Analysis: Will the Trump era be Bennett's finest hour?

Although the position Trump ends up taking on the diplomatic possibilities for the region can only be guessed at for now, what is clear is that Bennett has formulated a plan.

December 30, 2016 11:39
3 minute read.
Naftali Bennett

Naftali Bennett. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

“Cometh the hour, cometh the man,” so the saying goes, and on Wednesday night one man, US Secretary of State John Kerry, took an hour to denounce the settlement enterprise as ruinous to the hopes of a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians.

Of no little significance were the pains Kerry took to cite the recent comments of another man, Bayit Yehudi chairman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, regarding the implications of recent developments in Israel and the US.

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Although Kerry did not mention Bennett by name, he noted that the Bayit Yehudi chairman had said the election victory of US President- elect Donald Trump meant “the era of the two-state solution is over,” and that the preliminary approval of the settlement regulation bill meant Israel was moving toward establishing sovereignty in the West Bank.

In so doing, the secretary of state was essentially fingering Bennett as the leading proponent and architect of plans to do away with the two-state solution, which has formed the diplomatic basis of all solutions to the conflict for the last quarter century.
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If indeed the election of Trump is the beginning of an era, then is this now Bennett’s hour, and will his proposals for annexing Area C of the West Bank become a reality? In terms of the political will and intent, Bayit Yehudi has, according to party officials, already received a promise from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to advance the settlement bill once Trump has taken office.

Bennett has said that such a law would be “the tip of the iceberg” of efforts to establish Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, and the party has already submitted further legislation to the Knesset which would annex the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement and the surrounding E1 zone.

Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan told The Jerusalem Post that Bayit Yehudi was demanding that Netanyahu “think of new ideas” since the two-state idea had not worked, insisting that the Palestinians could not accept the maximum Israel can offer.

Numerous senior Likud MKs, including Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely and Environment Minister Ze’ev Elkin, have expressed opposition to the two-state solution and support for establishing Israeli sovereignty, at least in part, over the West Bank.

Indeed, it was 25 Likud MKs who in September demanded legislation to legalize settlement outposts and save Amona.

Speaking to the Post on Thursday, Likud MK Yoav Kisch, head of the Knesset Land of Israel Lobby, reiterated his opposition to the two-state solution and said there were “many other options” available in place of the Oslo paradigm.

Kulanu and its chairman, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, are more concerned with creating economic opportunity for the Palestinians than advancing the idea of a Palestinian state.

These figures all believe that the future depends on what stance Trump takes when he comes into office.

His vocal support for Israel in the face of the UN Security Council resolution condemning settlements, and his vocal public criticism of Kerry, are certainly comforting for those proposing to scrap the two-state solution, as is his selection of David Friedman as ambassador to Israel.

Although the position Trump ends up taking on the diplomatic possibilities for the region can only be guessed at for now, what is clear is that Bennett, for one, has formulated a plan for what will happen afterward.

His party, and elements within the Likud, have devised strategies and propositions for how to act in a post-two-state-solution era, and have planned new paradigms beyond the one which has been pursued for the last 25 years.

If Trump does indeed bring a new approach to the diplomatic conundrum, then Bennett’s hour, and that of those like him, may be drawing closer.

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