Bibi’s Abandonment of Bipartisan US Support May Have Been Recognition of the Inevitable

Before we enter another stretch of time where Israel’s government is more than likely encouraging partisan polarization over its policies among Americans, it’s important to understand why Bibi Netanyahu, hardly a stupid man, might be doing that. The CW (echoed here, too) was that Bibi was so frantic to get Congress as a backdrop for what amounted to a campaign ad that the inevitable blowback among Democrats was just collateral damage. But after listening to Netanyahu treat Israeli Arab voting as a threat to the country, while explicitly abandon any intention of allowing–much less pursuing–a two-state solution to Israel’s occupation problem, Jonathan Chait expressed a different view, before the polls closed yesterday:

Netanyahu’s comments present a coherent and chilling vision of his long-term strategy. His intention is to maintain singular Israeli control in perpetuity over the entire territory that the early Zionists were once happy to partition into two states. This course will eventually lead to pressure for Palestinians to gain a democratic voice within the institutions that control their lives, but Netanyahu treats that as illegitimate, as well. He proposes to snuff out every peaceful outlet for Arab political aspirations.

In this light, his bumbling attempts to transform Israel’s alliance with the United States into an alliance with its conservative movement looks less like a blunder (as his former ambassador Michael Oren has described it) and more like a plan. In the long run, a deep American alliance with the kind of garrison state Netanyahu envisions will become untenable. The only remaining diplomatic strategy will be to deepen Israel’s ties with right-wing America, whose support for Israel is not contingent upon it fulfilling its liberal, democratic ideals. The Republicans who hailed Netanyahu as a Churchillian prophet are cheering a figure who no longer disguises his intention to bury forever the original Zionist dream.

So Bibi hunted where the ducks were, while almost certainly recognizing that the friction he was creating with Obama and with Democrats would endear him even more with Republicans. And Republicans responded spectacularly.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.