Israeli Political Foolishness
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
The Israeli Knesset late this evening passed a law by a vote of 60-52 which retroactively declared that Israel construction of outposts on West Bank land owned by Palestinians is legal, provided that the Palestinians were given compensation of other lands or monies in excess of the value of the confiscated property. While this decision eventually could well be over-turned by the Israeli High Court, it is a decision which is sure to alienate and frustrate the international community. It will trigger a further outcry from the world community which has been continuing over the past two weeks as Israel has announced additional housing units to be built in East Jerusalem, expansion of existing West Bank settlements, and the establishment of a new outpost.
All of these actions come as a response by the Netanyahu Government to the court ordered removal of the illegal settlement in Amona. None of these decisions have any relevance to Israel’s safety and security. These decisions represent a set of internal political maneuvers which demonstrate that Bibi is playing the Amona expulsion, and the chaotic, unpredictable behavior of the new Trump Administration for his own internal political advantage. Tonight’s vote and all these actions have occurred only days before Netanyahu actually will be meeting with Trump in Washington. It also transpires while the Attorney General’s investigation concerning Netanyahu’s illegal activities continues to percolate in the background.
To demonstrate the deeper political maneuvering, Netanyahu reportedly had requested that tonight’s vote be postponed until he returned from Washington. His own right wing coalition member Naftali Bennett of the Habayit HaYehudi party insisted on calling the vote precisely when the Prime Minister was in London meeting with Prime Minister May; thus forcing him to return home for the vote—for which he actually arrived too late anyway. So while Netanyahu was being urged no doubt by May to affirm his support for a two-state solution, his own Government members were forcing a parliamentary vote which was clearly designed to embarrass their own leader. Once again this action set up Bibi for an array of potential collisions with the unknown Trump Administration during which he undoubtedly will want the President to be totally focused on breaking apart the Iran deal.
This political maneuvering is embarrassing to the Prime Minister. It also demonstrates the inability of Netanyahu to control his own Government in the name of Israel’s best international interests. He needed to rush out of London today and faces Trump next week immediately after this White House issued its first qualified statement on Israeli settlement expansion. Not only is the tenuous nature of the Israeli coalition governmental system is once again on display. Netanyahu is being upstaged by foolish, embarrassing politically motivated actions whose purpose has no bearing on the much more serious regional and global issues.
Watching the Israeli democracy operating in such a chaotic manner makes one recognize that perhaps the U.S. is not the only current democratic government operating without firm controls on its rudder.