The Dangerous Game of Benjamin Netanyahu

UPDATES 8 pm Israel time, Monday, March 24 2014:

*An IDF patrol along the Egyptian border came under fire today from terrorists in the Egyptian Sinai.  The soldiers returned fire, and fortunately no Israelis were wounded in the exchange.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian government has little doubt where such terrorism is emanating from. A court in southern Egypt today sentenced 529 members of the Muslim Brotherhood to death for their part in attacks on Egyptian security forces.

*In the wake of the most recent discovery of a highly sophisticated tunnel running from Gaza into southern Israel, Chaim Yellin, the head of the Eshkol Regional Council, petitioned Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon today to stop the transfer of building materials into Gaza: “It is folly for materials to be transferred to the Gaza Strip – including cement and iron – that are used to build tunnels in that endanger us all.” 


The internecine struggle for control of the Likud Party between Benjamin Netanyahu and Danny Danon entered a new phase yesterday with Danon being locked out of an important Likud meeting.

What has happened over the course of the last six months is that Netanyahu has sat back and let Danon and his cohorts take over the machinery of the party. Now that Danon is beginning to use that machinery to seriously contest Netanyahu’s decisions concerning the “peace process”, Netanyahu has suddenly awakened and begun hurling every imaginable insult at Danon.

Part of Netanyahu’s rant yesterday was political pettiness. How, he declared, could he be expected to deal with the major problems of Israel such as Hezbollah and Nasrallah, Iran and its nuclear programs, Syria and its chemical weapons, Hamas firing endless rockets from Gaza, and the turmoil in Egypt–and at the same time lower himself to deal with the day to day workings of Likud.  Netanyahu continued that if other Likudniks want to commit political suicide, they should align themselves with Danon.

But the other part of Netanyahu’s rant yesterday was much more serious and revelatory again of the game that he has been playing in the “peace talks”. 

Addressing Danon’s threat to resign his cabinet post of Deputy Defense Minister if Netanyahu agrees to release Israeli-Arab murderers, Netanyahu steamed that Danon and others like him were destroying Netanyahu’s strategy to reveal Palestinian intransigence. To listen to Netanyahu tell it, Israel must make continuous concessions in order to show that the Palestinians won’t make any concessions.

If this sounds contorted, it is not the first time that Netanyahu has taken this tack. Back in January, Netanyahu blasted Naftali Bennett because Bennett dared to challenge Netanyahu’s statement that Jews in Judea and Samaria could live under a Palestinian government after a state of “Palestine” is established. At that time, the Prime Minister’s Office directly stated that Bennett should keep his mouth shut so that the Palestinians could open theirs and deny the right of any Jew to live in a future “Palestine” (which they had already done endlessly).

Netanyahu’s game of forcing Palestinian intransigence is short-sighted at best and extremely dangerous at worst.

In the first place, the world does not care how intransigent the Palestinians are. Even if the Paletinians reject every Israeli proposal for peace and refuse to ever offer a single compromise for peace, the European Union, the United Nations, the Obama White House, and Israel bashers everywhere will forever see the Palestinians as “victims”.

No game that Netanyahu can play will ever change that.

In the second place, every time that Netanyahu completes another compromise, he further erodes Israel’s conception of itself as a principled country.  The constant release of Palestinian murderers, the constant pouring of supplies into Gaza which are then used against Israeli civilians and soldiers, the constant kowtowing to Kerry and Obama: all of these make Israelis call into question the very dignity of our country.

In the third place, and this is extremely important for the future, every time that Netanyahu offers a compromise that he knows that the Palestinians will reject, he nevertheless establishes that compromise as a starting point for future “negotiations”, and he signals to the world that Israel is indeed willing to compromise on the division of Jerusalem, or the evacuation of Jewish community members from Judea and Samaria, or the so-called “return” of the Golan Heights to Syria.   

Why in the world has Netanyahu not reached a point where he simply declares what Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinians have said all along: “No”.

No more talk of dividing Jerusalem; no more talk of evacuating Judea and Samaria; no more talk of “giving back” the Golan Heights; no more talk of releasing murderers; no more talk of anything that makes Israel look like a two-bit country without an ounce of self-dignity.

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