This week, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu struck a deal with an Israeli opposition party to expand his parliamentary majority from one to six — a substantial victory for the stability of the government.
Unlike Netanyahu’s dominant Likud party, the new coalition party — called “Yisrael Beiteinu,” which means “Israel Is Our Home” — supports a two-state solution as part of its platform.
Surely the Obama administration, which has made a two-state solution a singular focus of its Israel policy, welcomed the news as a major step toward its long-term vision for peace in the Middle East?
No, it didn’t.
Through a State Department spokesman, the administration said the new coalition deal “raises legitimate questions” about the Israeli government’s commitment to a two-state solution, adding that, “ultimately, we’re going to judge this government based on its actions.” The spokesman in question, a Mr. Mark Toner, also said that the administration “had seen reports from Israel describing [the new government] as the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history.”
What has Yisrael Beiteinu done to earn so abhorrent a reputation?
(I assume that the comment was an attempt to link Israel’s new coalition government with Europe’s recent boom of successful far-right and neo-fascist populist parties.)
When Yisrael Beiteinu published its platform a few years ago — it’s a relatively new party — there was an outcry that it wanted to strip Israeli Arabs of their citizenship. The allegation circulated through the European and Arab popular press, and made it all the way up the media chain to CBS News (which ran an absurdly misleading piece on the subject).
What Yisrael Beiteinu actually proposed was a land swap with a future Palestinian state, in which Jewish towns in the West Bank would be annexed to the Jewish state in exchange for Arab towns in Israel, adjacent to the West Bank, being annexed to a Palestinian state.
This would mean — according to the Yisrael Beiteinu platform — that Palestinians living on the Israeli side of the 1949 armistice lines “would be able to become citizens of a Palestinian state without having to leave their homes.”
Is that a way to run a foreign policy? By churlishly trying to undermine a friendly democracy’s government on its first day in office?
Is this a cruel, heartless, thuggish idea? Or is it perfectly logical and accommodating — and in line with the Palestinian position since Israel’s war of independence? Not to mention to the left of most of Israel’s government?
What this plan would do is give Palestinians sovereignty over Palestinian areas of Israel. No deportations or Brownshirts were called for. Just a land swap to ensure the success of “two states for two peoples.”
Surely President Obama knows this. Surely it’s exactly what he wants.
So what possible motive could his administration have for responding to something he’s hoped for with so obviously misleading a press statement? Other than sticking it to Obama’s least favorite world leader, Mr. Netanyahu?
Is that a way to run a foreign policy?
By churlishly trying to undermine a friendly democracy’s government on its first day in office?
And we talk about Trump being childish.
— Josh Gelernter writes weekly for NRO and is a regular contributor to The Weekly Standard. He is a founder of the tech startup Dittach.
Source: Obama vs. Netanyahu