, Susya, Tekoa, Shiloh, Beit El, Itamar, Elon Moreh and Har Bracha.

But Netanyahu, if he wants to use it, has a winning card to play. For the past two weeks, Kahol Lavan has plummeted from one poll to the next. The latest, commissioned by the Jerusalem Post, predicted 41 Knesset seats for Likud and just 10 for Kahol Lavan. The Haredi-right bloc would win 65 seats, while Kahol Lavan-Yesh Atid-Joint List would get just 37.

Yisrael Beiteinu, to which all the polls give eight Knesset seats, will almost certainly vote in favor of sovereignty. And in Kahol Lavan there are two or three Knesset members whose conscience won’t let them vote against it. MKs Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser have also promised to support it. All told, a Zionist-Haredi coalition of almost 80 Knesset members.

I would advise my friends in the Yesha Council of settlements to treat this surprising development with favor. The minimum tranche, if carried out, would eliminate the danger of quite a few communities being isolated, frozen and transferred to hostile sovereignty.

And aside from sovereignty – admittedly over only a small portion of the territory, but in the heart of the Land of Israel – applying Israeli law to these communities would enable them to get rid of the yoke of the Civil Administration, that is, the suffocating military government, which doesn’t allow them to expand even when the government supports doing so. Henceforth, the construction laws would be the standard Israeli laws, and government ministries would give Israeli citizens in Judea and Samaria the same service they provide everyplace else in Israel.

Today, it’s difficult to impossible for Jews to buy land from Arabs. If the land registry for Nablus or Ramallah discovers that an Arab sold land to a Jew, his fate is certain – lengthy imprisonment, torture or even death. But if Jewish land is now registered in Israel, this will open the way for massive Jewish settlement.

As the Bible says, “The word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it” (Deuteronomy 30:14). If at this stage of his political life, Netanyahu starts being true to his word, history may well cleanse his sins.

If he pulls himself together and demonstrates leadership, most of the nation will support him. In the polls, it already does. This “first tranche” may thus be remembered as a first step toward realizing the rest of the rights of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel.

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