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Israeli Right Rising: The Face of the Jewish State's Future Wants to Annex Illegal Settlements

Right-wing nationalist Naftali Bennett represents a shift in Israeli politics that the world should notice.

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That’s why Naftali Bennett is a potentially revolutionary and pivotal figure in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Netanyahu is not willing to state that he opposes a two-state solution. US President Barack Obama cannot seriously consider trying to re-write the parameters of an Israel-Palestine deal. Tzipi Livni, Shelly Yachimovict and other centrist Israeli leaders are equally wedded to the two-state formulation and, if they realize it cannot be attained, their response is to give Israel more time and breathing space to maintain the status quo.

Bennett offers something different, and it is a purely Israeli nationalist vision. Indeed, the theme of his presentation of his plan is “Do what is best for Israel.” And Bennett does not take this stance from the point of view of a religious fanatic, or a secular fascist, but as a modern conservative who holds to free market ideologies and a strategic vision for Israel’s future. That sort of pitch is one that can win him many friends and admirers in Washington and perhaps even in some European capitals. It offers no relief to the Palestinians, of course, and it is a plan which resigns Israel to eternal, and likely increasing, hostility from the entire Arab world.

But in Bennett’s view, Israel is strong enough to withstand that, even, eventually, without US military aid. He probably isn’t correct about that, but he has the appeal and the positioning to have a chance at actualizing his vision. Advocates for the Palestinians, for peace in the region or even just for incrementally greater Middle East stability had better not underestimate him.  

Mitchell Plitnick is the former director of the U.S. Office of B'Tselem and former co-director of Jewish Voice for Peace.

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