Opinion |

With Trump's Election, Netanyahu Has Become a Centrist

The 50,000 people who gathered in memory of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on Saturday night are nothing compared to the intifada awaiting Netanyahu by voters of the hard right.

Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President-elect Donald Trump.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President-elect Donald Trump.Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images, AFP, Andrew Harrer, Bloomberg
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

If Donald Trump is serious about even a portion of his statements about Israel — an iffy proposition, as with any other assumption about the president-elect — we are in fact really facing the dawn of a new day.

If Trump really shares the view of one of his advisers, who yesterday morning told Israel Army Radio that West Bank settlements are not an obstacle to peace and that he will not force a solution on Israel, then Trump would appear to be not a political ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman but rather of the right-wing Tekuma faction of Habayit Hayehudi — a faction prepared to bring down the government over 40 houses in the West Bank settlement of Amona and nine houses in the settlement of Ofra.

Either that or Trump is an ally of someone like former Shas leader Eli Yishai, who joyfully greeted Trumps election, by invoking Psalm 136: O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endureth forever, to which Yishai added: Donald Trump has been elected president of the United States because the Holy One blessed be He wants to give the entire Land of Israel to the Jewish people (Am Yisrael). Yishai also quoted from the Torah portion of the week, which states for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever.

That would be a fresh new reality after years of a rather ridiculous automatic process in which U.S. administrations, Democratic and Republican alike, have been playing the role of the reprimanding father. Right-wing Israeli governments, in turn, have been the mischievous child who runs away and hides in all kinds of places with a handful of candy in his pocket – a few unauthorized West Bank settlement outposts that the government is refraining from dismantling and all kinds of announcements regarding plans to build neighborhoods on the other side of the 1967 border.

What would we do, after all, without reprimands from the U.S. administration, or the resolute but polite expressions of displeasure that follow every announcement of construction of 120 housing units in Givat Hamatos or 20 apartments in Ramat Shlomo? What would we do without the game of pretend over a two-state solution, with the United States repeating that it views the two-state solution as the only solution to the conflict, and the prime minister announcing that he is committed to the two-state solution?

We will still manage. Well write scathing articles against Trump and well compose lamentations about the approaching end of the world. But what about Netanyahu? Hes experiencing a real psychological crisis. Will the boy whose perturbed parents have left the room take the opportunity to burn down the clubhouse or will he continue to behave cautiously as if they are still there?

The 50,000 people who gathered in Rabin Square in memory of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on Saturday night are nothing compared to the intifada awaiting Netanyahu by voters of the hard right.

While Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett, who has long seen himself as a candidate for prime minister, didnt wait long after Trumps election to issue an enthusiastic statement, calling it a tremendous opportunity to immediately announce a retreat from the idea of the establishment of Palestine.

More than congratulating Trump, he is laying a trap for Netanyahu, pushing him into a corner. Is Netanyahu really right wing through and through? Someone who would be prepared to force an entire country to risk its life for a hilltop promised by God? After getting carte blanche to build like crazy in the settlements, such a question is significant. Netanyahu can wildly castigate journalist Ilana Dayan and call her names. Thats easy and costs nothing. The real test for him is over Amona and Netiv Haavot and the string of outposts that there is pressure to legalize.

On the other hand, in the absence of leadership in the Labor Party or electoral support for basic left-wing principles, those who gathered in Rabin Square also came to protest the proposed closure of the new public broadcasting corporation, the likes of Likud politician David Bitan and perhaps harm to the courts, but they did not gather to protest the ongoing occupation. Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid is garnering support from that still large segment of the public that still takes exception to extreme right-wing views, and is positioning himself as a purported opposition from the left.

In the process, the Bennett-Lapid alliance that trapped Netanyahu is back again, each member fighting from the opposite side to be the heir. That, however, would make Netanyahu the new center, someone who will waver between the two of them politically. All of this, of course, is based on the assumption that the comments of Trump and his advisers have some connection to the future reality.

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