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Does Netanyahu Know What He Is Doing?

Matthew Yglesias thinks so. And so he acquits Netanyahu of Jeffrey Goldberg's charge that Netanyahu is "objectively" committing treason to Israel. Matthew Yglesias:

Yglesias » Assuming Netanyahu Knows What He’s Doing: Jeffrey Goldberg notes that Benjamin Netanyahu’s approach to the US-Israel relationship is inconsistent with the idea that he lives in terror of the Iranian nuclear weapons program:

For decades, Israel has been a bipartisan cause on Capitol Hill. It will remain so for a while, but Netanyahu is, through his pedantic and pinched behavior, helping to weaken Israel’s standing among Democrats. Why is this so important? Because Israel has no friends left in the world except for the United States (and in fairer weather, Canada, Australia and Germany). As it moves toward a confrontation with Iran, it needs wall-to-wall support in America. You would think that Netanyahu, who is sincere in his oft-stated belief that Iran poses quite possibly the greatest danger Israel has ever faced, would be working harder than he is to ensure Democratic, and presidential, support, for this cause. And you can forget Barack Obama and the Democratic Party in this analysis. It’s no secret that the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf are objectively aligned with Israel on the Iran question. Nor is it a secret that said governments can’t afford to be publicly seen as lining up with Israel as long as the Palestinian issue is an open sore. Substantial concessions to the Palestinians as part of an effort to build as broad as possible a coalition against Iran seems like a no-brainer.

Unless, that is, you really and truly on the merits don’t want to make substantial concessions to the Palestinians. When I went to the Gush Etzion settlement bloc it was clearly a very nice place. If I lived there, I wouldn’t want to give up that land any more than Americans want to give their houses back to the Native Americans. Route 443 through the West Bank is a very useful piece of transportation infrastructure, and the people who benefit from it don’t want to give it up any more than any other commuters around the world want to give up their infrastructure. The Israeli settlers in and around Hebron are clearly very committed religious believers, who no more want to give up than do the tens of thousands of deeply committed anti-abortion activists around America. “Lets keep this land” isn’t a crazy policy agenda. Reluctance to give up land won in a war is a very common national priority. But I think it’s time for Americans—and especially American Jews—who don’t agree with this priority to stop being puzzled by it.

It is, Yglesias thinks, Barak and Olmert who don't know what they are doing and what their aims are:

Yglesias » The Plan: I actually think the Israeli politicians with no plan beyond short-term politics are the moderates of the Barak/Olmert ilk who avow the urgent need for partition but can’t ever seem to bring themselves to dismantle a settlement or speak the truth to the Israeli population.

For the right-wing politicians, I think we should to a greater extent take them at their word. There is a genuine religious nationalist view that the Jewish state has to incorporate in an important way the religiously significant city of Jerusalem and its environs and not just the coastal strip where the bulk of the early (secular) Zionist settlement occurred. There’s also a perfectly genuine view that there’s really “no such thing as a Palestinian” other than as a kind of generic “Arab” who happens to live in the former area of the British colony of Palestine. On this view, the entire Palestinian national movement is either a kind of cynical ruse deployed by Arab despots or a bad-faith mask for a desire to destroy the entire Jewish state.

If that’s right, then the best plan really is to build a security wall that incorporates lots of Arab land in and around Jerusalem or otherwise adjacent to the Green Line, cut Gaza and the West Bank off from each other, count on the might of the IDF, the diplomatic protection of the United States, and the growing political strength of Israel-friendly European far-right parties to protect you from hostile neighbors, and cross your fingers hoping for a change in Arab opinion that will allow for the incorporation of Gaza into Egypt and the main West Bank centers of Arab population into Jordan.

I don’t think any of this is correct, and it all founders (both in premise and in conclusion) on the assumed inauthenticity of Palestinian nationalism, but it should be acknowledged that it “makes sense” as a theory of the world.