Netanyahu Appears to be Solely Driven by Internal Politics

Netanyahu Appears to be Solely Driven by Internal Politics

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

The Middle East is erupting internally. Syria is in a state of self-destruction aided and abetted by the Russians. The Russians have flaunted their previous agreement with the U.S. not to resume the bombing of Aleppo. Iraq is desperately attempting to rid itself of ISIS. Secretary Kerry is now even suggesting that solving the Israeli-Palestinian crisis would help solve the problems with ISIS. Mahmoud Abbas now appears to have a serious heart condition and presumed elections looming.  Saudi Arabia appears to falling into a quagmire in Yemen. Meanwhile, Israel has chosen to now engage in domestic political maneuvering which ultimately could affect regional politics on a multitude of levels.  

In the midst of all the turmoil and tragedy, Prime Minister Netanyahu has decided that now was the time to play settlement politics and domestic shenanigans; days after he was reported to be in the midst of serious negotiations with the Labor/Zionist Union Party about broadening his governing coalition. There is something truly disturbing that Netanyahu is directly or implicitly playing with the Obama Administration over serious matters of dispute between the countries, merely weeks the American elections.  In addition, it comes only a few weeks following the Obama Administration agreeing to a ten year $38 billion Defense Memorandum of Understanding with Israel; the largest and most generous aid arrangement that any U.S. Government has ever extended to any nation.

Possible rationales:

  • Netanyahu’s overtures to the left-center parties in Israel was strictly a public relations bluff to set up this maneuver over settlements or alleged settlements activity.
  • Netanyahu knew that Naftali Bennett of the right wing Yisrael Beitenu (Jewish Home) Party, intended to make a major push for West Bank settlement expansion at this time and Bibi wanted to one-up him with his own announcement ahead of Bennett’s move.
  • Netanyahu knew that in the pre-election climate he would receive no more than a slap on the wrist from Obama for renewed settlement activity.
  • Netanyahu believed that Obama intends to pursue a last ditch proposal for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement before he leaves the White House. Bibi assumed that he had nothing to lose to proceed now with a move which later on might incur even greater political outrage from Washington.
  • Netanyahu actually believes that a two state solution is dead and he needs to step out front before he must address a likely push back from a new President.

For Bibi to make these moves make no sense whatsoever. Why antagonize Washington and the entire international community especially at a moment when other regional issues are so serious and Israel does not need to take this action. Furthermore, Israel might soon actually seek international backing on a number of fronts. Should Hamas continue to escalate the disturbances and random shelling, the IDF may need to engage in aerial or land response in Gaza. On the Golan Heights, renewed tension with various Syrian factions could develop at any time as Syria continues to disintegrate, and may necessitate an Israeli reply. Finally, a dramatically strengthened Hezbollah military could choose at any moment to re-engage in significant mischief from Lebanon necessitating a serious Israeli military response. 

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