Israel Is Still A Powerhouse

Israel Is Still A Powerhouse

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Fixing Israel's problems from afar is much easier and simpler than up close.  While that is a normal response to any problem in any sphere of human activity, when it is realpolitik and one feels an emotional attachment to seeking its resolution, there is an added anxiety and frustration that intensifies at the thought of failure. Coming now to Israel you get up close and at least from one perspective it seems simpler.

While on the one hand Israel is facing a truly potential existential threat from a nuclear Iran, Israel's re-formed Government today wields more political power than any non-wartime Government in Israeli history.  Consequently, when seen up close, the Netanyahu Government's  decisions  to expand housing units in existing settlements while accepting the High Court's order to move illegal settlers from private land in Ulpana makes even less sense. With the Government holding so many cards, why does it need to keep playing unnecessary trumps which may well be critical to assert its political power at a later time. This is a time to demonstrate bold courageous action; for Netanyahu to flex his muscles against the political nuisances that encumber his ability to demonstrate political leadership.

The question to be asked then is that perhaps this is indeed Netanyahu's true goal; to force the Palestinians to accept the current version of a two state solution. If indeed that is his goal the question remains, as it does always with political decisions, timing; why take such action now. Why antagonize the Palestinians, the entire Arab world, the U.S., and any friends that Israel has in the world, just when potentially Israel may well be facing a major threat from Iran and will need friends.  Whether Israel likes it or not, it ought to want to be in the most favorable possible position vis-a-vis the world community and not at any level of weakness. Besides, the issue of settlements is not disappearing. There will be many, many more discussions about settlements before that matter is resolved. In the meanwhile, increasing settlements or building additional units at this moment are unnecessary and are hardly represent an issue worthy of creating a confrontation; surely at time when Israel might well need extra world support.

There are also very questionable benefits for Israel. The failure to build and expand settlements at this time presents Israel with no constructive value except a cynical, internal, political one.  They neither assist nor facilitate any peace initiative in fact they blatantly undermine such initiatives.  They also do not represent a significant security benefit for Israel at all. Finally, there will always be opportunities to expand and build settlements.

So why now? Or as some Israelis have been saying, why dafka now?

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