The Cable

Israel’s Naftali Bennett: With Trump, ‘The Era of the Palestinian State Is Over’

Naftali Bennett looks to Trump administration to reset relations in the Middle East.


America loves a reset.

In 2007, there was the “strategic reset” for “reclaiming control of U.S. security in the Middle East” proposed by the Center for American Progress. In 2009, President Barack Obama famously went to Moscow to “reset” relations with then-President Dmitri Medvedev.

And now, Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party, is hoping that the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president will mean a reset of politics and policies in the Middle East.

On Monday, Bennett told members of the Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem, “We have a chance to reset the structure across the Middle East,” reported Reuters. “We have to seize that opportunity and act on it,” he said.

He didn’t spell out what that reset would look like. Past might be prologue, though. Bennett, whose Jewish Home party once threatened the stability of conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition when Bennett decided Netanyahu was not conservative enough, has called for the “annexation of most of the West Bank” — that is, for continued construction of settlements on more of the West Bank, a cause for which he urged Israelis to “give our lives.”

Following Trump’s election, Bennett announced, “Trump’s victory is a tremendous opportunity for Israel to immediately announce its intention to renege on the idea of establishing Palestine in the heart of the country – a direct blow to our security and the justice of our cause. This is the president-elect’s outlook as it appears in his platform, and that definitely should be our way. Salient, simple and clear. The era of the Palestinian state is over.”

Not that the desires of the leader of the Jewish Home are necessarily those of America’s Jews. As Foreign Policy wrote in March, only 17 percent of U.S. Jews feel that building more settlements increases Israeli security, while 44 percent feel they are, in fact, detrimental. That piece drew from a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center, which noted that only 38 percent of U.S. Jews believed the Israeli government was making a sincere effort to make peace with Palestinians. But given overwhelming Jewish support for Hillary Clinton in the election, it’s not clear they’d be able to muster much pushback  to sway Trump against embracing Israel’s right-wing stances.

According to a Gallup poll from February, 62 percent of Americans are more sympathetic to Israelis than to Palestinians (and Republicans are more sympathetic than Democrats). But when it comes to Palestinian statehood, more Americans are in favor than not — suggesting that Americans in general, and American Jews in particular, would not in fact love this particular reset.

Photo credit: GIL COHEN MAGEN/AFP/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is the U.S. editor of the New Statesman and the author of The Influence of Soros, published July 2020. Twitter: @emilyctamkin

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