What will Netanyahu do?

Jeff Goldberg linked to Aluf Benn’s piece in Haaretz (my impression is that it’s a center-left paper). Benn writes that a US veto of the UN Security Council’s condemnation of settlements (a big favor from an American administration that would have voted for the measure if it were politically possible in the US) and Netanyahu’s declining political standing in Israel may push Netanyahu to the political center in Israel:

Signs have become plentiful in recent days that Netanyahu is following in Sharon’s footsteps and breaking away from the extreme right to the center. It began with his address to the Knesset last week, in which he hinted at an interim settlement with the Palestinians that will keep the Jordan Valley in Israeli control, and also dropped the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a homeland of the Jewish people. He continued with the razing of the Havat Gilad outpost, a clear sign to the extreme right.
On Monday, Netanyahu told Likud − like Sharon before him − that he will not continue along the same line in view of the tremendous amount of international pressure.

Now he is saying in closed meetings that “a binational state would be disastrous for Israel” and suddenly Netanyahu sounds like former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who in an interview with Haaretz at the Annapolis Conference declared: Two states or Israel is finished. And this is the same Netanyahu who has always denied the demographic threat, regarding it as a scarecrow in the service of the left.

It is clear that the prime minister is looking to the right, and using the tried and tested trick of picking a fight with the settlers. They will block roads, making drivers angry and causing them to hate the extreme right-wing. Netanyahu will appear as someone who cares about the interests of the state and will not sell out those interests for the sake of excitable hilltop youth.

Netanyahu’s problem is that the leaders of the world do not believe him. Contrary to Olmert and Sharon, who both had close ties with President George Bush, Netanyahu has a poor relationship with Obama. He will now focus his efforts on convincing the American president to give him a chance. He will try to convince Obama to let him dictate his own punishment by promising to make further pullbacks in the West Bank and pave the way for a Palestinian state. Only thus will it be possible to foil the unilateral declaration of independence the Palestinians are planning.

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