The New Annexation Divide
Netanyahu’s Likud merits characterization as the “new Likud.” Over the past ten years, once powerful leaders like Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni abandoned the party, recognizing that Israel’s long-term interests were best served by a more active pursuit of peace via a two-state solution. Those who remain in Likud, like Netanyahu himself, represent les durs des durs, the hardest of Likud’s hardline elements.
But Netanyahu’s coalition already depends upon, and is slated to become even more beholden to, extreme right wing, ultra-nationalist and ultra-Orthodox religious elements. In the current coalition, these forces combined hold eleven more Knesset seats than does Likud. And the beliefs of these elements about Israel, Palestinians, their regional neighbors, and the rest of the world, are every bit as frightening as those of Islamist extremists.
For the ultra-nationalists of Yisrael Beiteinu and The Jewish Home, the solution to the Palestinian problem is to “transfer” Palestinians from their homes to create a more Palestinian-“rein” Israel. These people make David Duke look like lightweight wimps, and some of them have already been occupying important posts in Netanyahu’s current government.
As for Israel’s small, but disproportionately influential, ultra-Orthodox parties, which are also members of the current coalition government, there is real meaning behind the belief that the Jews are God’s “chosen people,” anointed to lead humankind to divine redemption. Their members see Palestinians Arabs, including those who are citizens of Israel, as Canaanites and other Biblical enemies of Israel. Among Israel’s right-wing extremists, more generous thinkers will permit the continued presence of these non-Jews so long as they happily reconcile themselves to second class citizenship.In terms of a post-election coalition, I suspect Netanyahu would prefer to bring in Labor with an economic program, though I'm not sure Labor will agree to serve in a government with Yisrael Beiteinu. What's even more striking than the continued powerlessness of the peace camp, however, is the rise of forces committed in various ways to the annexation of significant chunks of the West Bank and the reduction of its Arab population, most commonly through something like Mitt Romney's idea of getting illegal immigrants in the United States to "self-deport."
In other words, there is an excellent chance that in the near future Israel's government will not be debating how far to go with agreeing to a Palestinian state, but how far to go in making the West Bank part of Israel and judaizing it. This, of course, is a form of the one-state solution, and is happening at a time when people proclaiming the impossibility of the two-state solution are even more common than they were a year ago, when I started noting the trend, and frankly agreeing with it.
The idea of a single state, however, shifts the discussion to what that state should look like, with rejectionists on both sides seeing their own group dominant. I still fear the trends are that Israel will wind up annexing part of the West Bank and leaving the rest as a series of semi-autonomous cantons under its dominance. I also think, however, that it's time for the peace camp to stop thinking about two states and start thinking about ways in which a single state could meet the aspirations of critical masses of both the Israeli and Palestinian publics, accepting that fact that only the significant violence to come will entail that their plans get a serious look.