The Netanyahu government and the newly formed Likud-Yisrael Beitanu alliance have decided to fight Israel’s political battles through confrontation regardless of the consequences. For American Jews, the United States, the West, and the Arab world this direction — if maintained after the Jan. 22 election — could present extremely serious and totally unnecessary problems.
In response to the overwhelming UN vote upgrading the status of the Palestinian Authority to non-member observer status, Israel felt once again alone. Only eight nations joined Israel in opposing the vote and the vitriol that was poured out against Israel, particularly by its so-called partner for peace, Mahmoud Abbas. The lopsided vote demonstrated that Israel indeed was a people that dwells alone.
In the face of this vote, Bibi’s right-wing government, already mustering an even more right- wing list for the forthcoming elections, announced its intention to proceed with the expansion of Israeli West Bank settlements and develop the E1 territory between Jerusalem and the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim.
While little is being done immediately, Israel’s announcement drew a largely negative response from numerous circles. In the Arab world, where a civil war is destroying Syria and a constitutional crisis is roiling Egypt, the most dramatic rhetoric was reserved for Israel’s announcement.
Throughout Europe there was a virtually universal negative outcry against Israel’s move. Some recalled their ambassadors or threatened to do so; some called in Israel diplomats for tongue lashings. Even the strongly pro-Israel government of Stephen Harper in Canada expressed grave concern.
The Obama administration reiterated its opposition to settlement expansion and their interest in having all future negotiations be conducted with the Palestinians, not unilaterally. The president and his spokespersons have been very careful in what they have said, but they clearly were frustrated once again with the behavior of the Israeli government; especially in light of the smooth and effective team-work between Netanyahu and the White House in bringing an effective end to the recent Gaza confrontation with Hamas.
Many in the Jewish community defended Israel’s decision, saying the E1decision was provisional and that Ma’ale Adumim is a “consensus” city expected to be part of Israel in any two-state solution. Nevertheless, American Jews have begun to feel uneasy about the Israelis decision, even if they have hesitated to say so publicly. While rabbis and synagogue leaders may not have reached the level of outspokenness opposing this decision as did leaders of B’nai Jeshurun in Manhattan, there is a sense in many circles that Israel squandered its diplomatic advantage after the UN vote and Gaza ceasefire, and drove another nail into the coffin of the two-state solution.
Leaving aside political pique and even Israeli old-time bravado, the decisions made by the Israeli government might be attributed to political electioneering on the part of the Likud Party. Or perhaps the government feels it can ride out any decision that it makes, and that the world will forgive, forget and move on. This faction argues that Israel must negotiate from strength.
But even if the Netanyahu government were correct in this round, the Palestinians may well conclude that a two-state solution is impossible, and instead join those calling for a “democratic one-state solution.” For the Jewish people and the Jews of Israel, this would mark the end of the Zionist enterprise.
Alternatives to the two-state solution — a Jewish state that denies democratic rights to a growing Palestinian population, or a democratic state that loses its Jewish and Zionist raison d’etre — are bleak. But the window is closing if this government or an even more right-wing successor remains on the course they began last week.