Why Benjamin Netanyahu May Look at the Math — and Cut Deal on Peace Plan

Right Wingers Have Less Leverage Than We Think

Getty Images

By J.J. Goldberg

Published January 20, 2014, issue of January 24, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Bennett’s problem is that his walkout would be pointless. Bibi could replace his hard-line bloc in a heartbeat. Labor and Shas, with 26 Knesset seats between them, would happily join a Netanyahu government that was preparing to embrace Kerry’s plan. (No more than three or four of Shas’s 11 lawmakers back the party’s right-wing ex-leader Eli Yishai; the rest follow old-new leader Aryeh Deri, a confirmed dove.) News reports say United Torah Judaism, with six seats, would also join up. The left-wing Meretz, with six seats, would support the deal from outside the coalition. So would the 11 lawmakers of the so-called Arab parties.

In fact, if Bibi were to present the Knesset tomorrow with a deal along the lines Kerry is developing, creating a demilitarized Palestinian state with borders based on the pre-1967 lines, with land swaps, a symbolic compromise on refugees and a modified reference to the Arab Peace Initiative (which already includes an “end of conflict” clause), he’d get between 72 and 75 votes out of 120, or 60% to 62%, even before the arm-twisting begins.

Bibi knows the math. It puts him in a double bind. He ran for prime minister in 2009 with the intention of rolling back the concessions Ehud Olmert had offered the Palestinians in 2008. He viewed them as too risky from a security point of view. Five years later, he’s hit a wall: The Palestinians aren’t backing down nearly as far as he’d hoped. And in the meanwhile, the rest of the world — even including the Americans — is running out of patience.

This is the part where Bibi’s supposed to stand up and say, No, Israel’s security requires that I draw the line here, even if it means no deal. Unfortunately, five years have also taught him that almost none of Israel’s security professionals — the people whose job it is to read the landscape, analyze the enemy’s intentions and win the wars — agree with his analysis. As they see it, the greatest threat to Israel is to go another generation without an agreement. He’s gone through three national security advisers, replaced the heads of all the intelligence services, shuffled and reshuffled, but whoever he comes up with tells him the same thing.

Take Kerry’s plan for Jordan Valley. It’s not the Israeli military’s dream scenario, but it’s the best that has a chance of winning Palestinian acceptance. In fact, the Israeli military helped design it. That makes it harder for Bibi to reject it. That’s bind number one.

Bibi can argue, and rightly so, that generals and spooks don’t make national policy in a democracy. That’s what elections are for, and he was elected prime minister. If he doesn’t like the deal, it’s his prerogative to say no.

On the other hand, when he looks at the elected Knesset, he realizes that the Israeli voters didn’t vote for a government that would say no. Upwards of 60% voted for parties that would say yes. That’s bind number two.

It’s not just American pressure that’s pushing him toward the painful compromises he vowed never to make. It’s the will of the Israeli public.

His allies on the right see how torn he is. That’s why they’re panicking.

Contact J.J. Goldberg at goldberg@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.