Jun 05 2014

Netanyahu Panders to Far Right Settlers

Published by at 2:33 pm under Articles


By Daoud Kuttab

Politicians the world overweigh their decision and statements on numerous levels: What will be their effect on the position, will they work and how will they affect the politicians’ long-term career? Israeli leaders, especially Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, do not appear to care about the consequences of their position, nor if it will work. Netanyahu’s only preoccupation appears to be pandering to his right-wing constituency in the hope that this will carry him to an unprecedented fourth term. Take his position on Iran, for example. He went against the world, confronted Israel’s strongest ally and failed miserably. Analysts would say that Netanyahu’s overreach was calculated. He exaggerated the Israeli fears of Iran even though his intelligence sources informed him that Iran was moderating its position after the victory of Hassan Rouhani. Israel’s exaggerated position re the new Ramallah government also fails to follow normal political calculations. Netanyahu knew very well that the new government did not have any Hamas members, that it would not be supported by a vote by Hamas legislature and that it will abide by the three conditions set by the international Quartet (under Israeli pressure) in 2007. Any basic survey of the expected reaction of the world community, including of the Obama administration, would have easily revealed that Washington and Brussels support the new Palestinian government. Sure enough, in both cases, Netanyahu’s outreach has failed to move the world community, including the US. The Obama administration has continued its peaceful negotiations with Iran undeterred and appears to be making progress in restraining any possible nuclear ambition in Tehran. On the Palestinian front, Netanyahu struck out even quicker and clearer. The US, the EU and the UN have all issued statements of recognition of and support for the new Palestinian unity government, which has publicly committed to continue Mahmoud Abbas’ policies. Hamas leaders in Gaza voluntarily gave up their government seats and publicly approved the new government’s policies, which include the two-state solution and adherence to previous agreements. Ironically, even the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC has been silent on the new government, except to repeat the known conditions of the Quartet. So why does Netanyahu do what he does? Why does a leader of a country take such a radical position on issues that, by all indications, the world community would not accept? Has Netanyahu’s arrogance reached such levels that he thinks he can sway world powers just by saying no to an issue? Are Israel and its leaders so drunk with power and influence that they refuse to listen to levelheaded advice and experts’ forecasts? Israeli pundits have been calling on their prime minister to get out of his self-imposed isolation and become aware of the fact that the world does not move according to his whims and statements. Of course, one should not discount the ideological angle, that for decades Netanyahu has trapped himself in an ideological profile and that it is difficult to get out of this straitjacket. Those who follow Netanyahu know that he is a politician and that he changed his ideological positions in the past. A more convincing argument for his attitude is political. Netanyahu is pandering to the right-wing Israelis that have become the majority of the population in Israel. It appears that the influence of the settler ideology is so strong that no Israeli politician can survive elections without speaking their ideological lingo. As a political animal, Netanyahu probably made the calculation that he can easier withstand international or even US pressure than pressure from his own right-wing politicians. It seems that Netanyahu must choose between peace with Palestinians and the world or peace with Israeli settlers and the right-wing ideologues.

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