Netanyahu’s self-defeating strategy

Acting like he thinks Israel is doomed without a peace deal, the prime minister encourages the Palestinians not to sign one.

August 5, 2013 15:21
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner )


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Someone unfamiliar with Israeli politics might think the decision to free 104 Palestinian murderers became inevitable only  once the cabinet approved it last week. Those more familiar with Israel’s political dynamics might date it a few weeks earlier, to whenever US Secretary of State John Kerry shamefully decided to demand that Israel do something America would never do itself.

But in truth, it has been inevitable for years – at least since October 20, 2010, which is when I first heard Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu say that Israel couldn’t “survive in the long run without a political settlement.” For once a prime minister convinces himself that the country’s very survival depends on an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, the inexorable consequence is that almost no concession is too high to pay for a deal, or even for the faintest chance of one. He’ll obviously try to get the best deal he can. But ultimately, he’ll feel justified in crawling to any Palestinian demand, even one as wildly unpopular as the prisoner release, to save Israel from the doom he foresees.


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