Jared Kushner’s hardline refusal to let Mr. Netanyahu eke out a political win from the “Deal of the Century” by quickly annexing even a symbolically small piece of land has likely doomed Israeli right to a sweeping defeat in the upcoming election
A famous story from the second century AD Judea took place just before the Bar Kochba revolt against Rome. As the story is told, a Roman soldier showed up at the home of Rabbi Akiva, perhaps the most famous Rabbi of the day and the spiritual leader of the impending Bar Kochba revolt, and commanded the Rabbi to teach him the whole Torah while standing on one foot. Rabbi Akiva’s answer was “Do not do to others as you do not wish them to do to you. Now go and study the rest!”
This answer became a bit of meme in the Hebrew language. When we we want the elevator pitch, the short version of anything, we ask for it to be told to us “on one foot”.
The current political impasse and the essence of the political divide in Israel is this: Israeli Jews are divided by the “on one foot” account they give of the Zionist movement’s interaction with the Arabs. Specifically, those Arabs who are now living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, be in it the so-called “West Bank”, in Gaza, or in Israel “proper”, i.e. within the borders of the 1949 armistice.
If you asked Jewish people on the left of the Israeli political spectrum to summarize the Arab-Israeli conflict while standing on one foot, you would get this answer: “The land between the River and the Sea must be divided between two peoples: the Jews and the Palestinians.
If you give the same task to people like me, people from the right of the Israeli political spectrum, you would get this answer: “Jews are waging a multigenerational struggle to free the Land of Israel from the non-Jewish illegal aliens who have taken it over at one time or another.”
In the leftist narrative, there are two peoples, two nations, between the river and the sea: Jews and Palestinian Arabs. These two peoples are fighting to divide between them a small piece of land to which both have rights.
In the rightist narrative, there is only one nation between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean: Jews. The Arabs are a collection of individuals who for one reason or another live in this narrow strip of land, but who have no collective rights to it whatsoever. Thus it falls upon the Jews to substantially keep squeezing until the entirety of the land is controlled and occupied solely by Jews, though achieving this goal may take a long time.
President Trump’s “Deal of the Century” is a plan that harmonizes much more with the leftist point of view than with that held by the Israeli right. It stipulates that there are two nations in the land and proposes a realistic plan based on current “on the ground” conditions for the division of the land between them.
Paradoxically, however, the plan has much more widespread support in the Israeli right than the Israeli left. Why is that?
The left is rejecting the plan for two reasons. First, because the “Palestinians” reject it as “unfair” to them and the Israeli Jewish left concurs. Second, because the plan comes from president Trump and PM Netanyahu for both of whom the Israeli left has an irrational hatred.
Israeli right, though not all of it, supports the plan, rather surprisingly, for the same exact reason that the left rejects it. The right supports the plan because the “Palestinians” reject it and because it is “unfair” to them. The “Palestinian” rejection of the plan means that only the parts that are in Israel’s, meaning the Jews’, favor will be implemented, whereas those that are in the “Palestinian” favor will not be.
In the view of the Israeli right, president Trump’s plan will not be any sort of final deal simply because there will never be, there CAN never be, any kind of final deal. Or rather because the only final deal in the view of the Israeli right is the deal between God and Abraham, the covenant that gives the entirety of the Land to Jews as a divine and unalienable right.
The Israeli right can live with the “Deal of the Century” for two big practical reasons. First, it erases from the books the armistice line of 1949, the so-called “Green Line” as it pertains to Israel’s eastern border. The plan establishes the eastern border of Israel in the only place it can and should be, along the Jordan River Valley. Second, the plan recognizes the lands in Judea and Samaria, the so-called “West Bank”, that are now inhabited by Jews as Jewish, or more precisely, as legally Israeli. The fact that the remainder of the land is recognized by the same plan as “Palestinian”, does not mean much to the Israeli right. By agreeing to the plan, they don’t really agree to agree to that part of it.
There were many “partition plans” dating back to 1947 and all of them had failed due to a combination of Arab intransigence and Jewish Zionist expansionism. Simply put, as is always the case, might made right and might was with the Zionist Jews. Israeli right sees no reason why the pattern of Jews saying yes and Arabs saying no with the result being that Arabs cede territory and Jews gain it, cannot continue in the case of the “Deal of the Century”. After all, a century is but the blink of an eye in Jewish history. Zionism, Jews, are fighting for the deal of thirty centuries, not just one.
One would be permitted to think that president Trump’s deal would be a colossal political win for the Israeli right and for its leader, Mr. Netanyahu. As it turns out, one would be, at least for now, very wrong. The immediate aftermath of the deal rollout by president Trump with PM Netanyahu in attendance opened a very narrow window of opportunity in which not only center-right, but even religious right elements in Mr. Netanyahu’s political coalition were willing to agree to the unimaginable: the formation of a “Palestinian” state over major parts of Judea and Samaria, lands that are the very historical cradle of the Jewish People.
It is true that the acceptance of this, as far as the religious right was concerned, involved major “mental reservations”, but acceptance it would have been nonetheless. Getting rid of the hated “Green Line”, finally becoming full Israeli citizens while living in Judea and Samaria made it all worth it. There was euphoria. There were blessings. There was dancing.
This window is now firmly shut. The sweet fruit had soured. The adamant refusal by the Trump administration and specifically Mr. Kushner to allow Israel to extend its legal framework, or to use more common parlance, to “annex” any part of the lands defined in the plan as definitely Israeli was bad enough. The language in which this refusal was delivered, a language of threats typical to the “other” American administrations from Truman to Obama, was like a dose of salts to the Israeli right. All of a sudden, it was as if they (we) have come out of a stupor. “So nothing has really changed,” is what the Israeli right is thinking now.
US Ambassador to Israel, Mr. Friedman took to Twitter yesterday to explain that a joint American-Israeli committee is now working to “map” out the areas that would be annexed and that any unilateral Israeli action before the committee finished its work would be ill-advised and would result in the withdrawal of American recognition and support. Mr. Netanyahu announced the formation of this committee at a campaign rally.
Nobody knows whether the committee will make any recommendations before the March 2nd election, but even if it does, the political damage to Mr. Netanyahu, the Likud party, and the Israeli right in general has already been done and it may well prove fatal. Instead of a transformational, once in a lifetime opportunity to cement gains that were fully paid for by the blood of thousands of Jewish men, women, and children, warriors and babies alike, we got another “partition plan”, another meaningless bureaucratic debacle that demands tangible sacrifices from the Jews in the form of relinquishing our rights to our historical heartlands in exchange for vague promises and meaningless “accords”.
The coalition against president Trump’s plan has always been formidable. It consists of both Israeli left and Israeli extreme right, each for its own very different reasons. Then there has always been the Israeli “center”, secular Israelis that just want to go to the beach on Saturday morning and to Ikea on their way home. For a brief moment there was hope that this was something different, something worth getting excited about. Had Mr. Netanyahu been allowed to annex one square inch of the Jordan Valley the day he set foot back in Israel after the plan had been announced, election victory would have been his. But Mr. Kushner said no and with that no he most likely got Israel a leftist government made up of Pelosi-loving never Trumper Jews and Muslim terrorist Arabs.
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