By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
While the United States, not least the State Department, is trying to deal with the crisis caused by the renewed belligerence of North Korea, the US Secretary of State John Kerry is again in the Middle East in his continued effort to help bring peace to the region by stimulating the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the service of the so-called two-state solution. That shows how important this is for United States, Israel’s most powerful and trusted ally.
At the same time, however, Naftali Bennett – who continues to show signs of living up to the fear that he’s the strong man of the new Netanyahu government – told the foreign minister of Norway that neither he nor his buddy Yair Lapid, the minister of finance, are very keen on establishing a Palestinian state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean because the Kingdom of Jordan is the right address for it. Though Prime Minister Netanyahu told his Norwegian guest that he’s committed to the creation of a Palestinian state, Bennett told the same visitor that many in the government agree with his – Bennett’s – and Lapid’s view.
On the eve of Yom Hasho’a – marking the 70th anniversary of the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto – and a few days before Israel is about to celebrate 65 years of its existence, a powerful member of the government purporting to speak on behalf of several of his colleagues, tells the Palestinians that they can forget about a state of their own and, instead, find a home by (presumably) toppling King Abdullah and declaring Jordan to be Palestine. The old and hazardous settler argument has found a most prominent advocate.
Jordan is by now the only neighbor that maintains reasonably normal, albeit less than cordial, relationships with Israel. The message from one of the most powerful ministers in the Netanyahu administration about the hope of Jordan’s early demise as a Hashemite kingdom isn’t likely to be received with equanimity there. The immediate effect of Bennett’s pronouncement may, therefore, result in Jordan going the way of Syria, Lebanon and Egypt in its attitude to the Jewish state.
The fact that Yair Lapid, who is said to incessantly communicate on Facebook, has been silent on the Palestinian issue while letting Bennett speak for him is ominous. It confirms the suspicion of some of us that Lapid is much less than meets the eye. His first pronouncements as minister of finance suggest that he’s more concerned with his cronies in North Tel Aviv and its affluent suburbs than with those who live in poverty and squalor on the south side of the city and in countless places across the country.
While Netanyahu himself, as mentioned above, continues to maintain that his commitment to a Palestinian state living in peace side by side with the State of Israel is, indeed, his policy – and thus, presumably, the policy of his government – it’s possible that he allows Bennett & Co to tell the world what he really believes and wants. Unless and until we hear from Netanyahu that he repudiates the Bennett (and Lapid?) line, we’re entitled to be suspicious – and very worried.
The rumor mill had it that Mrs. Netanyahu objected vehemently to the inclusion of Bennett in her husband’s cabinet. Though her reasons may have been more personal, in view of his encounter with the Norwegian foreign minister, I’m among those who’ve come to warm to her “intuition.”