Ironically, the most comforting thought for those critics of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu who fear that he plans to annex parts of the West Bank is that he is not a man of his word.
Netanyahu was uncharacteristically blunt during the final days of the recent election campaign, appealing to right-wing voters by asserting, in an interview: “We will go to the next phase to extend Israeli sovereignty,” adding that he would not distinguish “between settlement blocs and isolated settlements.”
Such statements seemed to have helped, as nearly 60 percent of voters chose his Likud Party or other right-wing parties in the election. Clearly, Israelis have moved firmly to the right in recent years and, as a democracy, they have spoken, placing security as a prime factor in giving Netanyahu a record fifth term in office.
But while he will be pressured by his coalition, now in formation, to make good on his annexation promise, Netanyahu may revert to his more equivocal past and avoid any dramatic action. Not because mainstream American Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, are urgently calling on him to oppose unilateral measures that would preclude a two-state solution. It’s increasingly apparent that the prime minister is not swayed by diaspora appeals. Rather, he knows full well that annexation would disrupt, if not end, security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and advance the BDS movement seeking to isolate and delegitimize Israel. Most notably, it would place some 2.5 million Palestinians under Israeli rule. If they were given the right to vote, Jews would soon become a minority in Israel; if they were refused the right to vote, it would promote the notion that Israel is an apartheid state.
We hope we are not naïve in believing Netanyahu is too smart to box Israel into that position.