Game Over

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long been suspected of playing a double game, of speaking one way to his supporters in Israel and another way to the rest of the world. Since 2009, he has been telling the world that he supports a two-state solution. Meanwhile, he has been signaling to right-wing voters in Israel that they needn't worry about peace talks with the Palestinians going anywhere. (According to this widely read article in the New Yorker, at a 2013 meeting with young Likud supporters Netanyahu responded to a question about peace talks by saying, "About the—what?" The audience laughed.)

From now on Netanyahu will no longer be able to play this game. In a video interview published today, on the eve of an election, Netanyahu stated explicitly that, as long as he is prime minister, there will be no statehood for the Palestinians. "I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands, is giving attack grounds to the radical Islam against the state of Israel.... Anyone who ignores this is sticking his head in the sand. The left does this time and time again. We are realistic and understand.” Interviewer: "But if you are prime minister, a Palestinian state will not arise?" Netanyahu: "Indeed."

With his party behind in the polls, Netanyahu is desperately trying to draw support from conservative voters, including those who consider Likud not conservative enough. If he loses control of the Knesset tomorrow, Israeli voters will have signaled their support for a different, less hostile policy toward the Palestinians. If his coalition wins, Washington will no longer be able to pretend that Netanyahu's policies are compatible with ours. If we are still committed to statehood for the Palestinians, we will have to stand up to him. This will be difficult for politicians who are more used to standing up for Netanyahu, as when, earlier this month, they offered long standing ovations as he publicly questioned our president's policies in the Middle East—at their invitation. 

Matthew Boudway is senior editor of Commonweal.

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