Making It Happen
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to the U.S. came off seemingly as well as it could have. Bibi and Obama appear to have said all the right things; his two political speeches before the American Enterprise Institute and the Center for American Progress on the right and the left, respectively politically, contained no surprises; and in his presentation to American Jews before the General Assembly (GA) of Jewish Federations of North America he endeavored to make everyone feel good. The problem was that nothing he said which the U.S. Government and American Jews wanted to hear is politically feasible back home.
With respect to the two state solution, settlement freeze, and possible new negotiations with the Palestinians, Bibi faces too many qualifying voices within his own Government to bring them around to truly lead the country in this direction; assuming he genuinely wanted to do so. This is especially true in the current climate of the “war of the knives.” Despite the fact that his right-wing partners have nowhere else to go and there are no true opposition challengers, Bibi is unlikely to challenge them given the fact that he has a history of being risk-averse politically.
In his presentation to the GA, speaking to an American assemblage composed largely of Reform and Conservative active Jewish community leaders and donors, Netanyahu pledged to be more committed to providing funding, support, status, and recognition to non-Orthodox communities in Israel. If Bibi were to respond practically to this commitment, not only will his ultra-Orthodox (charedi) coalition partners walk, but it is not clear whether Bennett and the Yisrael Beiteinu Party will accept such moves either given; the opposition already expressed by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. In addition, during the six months that this new Netanyahu Government has been in office, it has already walked back from the previous Government’s pledge to expand the draft/national service participation of the charedi community and permitted all the religious community supporters to rest easy from any fear of change in regard to their dominance of religious authority.
There is thus a disingenuousness to Netanyahu’s pledges here which make his visit—important–but only symbolic and atmospheric. The single exception—which is certainly not trivial–is the apparent bi-lateral agreement to proceed with plans for the next decade of U.S.-Israel security needs and cooperation. This also included an understanding as to how to coordinate responses to any Iranian violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA).