I’m about to make a counter-intuitive, but I think persuasive argument that Bibi Netanyahu’s virtually assured election victory on Tuesday will, in the long-term, lead us closer to the ultimate (not ‘final’) solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
First, let’s review the latest polls, which say that Blue and White, the opposition center-right coalition (not “left” as reporters are foolishly writing) and Likud are in a dead heat. But when all Knesset seats are apportioned by Party, the right-wing parties will have 66 seats and the center-left parties will have 54 seats. Unless Benny Gantz, the Blue & White leader, invites far-right parties to join his coalition (conceivable, but catastrophic if he chooses this path) by offering them more than Netanyahu offers, he cannot form a governing coalition. It is far more realistic to predict that Bibi forms his fifth government as prime minister, the longest-serving premier in Israel’s history.
Netanyahu always holds back some special gifts from his goodie bag to offer the Israeli electorate before election day. This time, he pulled out all the stops with his pal, Vladimir Putin, who managed to retrieve the body of an IDF soldier who’d been captured 37 years ago in Lebanon. An amazing October Surprise!
But why stop there? Bibi today advised Israelis that if he won he would annex parts of the West Bank. This is a policy extremists have advocated for decades, but which were always laughed off as too far-fetched even for serious discussion. Not to mention that every American president opposed such an outcome vehemently.
But with Donald Trump calling the shots, the sky’s the limit for the Israeli extremists running the country: Jerusalem as Israel’s capital? Check. Golan annexed to Israel? Check. West Bank annexed to Israel. Check. Of course, Bibi will not annex all of the West Bank. That would mean incorporating all of its Palestinian residents into Israel. No, all Bibi wants is the Jews living there. So he will annex all the major settlement blocs and probably many of the smaller ones as well. But the key is to exclude major Palestinian population centers from annexation.
There are those who hope for a Blue and White victory in the election. I’m not one of them. If the center-right wins, they bring nothing new to the table. They will continue the same policies as the right-wing extremist government which preceded them. But softer. Remember, Gantz was the IDF commander who led the 2014 Operation Protective Edge massacre, which brought the slaughter of 2,300 Palestinian dead. Gantz is no liberal (though the term is relative in Israel, where the far-right is dominant). He’s not going to set doves loose in the Knesset and augur in an era of peace. He’s going to be a fierce, nationalist, security-obsessed prime minister. Just like every one going back to Ben Gurion.
That’s why I hold the perverse, but reasonable (I think) view that annexation, while disastrous in the short-term, is a promising approach for the long-term. If we want a single democratic state in which all citizens are equal regardless of religion or ethnicity, then we must embrace a unified Israel-Palestine. Not the Bantustan formula Netanyahu is advancing. But an approach that incorporates all the Jews and Palestinians from the river to the sea in a single state.
So yes, Bibi will offer a patchwork annexation plan that will make the West Bank map look like Swiss cheese. But the ultimate goal must be to annex the entire West Bank and Gaza into a single state. Once Bibi annexes, activists around the world can lobby for every nation and international body to demand a truly democratic solution that unites all the land, rather than excluding major Palestinian population centers and placing them into a Bantustan.
In this scenario, Netanyahu will have sealed his own fate by starting down the road with partial annexation. The goal following this is to argue that this approach is a fig leaf for apartheid. The only full, proper and democratic solution is for full annexation with full rights.