Playing Cautious with Trump, Netanyahu Receives Expected Blowback from His Right Wing
There was nothing unexpected about the onset of blowback from his right-wing constituency when Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu demanded moderation of plans for significant building in areas acquired in the 1967 war. “Settlements” in the vernacular. Netanyahu had been cautioned bluntly by US officials against taking advantage of President Trump’s personal lack of visceral disdain for building in areas that are also claimed by the Palestinians for their future state, even though it was then-candidate Donald Trump whose pro-Israel rhetoric on the campaign trail stoked a sense of euphoria on the Israeli right that is unprecedented during both Republican and Democratic administrations. But when the planning of some 10,000-new housing starts and major infrastructure construction came while Trump envoys were in the region to jump-start the stagnant peace process, Prime Minister Netanyahu had an easy choice to make: in his words, “the government is not interested in quarreling with the friendly administration.” Reports from attendees at a meeting of the umbrella organization that represents Jewish residents of post-1967 areas who spoke only with anonymity indicate a strong sense of concern that the PM will be bending over backwards to accommodate the US president at the expense of their needs. Later, Netanyahu attended a celebration of fifty years of building in the areas Israel conquered in the 1967 war: east Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Jordan Valley. There, in an apparent reference to the obvious parallels to the forced evacuation of Israelis from their homes in the Gaza Strip in 2005 his audience sensed, he notably vowed that as prime minister he would not “uproot communities in the land of Israel,” adding “not Jews nor Arabs.” But some present would have appreciated adding a promise to add expansion to the vow.