The election season in Israel emphasized and cemented the concept and use of the late in the day Friday news shocker. It seemed that late in the day every Friday there was some revelation about occasionally Likud and more often Jewish Home which was over-hyped and cast as a game-changer or the end of their campaign garnering a high finish in the next Knesset. The election really did not turn or even appear to respond much to the hyperventilating press and their alarming discoveries which appeared like clockwork minutes before Shabbat. Now that the election has passed into the coalition forming mode where results are supposedly more easily determined the press still will not give up on their Shabbat bombshells. So, in another alarming news rumor timed just in time for Shabbat we are treated in one of the television news reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu is planning to impose another building freeze on the areas of Judea and Samaria excepting the recognized settlement blocs. This was claimed to have been imparted to MK Uri Ariel of the Bayit Yehudi Party during coalition talks by unnamed Likud representatives. The amount of credibility which can be relied upon from this Shabbat bombshell is highly dubious and will likely get a full rebuttal likely from both parties, or at least some clarification which will no doubt muddle up the whole deal placing the fog of political spin replete with at least a few words of unknown or variable definitions which adjust as reactions are measured. Well, we should see these from various party officials and possibly even from Netanyahu or Bennett themselves. But what if these reports are true?
Well, the one thing we know about which might be the driving initiator of such a move would be the approaching visit from United States President Obama who is rumored to be accompanied by his new Secretary of State John Kerry. Secretary of State Kerry, as we might recall, is the man with the latest and newest plan to revitalize the peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis and who also knows exactly what needs to be done in order to steer the negotiations to a final solution consisting of a Palestinian state next to Israel with both living together with peace and security. Just what the world needs, another expert with promising self-promotional claims, declarations and assertions claiming to know the route to Middle East Nirvana coming on the scene in his new position which will allow him to test his presumably great ideas. Perhaps Prime Minister Netanyahu is expecting Secretary Kerry to simply rerun through the same absurd ideas which his boss, President Obama, applied in his first try at solving the foremost Gordian Knot in the world of diplomacy. Whatever the reasoning behind this latest idiocy, which is the sole applicable term for another building freeze, be it limited or permanent, it is an idea whose time should never return.
But what if some unknown form of insanity has gripped Prime Minister Netanyahu and he is actually planning another building freeze, what will be the likely results? If, as the report claimed, Netanyahu is actually attempting to punish those living beyond the Green Line because of the assumption that they register in fairly significant numbers to the Likud Party in order to vote for people who will support their efforts and positions placing them higher on Likud’s Knesset list yet did not vote in matching numbers for Likud in the elections, this is honestly a real good way of reinforcing their idea that Likud does not want them nor does it support them as a principle plank for the party. Actually, it is very likely the negative campaign run by Likud which was largely aimed at Jewish Home Party or their leader, Naftali Bennett, often using the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria as a divisive, polarizing wedge issue. This seeming condemnation and deriding of the support for the settlement enterprise which is at the heart of the Jewish Home Party by many Likud attacks during the campaign were very likely responsible for the lack of support and number of Likud Party members from these communities to decide to take their vote elsewhere as they felt unappreciated and even a victim of the Likud Party’s political attacks. This was on top of the original building freeze imposed after United States President Obama demanded one as part of his original pressuring of Israel to facilitate conditions which would bring Mahmoud Abbas back to the negotiating table. Mahmoud Abbas had made some claims as the building freeze was nearing its conclusion that he was prepared to return to negotiation if the freeze was extended until negotiations reached an actual peace accord between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Perhaps Secretary Kerry or possibly President Obama himself have made known to Prime Minister Netanyahu that their first step in efforts to restart the negotiation will be to insist Israel impose a permanent building freeze on areas beyond the Green Line and the Prime Minister is simply informing those who are considering joining the coalition what he is being pressured into doing. Whatever the reason, another building freeze in Judea and Samaria will very likely bring about the end of Likud as a center right or nationalist party and very well could lead to Likud following the same path to oblivion which appears to have been taken by Kadima. Surrendering to world pressures by imposing building freezes or disengagements granting land to the Palestinian Authority while receiving nothing in return is the fast track to becoming a nonviable party in Israel. If this Shabbat bombshell proves true, then we are very possibly going to see new elections fairly quickly as it is doubtful that Netanyahu would even be able to survive a no confidence vote even if it were taken solely within the Likud Party, let alone the entire Knesset. Promising to impose a building freeze might even make forming a coalition impossible for Netanyahu and the Likud Party unless a way would be found to have the Labor Party and Shas to join the coalition. Of course making a coalition with the Labor Party as a crucial member would make the coalition very fragile and unlikely to hold together through any vote of no confidence. Such a coalition would ironically find itself vulnerable to the exact same wedge issue used by the Likud Party in the campaigns, anything pertaining to curtailing the expansion of Jewish settlements beyond the Green Line.
Beyond the Cusp