Remnick Doesn't Get It

01.17.13

Why Israel is Turning Right

A Palestinian boy holds a model of a Gaza Strip made M75 rocket as Hamas supporters take part in a rally celebrating the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Islamist movement, on December 14, 2012, in the West Bank city of Hebron. The rally is the first time that the West Bank's ruling Palestinian Authority -- which is dominated by the Fatah faction, Hamas's bitter rival -- have allowed such a gathering since 2007. HAZEM BADER/AFP/Getty Images ()

In the Jan. 21 New Yorker, David Remnick offers a long profile of various figures from the Israeli nationalist right, including Naftali Bennett, leader of a rising political party.

If Bennett becomes Prime Minister someday—and his ambition is as plump and glaring as a harvest moon—he intends to annex most of the West Bank and let Arab cities like Ramallah, Nablus, and Jenin be “self-governing” but “under Israeli security.”

“I will do everything in my power to make sure they never get a state,” he says of the Palestinians. No more negotiations, “no more illusions.” Let them eat crème brûlée.

That final jibe is a reference to Bennett's wife's success as a pastry chef during the couple's sojourn in New York a decade ago. It nicely conveys the dismissive tone of the whole piece.

Remnick writes of the rise of Israel's nationalist right as if it were a wholly autochthonous event, sprung from within Israel for purely internal Israel reasons. Remnick laments the overthrow of Israel's peacemaking left, but he only glancingly acknowledges the reasons for that overthrow.

There have been countless plans for division and resolution—the U.N. partition plan in 1947; the Oslo process in the mid-nineties; Ehud Barak’s offers to Yasir Arafat at Camp David and Taba, in 2000 and 2001; Ariel Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, in 2005; Ehud Olmert’s offer to Mahmoud Abbas, in 2007—and with what results? Wars, intifadas, terror, rocket fire, Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, hostility in the U.N. and Europe, threats of boycotts and delegitimatization.

But isn't that all precisely true? Remnick has little patience for Bennett's predictions for a West Bank Palestinian state.

If Israel were to allow the establishment of a Palestinian state, [says Bennett] what is now the West Bank would quickly become a second Gaza—a Hamas-led bastion of Islamic radicalism, a launch pad for rocket fire aimed at Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Airport. If Israel were to sign a deal, Bennett told his audience in Tel Aviv, “we’d get praise from the world and, two weeks later, we’ll see the first demonstrations on the Green Line. And, if I were the copywriter, the signs would say, ‘I Want Home.’ ”

Those fears do not sway Remnick. But they have swayed the Israeli electorate. And they are the drivers of the Israeli political story of the past decade.