Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian

01.07.13 1:49 PM ET

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In the Beirut Daily Star, Alex Joffe argues an intriguing thesis: that Benjamin Netanyahu is beating the Palestinians by using their own methods against them.

Netanyahu’s unwillingness to compromise disconcerts, confuses and often enrages the Americans. His relentless disquisitions on Israel’s strategic environment, security requirements, red lines and Jewish history are offset only by conciliatory talk about reopening the negotiations, which are immediately rejected by the Palestinians, who, like him, fear showing weakness.

Furthermore, Netanyahu’s unsentimental assessment of the Middle East does not line up with that of the Obama administration – in thrall to its collapsing romance with moderate Islamists – and its devoted supporters among Jewish Americans. These groups do not understand Netanyahu, who proclaims Jewish rights, defends his country’s interests and hints at conciliation but gives up little – much as would a traditional Arab leader.


The Palestinians initiated a zero-sum game that has given [Netanyahu] the upper hand. By using the Palestinians’ own strategy, he has cornered them. After all, genuine peace efforts by the Palestinians – based on a two-state solution with no “right of return” for post-1948 refugees – would enrage Hamas and revive factional violence. This would add another self-defeat to an already long list.

With such help from the Palestinians – for example, Hamas bitterly castigated Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recently after he inadvertently implied giving up the right of return – Netanyahu may well rule Israel and Palestine for the foreseeable future.