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Rift Within the Right

Will U.S. groups back a Bibi freeze extension?

Marc Tracy
September 15, 2010
Netanyahu Sunday.(Tara Todras-Whitehill - Pool/Getty Images)
Netanyahu Sunday.(Tara Todras-Whitehill - Pool/Getty Images)

Ron Kampeas published a fascinating article late yesterday reporting that most right-wing American Jewish groups, who are (of course) known for supporting West Bank settlements and having opposed the almost-expired ten-month construction freeze, are at the moment keeping their mouths shut and waiting to see if Prime Minister Netanyahu will in any way extend the freeze, as President Abbas has demanded he do lest the Palestinians walk away from this latest round of direct peace talks. The point being that, if he does extend the freeze, their mouths may remain shut. Which, historically, would be pretty remarkable.

Yesterday, in Egypt, Netanyahu was mum on his plans, even as Abbas reiterated his ultimatum and U.S. envoy George Mitchell—echoing President Obama—called on Netanyahu to extend the freeze. The two leaders meet in Jerusalem today.

The key is that, in Kampeas’s words, Netanyahu “carries credibility with the American Jewish right.” Were he to extend the freeze, even partially, and receive the subsequent backing, even tacit, of right-wing American groups—in the face of strong opposition from Israeli pro-settler groups (whom Kampeas also talks to) and even political parties that are members of his own governing coalition—then that would present observers with a pretty stark contrast between the American right, which would turn out to have a pragmatic gene after all, and the Israeli right (or, rather, far right, since Netanyahu is the right), which would only look increasingly intransigent. (Unsurprisingly, the left would love to see this contradiction heightened and is emphasizing that anything less than an explicit extension from Netanyahu would amount to his letting the freeze lapse.)

If you do not think you can take the “What will Bibi do?” suspense much longer, don’t worry: He only has until the end of the month to decide.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.