Trapped by His Own Politics
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has a very tense situation at home with the growth of terrorist incidents and violence between the Palestinians and the Israelis and the various military authorities. Having begun as confrontations on the Temple Mount they then spread to Jerusalem, and have now presented a danger throughout the country, the West Bank, and Gaza. To date there is no apparent strategy to quell the random attacks as they continue to spread throughout the country.
Within the Government itself the more hard line elements are urging that the Bibi respond to the attacks on settlers by increasing and expanding West Bank settlements. At the same time, there are pressures on Bibi from the U.S. and Europe to demonstrate a willingness to try to engage Abbas in peace talks. Expanding settlements at this time will not be constructive for peace talks nor facilitate any reconciliation with Obama when they meet in November. Bibi’s domestic political situation is so difficult—although regardless of their rhetoric, people in power usually do not give up power so easily—that Bibi asked the Zionist Group again if they would join a unity Government. For Netanyahu, this could give him protection if the right wing walks; but Herzog did not appear to be ready to give the Prime Minister political cover or security.
With respect to the Obama-Netanyahu meeting, there are elements again with his own coalition who do not want Netanyahu to concede anything to the White House with respect to mistakes that might have been made over the Iran deal. Bibi understands that he needs to make “nice” to the President now, so that the U.S. will be willing to fulfill Israel’s full weapons request. At the same time there again are domestic pressures on him not to make delivery of weapons systems conditional on a settlement freeze.
At the moment Netanyahu is suffering as well from declining public support for his leadership. As the unrest persists, there is genuine concern about the escalating violence in the country renewed fear that the border with Syria and Lebanon could explode with Russian weapons at any point that the Arabs become bored with killing each other. Politically there are no realistic alternatives at the moment, but that should not be interpreted that the Israeli people are pleased with Bibi.