Saturday October 10, 2015
Israel Hayom
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Jordan Valley sovereignty bill sparks political storm
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Dan Margalit

Populism at the expense of negotiations

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation's decision to annex Jewish communities in the Jordan Valley isn't worth the paper it's written on. There is no chance that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will allow the cabinet to approve MK Miri Regev's bill. Most ministers from Likud-Beytenu and Habayit Hayehudi likely voted for the bill out of political populism and a desire to please their central committees. They would not have done so had they actually believed the government would approve it.

Everyone knows that at the height of the negotiations with the Palestinians, which are so vital to the U.S., it would be unacceptable to pass such a law. Israel is currently not in a position to annex a single grain of sand or piece of rock. But why not enjoy increased popularity in the Likud Central Committee at the expense of Netanyahu, who will labor to explain the bill to the U.S.? This is precisely why he won't let it pass, to the relief of the Likud ministers who voted for it on Sunday.

Regev, who was the IDF spokeswoman during the disengagement from Gush Katif, presumably felt the need to justify herself in the eyes of the Likud's right wing. She has become holier than the pope on every issue related to a Greater Israel. What is most worrisome is the support she received from Likud ministers, because this points to a lack of firm resolution among ministers in the Knesset's biggest party. Regev has placed the entire burden on Netanyahu's shoulders.

It is already clear that Kerry is energetically hashing out the draft of a framework agreement. Israel knows it will include a stipulation that negotiations be based on the 1967 borders, with minor adjustments and land swaps. Netanyahu will struggle with the wording, but knows that he must ultimately accept it as a basis for continued dialogue if he wants to gain an additional year of negotiations.

The government's right wing will reconcile itself to the framework agreement in the same spirit it has displayed until now.

"Let the children play," they say. In other words, go ahead and conduct negotiations that will yield nothing in any case. Netanyahu himself is probably skeptical that an agreement can be reached, but unlike the Right, he does not want Israel, under growing international pressure, to take the blame.

Basically, the government is divided into three groups: those who believe there is some chance of an agreement, those who believe there is none and never will be, and those who believe there is none and never will be and that that's a good thing.

If the ministers played by the rule book of functional democracies, they would allow Netanyahu to conduct negotiations without murmuring in the background that he is destined to fail. If they are so certain that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does not want an agreement, why are they making it difficult for Netanyahu to place the blame on the Palestinians? Perhaps they are not altogether certain. Or maybe their egos are involved.

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