Were any other world leader handed so many crises to deal with, he or she might beg for a vacation. On the other hand, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems to relish his role as the consultant-in-chief. Iran’s nuclear program is getting hit with a international spotlight that Bibi helped to create, the fulcrum point upon which the Netanyahu legacy will ultimately pivot. To this, add a recently announced plan to build roughly 20,000 new settlement units in the West Bank, which is another issue by which history will define Bibi.
Knowing what damage some aspects of the new tenders would do to the faltering negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, Netanyahu rushed to fix some of the damage–specifically settlements that would be built in the E1 area. As you may remember, last year, scuttled plans for building there were announced (to some controversy) as the death knell for the two-state solution.
Soon after the report broke, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled the tender for E1.
Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said building up E1, which critics say would prevent a contiguous Palestinian state, was “unwise” at the current juncture. Netanyahu didn’t cancel any of the other tenders for planning the expansion of various settlements including Atarot, Ma’ale Adumim and Efrat.
With impassioned reactions to this development sure to mount, the heat will likely turn up on Netanyahu. Not that he’s having a good week to begin with. As we mentioned yesterday, Israel has been unfairly maligned as something of a spoiler in the stalled Iran nuclear negotiations, which it (and many other countries) opposed on the grounds that it…well…would loosen sanctions on Iran without ending its enrichment of uranium.
Today, the Times outlined its frustration with the nuclear negotiations by calling out the parties who are opposed to the most recent proposal. Coming under fire, naturally, was Netanyahu.
Unfortunately, the inconclusive negotiations have given an opening to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who excoriated the proposed agreement as the “deal of the century” for Iran before it is made public, to generate more hysterical opposition. It would be nice if Iran could be persuaded to completely dismantle its nuclear program, as Mr. Netanyahu has demanded, but that is unlikely to ever happen. The administration of President George W. Bush made similar demands and refused to negotiate seriously and the result was an Iranian program that is more advanced than ever.
Some thoughts on this. Netanyahu is not opposed to a deal. As we all know, the alternative to a deal is much worse. Yet, in the first paragraph, Israel is listed as among “all those inveighing against any deal.” Netanyahu’s so-called “hysterical opposition” is rooted in the idea that a bad deal will not solve the problem, a nuclear Iran, which for Israel is an existential problem. (Settlements are another such existential problem, so I’ll likely be agreeing with tomorrow’s editorial if the Times decides it’s Netanyahu Week again.)
Comparing the international community’s concerted effort to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program or at least suspend its enrichment of uranium, an effort which has been backed by crippling sanctions, to the demands of President George W. Bush’s administration is not reasonable. The stakes are incalculably higher now, which is why labeling Netanyahu’s opposition as “hysterical” is excessive and damaging.