Why The Ne­tanyahu Legacy Will En­dure

Forward Magazine - - Contents - By Pe­ter Beinart

With the an­nounce­ment that Is­raeli po­lice are rec­om­mend­ing his in­dict­ment, it’s fi­nally pos­si­ble to be­gin speak­ing, ten­ta­tively, about the end of the Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu era. Ne­tanyahu’s legacy for Is­rael is clear: He mur­dered the two-state so­lu­tion. Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert each of­fered flawed but sub­stan­tive pro­pos­als out­lin­ing the pa­ram­e­ters of a Pales­tinian state. For nine years, Ne­tanyahu never did. His re­fusal to present his own maps was not the only prob­lem; Pales­tinian ne­go­tia­tors claim he wouldn’t even look at theirs.

Speak­ing for the Amer­i­can diplo­mats who en­coun­tered Ne­tanyahu dur­ing his first prime min­is­ter­ship, in the late 1990s, Aaron David Miller wrote that “all of us saw Bibi as a kind of speed bump that would have to be ne­go­ti­ated along the way un­til a new Is­raeli prime min­is­ter came along who was more se­ri­ous about peace.” Trag­i­cally, the speed bump re­turned in 2009, and for nine long years, nei­ther Is­raelis, nor Pales­tini­ans, nor Amer­i­cans could over­come it.

But Ne­tanyahu’s im­pact isn’t con­fined to Is­rael; no Is­raeli leader has done more to shape the pol­i­tics of Jewish Amer­ica. If Ne­tanyahu’s legacy for Is­rael boils down to the de­struc­tion of the two-state so­lu­tion, his legacy for the United States boils down to this: He laid the foun­da­tion for the Amer­i­can Jewish right’s em­brace of Don­ald Trump.

He did so in two ways. The first was by so de­mo­niz­ing Democrats as an­tiIs­rael that a sub­stan­tial seg­ment of Amer­i­can Jewry was pre­pared to back any Repub­li­can in 2016, even Trump.

The de­mo­niza­tion be­gan dur­ing the 1990s, when Bill Clin­ton — who had ad­mired Yitzhak Rabin and wanted to press for­ward the Oslo peace process that Rabin had be­gun — urged Ne­tanyahu to with­draw from ad­di­tional ter­ri­tory in the West Bank, as Oslo re­quired. Ne­tanyahu re­sponded by ral­ly­ing Repub­li­cans and Amer­i­can Jewish lead­ers against Clin­ton’s de­mands. In Jan­uary 1998, he at­tended a rally against ter­ri­to­rial with­drawal, spon­sored by the Shel­don Adel­son-backed Zion­ist Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Amer­ica and Chris­tian right

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