Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett heads a faction of only eight Knesset seats, but he sees himself as prime minister, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu serving as his ambassador to Washington. That must be why he thought it necessary to arm ambassador Netanyahu with a threat to the effect that, “If [U.S. President Donald] Trump and Netanyahu even mention a Palestinian state, the earth will shake.”
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Aside from Bennett’s distorted perception of reality, which seems to have made him forget his true electoral strength, there is in that threat a dictate to the U.S. president, explaining to him that he’d better know what he can and cannot say about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Bennett believes that after he succeeded in bending Netanyahu to his will on Amona and the Regularization Law, it’s Trump’s turn to get a life lesson from the Israeli education minister.
Bennett wants to drag Trump into the Israeli madness. He wants to shove the Palestinians into a corner, sow despair among them and remove all hope for a diplomatic process. If Netanyahu listens to this nonsense he will seriously damage Israel’s ties with the nations of the world, particularly the European Union, undermine efforts to advance peace with Arab countries and push Israel down the fascist abyss with no one to wave a moral warning sign in front of it.
The State of Israel cannot allow itself to be managed in accordance with the dictates of an extreme nationalist party, which wants to annex the occupied territories and turn Israel into an apartheid state. Netanyahu understands this, but fears the responses on the right, both from the hawkish wing of the Likud and from the party of the settlers. The job of the prime minister at such times, however, is not to yield to destructive ideological extortion, but to stand firm and advance the only position that will do the country good – the two-state solution.
The meeting with Trump comes after a series of ambiguous statements by the U.S. president. His pro-right bravado before the presidential election has been replaced by more moderate wording that also takes the Palestinian side into account. The promise to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem is on hold, and in an interview he gave to Israel Hayom he said, “I want Israel to be reasonable with respect to peace. I want to see peace happen. It should happen after all these years.”
So despite the pressure on him from the right, Netanyahu knows full well that the earth won’t move if he uses the words “two states,” explains that that’s the only possible way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and even invites the U.S. president to intervene in the peace process. The earth will shake if Netanyahu yields to Bennett’s dictates and gives a tailwind to the settlers’ annexation policy.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.