RUBIN: Israeli vote settles little
Published: Monday, January 28, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 25, 2013 at 7:24 p.m.
This is further evidence that Israelis have lost faith in the peace process and are focused on domestic problems. But now that the Israeli (as well as the U.S.) election season is over, those sidelined issues will force themselves back to the fore.
The Israeli press is already speculating about how Netanyahu can repair his famously strained relations with Obama.
But the tensions between Jerusalem and Washington won’t be easily soothed. Despite Obama’s strong military and diplomatic support for Israel, Netanyahu openly challenged him on Iran at the United Nations in September. Israel argues that even if it has to attack alone, Iran must be prevented from developing the capacity to build a nuclear weapon, which the Israeli leader projected would happen by spring. Obama, rightly reluctant to start another preemptive war, puts a redline at preventing Iran from actually building a weapon.
Whether the Israeli election results will change Netanyahu’s calculation isn’t clear yet. Some of his possible coalition partners have argued strongly against a solo Israeli attack on Iran.
When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the breach is even more evident. The White House knows the current Mideast turmoil makes a peace accord unlikely in the near term, as do the weakness of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the positions of Hamas, which controls Gaza.
But Netanyahu’s promotion of Jewish settlement building on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem virtually rules out a two-state solution in the long term. It also isolates Israel internationally and puts the onus for stalled talks on Jerusalem.
A stunning report by the Israeli group Peace Now (available at peacenow.org) details the vast new settlement construction under Netanyahu in isolated areas of the West Bank
If you drive around the West Bank, you quickly see how these settlements and outposts make a contiguous Palestinian state virtually impossible. They separate disenfranchised Palestinians into cantons. This invites comparison with an apartheid state.
Whether the new Israeli government will take on the settlement issue is doubtful. Netanyahu’s own Likud party has moved rightward. His coalition will probably include a new party that advocates annexing the West Bank. And he promised that no settlement would be removed if he were elected.
Much will depend on whether some of the partners Netanyahu woos for his coalition make settlements an issue. But even if they do, Bibi may not oblige. If not, the settlement issue will remain a thorn in U.S.-Israeli relations.
When the U.N. Security Council voted last fall to condemn Israel for settlements, the United States was one of only eight countries siding with Israel. Obama got no thanks: Soon afterward, Netanyahu advanced plans
Yet consider this:
]Trudy Rubin is a columnist for the
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