Trump Has Erased the Israeli Right

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Donald Trump applauds Benjamin Netanyahu as they appear together at a joint news conference at the White House, January 28, 2020.
Donald Trump applauds Benjamin Netanyahu as they appear together at a joint news conference at the White House, January 28, 2020. Credit: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Donald Trump has erased the Israeli right, just as then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak erased the left with his “no partner for peace” claim after the failed Camp David summit in July 2000. That’s the conclusion that must be drawn from the lambasting of the U.S. president and of Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin by the chairman of the Yesha Council of settlements, David Elhayani, who argued that Trump isn’t a true friend of Israel.

As a result, the little that remains of the Israeli right is locked into demanding ownership of the entire West Bank and refusing any territorial compromise or mention of establishing a Palestinian state ­­– even the most limited one, which has absolutely no chance of acceptance by the Palestinians. Most of the right currently supports a territorial compromise on a 70:30 basis.

The rhetoric of the settlers who support annexation now, in accordance with the Trump plan, is less important. The critical point is that in agreeing to annexation according to this formula, they’re committing to relinquishing 70 percent of the West Bank and permitting the establishment of a Palestinian state; ephemeral, but a state nonetheless.

Over what, then, is the dispute between Oded Revivi, the mayor of the West Bank settlement of Efrat, and the Knesset members of Meretz, who represent the very left edge of Zionism? After all, Meretz will support any plan that will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state in more than 90 percent of the West Bank and leave Israel with the settlement blocs and de facto security control in the Jordan Valley, even without formal annexation.

Thus, this is a friendly disagreement between ideological and practical partners over 20-plus percent of the West Bank and around 15 isolated settlements that Meretz wants emptied out. It’s a dispute over timing, over what’s best for the Jews: to annex now, with American recognition only, or later, with broad international consent, possibly including the support of the European Union and the moderate Arab states as part of an agreement with the Palestinians.

The Revivi-model settlers and the Meretz MKs could belong to a big-tent party led by Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz and including, of course, the moderate and pragmatic parts of Yamina that Revivi represents. The only Israeli communities that would be left outside the big Israeli party would be the ultra-Orthodox (for reasons of narrow sectoral interests only; they clearly support this approach), the Arabs, the non-Zionist left and the messianic extremist settlers. In fact, in the wake of the Trump plan, most of Israeli society is gathering (or collapsing) into a single, broad ideological camp.

That’s the reality. Now to the hypothetical. The Palestinians might be able to recognize this dramatic development and take steps to delay the annexation that Netanyahu plans for July 1. (Though my Haaretz colleague Aluf Benn wrote last week that “Abbas wants annexation.") And Trump also presumably wants to postpone the annexation, and Joe Biden is likely to replace him in January.

Thus it’s possible that the only thing that would remain of “Peace to Prosperity” is the collapse of the Israeli right, which wouldn’t be able to retract its support for the 70:30 compromise and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

There’s no telling where the erasure of the right and its disappearance as a major force in Israeli politics would lead. But if the winds blowing from the White House turn from Trumpian to democratic, they could lead to the consent of the big-tent party (which would be more homogenous after Netanyahu’s exit, paving the way for Yair Lapid and Avigdor Lieberman to join it).

They could lead to a wider compromise, one closer to the proposals by Barak and Ehud Olmert. For all that, we would owe thanks to Israel’s friend Donald Trump.