Why The Netanyahu Legacy Will Endure
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