Just about everyone knows that Avigdor Lieberman is a transferist, someone who believes in transferring (or expelling) Israeli Arabs from Israel and placing them under Palestinian sovereignty. But almost no one knows that Bibi Netanyahu is one as well. To be more concise, Bibi was a transferist as of the time of the following anecdote. But what he believes now is anyone’s guess:
One night at a dinner party in Jerusalem in 1977, I heard a young Israeli talking about the Arabs in terms which chilled my blood. “In the next war,” he said, “we’ve got to get the Palestinians out of the West Bank for good.”
…By a curious quirk, that young Israeli whom I heard enthuse about emptying the West Bank of Arabs was Binyamin Netanyahu, today his country’s prime minister.
Ah, I hear my right-wing readers say: “But this was 1977, a lot can change in a few decades.” Yes, a direct, sincere young right-wing zealot can become a wily, duplicitous politician who knows how to cloak his views well. Certainly, Bibi understands that he could not become prime minister if he explicitly endorsed transfer as stated government policy. So instead, he focuses on tactical matters like improving the economic lives of Palestinians, as if this–even if he was sincere in implementing it (which he clearly is not)–would resolve the conflict. Such tactical manuvering enables him to hold off the day of reckoning as long as possible when Israel will be forced to fish or cut bait with the Palestinians. So transferist? Maybe. Obstructionist? Definitely.
Bibi is but the latest in a long line of Israeli prime minister’s whose primary goal in office seems to be dither in the face of insurmountable evidence that this takes Israel ever farther away from its stated goal, which is a long-term peace with its neighbors. In fact, such premeditated obstructionism, always concealed by a veneer of reasonableness, elevates an obsession with tactics into a strategy in and of itself.
I hope the Obama administration will keep this piece of Bibi’s personal history in the back of their minds as they prepare to meet him for his first White House visit with our new president. It should reinforce the fact that Bibi is a leopard who has essentially never changed his spots from 1977 till now.
H/t to Assaf Oron.