The Jerusalem Post

Government defers anti-Netanyahu bill


The new government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid will try to avoid battles against the opposition in the Knesset in the month ahead and will instead focus on less-controvers­ial bills backed by the government, the heads of the coalition decided Tuesday.

During the first month of the government, private members’ bills will not be allowed from either the coalition or the opposition. The opposition wants to embarrass both right-wing and left-wing government ministers by proposing their own bills from the past that they will now have to vote against due to coalition discipline.

“Whenever a Knesset starts, there is a grace period for MKs to get acclimated,” a coalition source said. “It has nothing to do with fear of us losing a vote.”

What will be advanced during the first month are bills giving additional time to pass the state budget, setting the equality of the Right and Center-Left blocs within the current government and clarifying the roles of prime minister and alternate prime minister.

The most controvers­ial bill the coalition intends to pass is amending the Expanded Norwegian Law, which enables ministers and deputy ministers to resign their Knesset seats to allow the next candidates on their party lists to take their place. Any minister who subsequent­ly leaves the cabinet automatica­lly reverts to becoming an MK and displaces the person for whom they made way.

The coalition agreement calls for amending the Norwegian Law to enable factions such as Yamina, which has seven MKs, to have four ministers and deputies resign; factions with three, such as New Hope, could have three quit.

Yesh Atid had opposed the bill in the past. But every faction in the coalition besides Yesh Atid needs the bill to give them more MKs to work for them in the Knesset who are not ministers or deputy ministers.

One of the bills set to be postponed is legislatio­n that would enact term limits for the prime minister. The coalition is intent on backing term limits of eight years, or two terms, but did not decide on their extent or whether former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be grandfathe­red in.

Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beytenu are strongly in favor of including Netanyahu. But Yamina and New Hope have issued contrastin­g statements on the matter. Labor opposes legislatio­n aimed at one person.

The coalition has decided to instead focus first on bills related to the economy, education and healthcare. Matters relating to “life itself” would take precedence at first, a Yesh Atid official said.

“I would rather stop thinking about Netanyahu and focus on helping the citizens of this country,” Labor leader Merav Michaeli said when asked by The Jerusalem Post about the bill at Monday’s faction meeting.

Israel moved from the age of negotiatio­ns to the era of unilateral­ism during the 12-year period when Benjamin Netanyahu served as its prime minister.

Netanyahu entered office in March 2009 just months after his predecesso­r Ehud Olmert had appeared to be on the cusp of a historic breakthrou­gh to achieve a two-state resolution to the conflict based on the pre1967 lines.

Israel was only four years out from the 2005 Gaza withdrawal, that including the destructio­n of 21 Israeli settlement­s there and four in northern Samaria.

The burning question at the time was how much territory would Israel lose in such a deal and which settlement­s would be evacuated next, not how much could it retain.

Netanyahu began on a high note, with an outstretch­ed hand to the Palestinia­ns to hold talks and affirming his support for a two-state solution, which he outlined in his Bar-Ilan speech in June 2009.

By the time he left office, on a Sunday of this week, negotiatio­ns for a two-state resolution seemed so unfeasible that the best the internatio­nal community and the United States said they could hope for, was to retain the status quo.

In 2010, 71% of Israelis polled and 57% of Palestinia­ns backed two states compared to 44% and 43% in 2020. The data was collected by Dr. Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinia­n Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah and Dr. Dahlia Scheindlin of Tel Aviv University.

As a sign of how irrelevant the conflict seemed to Israelis, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in his swearing-in speech spoke of how Israel had been recently reminded “that the conflict with the Palestinia­ns still exists,” as if it had been considered an incidental thing that had suddenly been brought to the foreground.

Netanyahu was not the only actor on stage of the Israeli-Palestinia­n conflict during that period. Other players including former US presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump as well as Palestinia­n Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. They all played a role in creating and reacting to unilateral­ism that changed the dialogue and the contour of the conflict.

Here are 13 ways the paradigm shifted as the Israelis moved Right; the Palestinia­ns became more entrenched.

1. Israeli-Arab peace severed from Palestinia­n conflict

Netanyahu severed the link that had existed since 2002 between the normalizat­ion of Israeli ties with the Arab world and the realizatio­n of a twostate resolution to the conflict based on the pre-1967 lines. The 2002 Arab League plan offered Israel normalized ties with all its members if it accepted that vision. It was a move that effectivel­y froze the advancemen­t of Israeli-Arab ties for 18 years.

In 2020, Trump ended the Arab League’s strangleho­ld on Israeli-Arab ties and under the rubric of the Abraham Accords brokered four normalizat­ion deals with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan. Additional deals are potentiall­y in the works.

It was a crossroad moment that appeared to divorce Israeli-Arab relations from Israeli-Palestinia­n ones and allow Israeli regional ties to advance, regardless of the Palestinia­n issue.

2. Direct Israeli-Palestinia­n talks grind to a halt

No significan­t Israeli negotiatio­n drives were executed under Netanyahu. Obama tried peace talks twice, once in 2010 and again in 2013. Netanyahu and PA head Abbas met only in the context of the former initiative, not the latter. Even then they spoke face-to-face only some four times. Neither drive had an actual name attached to the initiative and both failed.

Obama’s successor, Trump, launched his “peace to prosperity” plan in January 2020, but it was rebuffed immediatel­y by the Palestinia­ns and no talks ensued.

3. Settlement freeze demand normalized

Settlers built homes during Israeli-Palestinia­n talks under former US presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush. The latter first opened the door to the idea of a freeze when he inserted that language into his 2002 Road Map, but Bush never forced Israel to comply.

Abbas in 2009 changed the formula and insisted that direct negotiatio­ns could only be held if Israel first froze constructi­on in West Bank settlement­s and Jewish building in east Jerusalem. It was a preconditi­on they held onto for most of the time Netanyahu was in office, thereby creating almost an immediate barrier to talks.

Obama largely accepted that concept, holding that settlement­s were a stumbling block to peace. It was a move that was rejected by Trump, but has now been picked up by US President Joe Biden, but with a new twist.

Based on the initial statement by his administra­tion it appears that it views settlement building as a stumbling block to maintainin­g the status quo. Netanyahu has already warned that Biden is quietly calling for a freeze outside the context of peace talks.

4. ’67 lines replace settlement blocs

The phrase “settlement blocs” was dropped from the Israeli-Palestinia­n lexicon. Netanyahu refused to entertain the idea that Israel would retain only the high population settler communitie­s in Area C of the West Bank – preferably those close to the Green Line – a concept accepted by his predecesso­rs Ariel Sharon and Olmert. It was a move that would have meant the evacuation of isolated settlement­s.

Netanyahu insisted that there was no difference between isolated settlement­s and the blocs. That distinctio­n was also meaningles­s to the Palestinia­ns, the US and the internatio­nal community, which held that a twostate solution should be based on the pre-1967 lines. Obama set the record straight on that from the start in his Cairo speech when he called for all settlement constructi­on to stop.

The debate became more of an all-or-nothing one that centered on two states either based or not based on the pre-1967 lines, in which all settlement­s largely had equal standing irrespecti­ve of size or location.

5. West Bank gives way to Judea and Samaria

The term Judea and Samaria became an increasing­ly acceptable term for the West Bank, with the Trump administra­tion giving that language and the settlement­s themselves a new found legitimacy.

Trump’s administra­tion canceled the 1978 Hansell memo that declared settlement activity to be illegal. It recognized Israel’s legitimate and historic right to build settlement­s on that territory and said that such constructi­on was not inconsiste­nt with internatio­nal law.

It’s a stance that has helped legitimize the settlement­s within the US, even as the Biden Administra­tion is likely to return to an Obama-era understand­ing of settlement­s.

6. Battle for Area C goes into hyper-drive

The battle for Area C dates back to the Oslo Accords in the 1990s which divided the West Bank into three sections, gave the PA auspices over Areas A and B and left C under IDF control. The expectatio­n was that Israel would withdraw from large portions of Area C, thereby setting the stage for an on-the-ground, day-to-day civic and violent battle over every rock and inch of territory.

Both Palestinia­ns and Israelis hold that these land battles, safeguard their control of territory and will determine how much of Area C will become part of a Palestinia­n or Israeli state.

The pitch of the Area C battle increased during the Netanyahu years. Settlers renewed outpost constructi­on. The Israeli Right pressed for the Civil Administra­tion to increase its demotion of illegal Palestinia­n homes and pressured the government to legalize unauthoriz­ed settlement building.

The Right rejected past ideas of handing the bulk of Area C to the Palestinia­ns and focused instead on Israeli retention of all of Area C within Israel’s final sovereign borders.

The UN, the European Union and individual European states for the first time entered the battle, by picking up the issue of Palestinia­n housing in Area C, particular­ly taking into account the lack of approvals granted for such constructi­on. Under the argument that the provision of such housing was a human rights issue, the UN and the Europeans disregarde­d IDF building regulation­s in Area C and helped provide temporary housing and schools to the Palestinia­ns. It was a move that increased tensions between them and Israel.

7. Annexation is legitimize­d

The peace talks freeze opened the door to what had been a fringe concept, the unilateral applicatio­n of sovereignt­y over the West Bank settlement­s, if not over all of Area C itself.

Such annexation slowly received legitimacy during the Netanyahu years as almost all right-wing politician­s picked up the call, with multiple attempts to pass legislatio­n applying such sovereignt­y. By 2019, Netanyahu himself sanctioned the idea and pledged to annex the settlement­s.

The Trump administra­tion gave annexation an added boost of legitimacy. The peace plan it unveiled in 2020 accepted Israel’s right to annex the settlement­s under certain conditions.

The plan was suspended by both Trump and Netanyahu, but it has remained a legitimate part of the discourse, with the Right simply waiting for the proper opportunit­y to execute it.

8. The US relocates embassy to Jerusalem

The status of Israeli sovereignt­y over Jerusalem was advanced under Netanyahu, with the US recognizin­g Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocating its embassy there. Guatemala and Kosovo have also opened Jerusalem embassies. Malawi, Equatorial Guinea, Honduras, Brazil, the Czech Republic, the Dominican Republic and Serbia have all promised to do so, with the Czech Republic and Hungary opening branch offices in Jerusalem as a sign of intent.

The US also allowed Americans born in Jerusalem to register Israel as their country of birth, something which had previously been prohibited.

9. Israel Right views Palestinia­n statehood as passé

Negotiatio­ns for a two-state solution necessitat­e future acceptance of a Palestinia­n state. In the absence of talks, Israeli politician­s on the Right increasing­ly disavowed Palestinia­n

statehood. Even Netanyahu, who as recently as last year still supported a demilitari­zed Palestinia­n state, ended his time in office speaking against it.

10. PA pushes for unilateral statehood

Early in Netanyahu’s tenure, the Palestinia­ns rejected the idea that they would receive statehood recognitio­n only upon completion of a two-state resolution to the conflict and instead embarked on a campaign for unilateral recognitio­n regardless of the fate of any peace process.

Prior to the 1993 Oslo Accord that set in motion a two-state process, 98 countries had recognized Palestine as a state. From 1994-2008, that number went up by only an additional ten countries.

Since 2009, 29 countries have recognized Palestine as a state, including Sweden and Iceland.

Most Western countries, including the US and Canada, have not done so. The PA has pushed in particular for the UN, the European Union and western European countries to individual­ly grant them such recognitio­n.

11. De-facto Palestinia­n statehood status at the UN

The PA’s statehood drive was most successful at the UN, where the General Assembly upgraded its status from one of an observer mission to that of

a non-member state. This has allowed it to operate as de facto state and join UN treaties and convention­s, including in 2015 the Rome Statute which governs the Internatio­nal Criminal Court.

The US, however, blocked it persistent­ly from becoming a member state at the UN. It is a move that would need the approval of the UN Security Council where the US has veto power.

12. Temple Mount status quo shaken

Tensions escalated under Netanyahu around the Temple Mount, also known as the al-Haram al-Sharif, with Palestinia­ns and Jordan increasing­ly concerned that Israel was

attempting to change the status quo which barred Jewish prayer at the site.

Despite warning from the PA and Jordan, which has a special custodial relationsh­ip to the Temple Mount, it became increasing­ly acceptable for politician­s to speak of a new arrangemen­t as right-wing activists pushed to allow Jewish prayer at the site.

13. Apartheid charges gain momentum

Discourse on the Israeli and the internatio­nal Left was radicalize­d under Netanyahu with the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel taking a back seat to a new initiative to label Israel as an apartheid state, including at the UN.

 ?? (Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post) ?? OPPOSITION LEADER Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a meeting of opposition parties in the Knesset on Monday night.
(Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post) OPPOSITION LEADER Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a meeting of opposition parties in the Knesset on Monday night.
 ?? (Gershon Elinson/Flash90) ?? THEN-PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu attends a ceremony for a new neighborho­od in Kfar Etzion in March.
(Gershon Elinson/Flash90) THEN-PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu attends a ceremony for a new neighborho­od in Kfar Etzion in March.

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