Israel’s right-wing government is showing its muscle and testing the political waters at home as well as in Ramallah and Washington. Several pieces of Knesset legislation in recent days indicate a coalition effort to make a two-state solution to the Palestinian problem more difficult, and to strengthen the notion of Israel’s biblical right to the land.
Members of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party are calling for the annexation of Jewish settlements on the West Bank. Another vote makes it more difficult to give up any part of Jerusalem to a foreign entity, requiring 80 of the Knesset’s 120 votes rather than a simple majority and national referendum. And an attempt was made to position outside of Jerusalem several growing Palestinian neighborhoods so as to bolster the city’s Jewish majority in local elections.
It would appear that these new political moves are based on a renewed confidence in President Trump as an outspoken supporter of the Jerusalem government; a sense that Netanyahu, facing corruption investigations, is politically vulnerable; and the belief that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is a weak and ineffectual leader among his people. So the moment seems right to move right.
Abbas lashed out in response, asserting that Israel, with Trump’s support, “is not interested in a just and lasting peace” but rather in establishing “an apartheid regime in all of historic Palestine.” Netanyahu remains on record as supporting a two-state solution, but he may feel too exposed now to speak forcefully on the issue when his coalition partners seem emboldened enough to change the Israel-Palestinian dynamic. All of this may simply be political feints and jabs from the Israeli right, but if the trend continues, body blows may be next in order.