I recently sat down for a briefing with a senior official who struggled to contain his pride when he told me that the Negev Forum - the brings together regional leaders under the auspices of the United States, would soon convene for its next meeting, this time in Morocco. A cause for pride indeed.
It is true that the forum was established by Yair Lapid when he served as foreign minister in the last government but almost without exception, Israeli governments continued the agreements and initiatives of their predecessors. The ruling Likud had, to this day remained committed to the Oslo Accords, understanding full well that the alternative would be much worse.
On the left, the Abraham Accords were not seen as a positive achievement but no one dared undermine them and even those politicians who spoke publicly against them have been going to lengths to ensure their comments would be forgotten.
But a Morocco summit will not take place. There is a price to pay for the stupidity of the government. Israel cannot announce the construction of 4,500 housing units on the West Bank, or the establishment of new outposts, and expect Palestinian Mahmoud Abbas to accept the news with a smile.
Morocco had twice postponed the summit but this time it was the U.S. that dealt a resounding blow to Netanyahu and his coalition when it decided on a further postponement after the government decided to transfer authority over construction in the settlements to the hands of far-right Bezalel Smotrich in his capacity as a minister in the Defense Ministry and amend building regulations to facilitate more housing units there.
Most media outlets gave little attention to the government's move. They saw it as merely the fulfillment of a coalition agreement between Likud and Smotrich's Religious Zionist Party. Gallant has been pushed aside, and the authority was given to the far-right junior minister after Netanyahu was forced to reverse his decision to sack his defense minister. How can Gallant expect to hold the responsibility over the West Bank if he lacks the power to rule on construction there?
But the problem is that the political movement that has advocated for annexation of the West Bank is now in control and although he may not like the title, Gallant was the responsible adult in this story.
The Likud Party itself is not of one mind. Some members support a Jewish state and others would like to ultimately see a dual-national one. Gallant is not alone in his support of the first option but the right-wing government has opted to assign this most important aspect of Israeli policy to its far-right elements – the anti-Zionist right that will fulfill the dream of organizations like the BDS and deliver one nation between the river and the sea.
There is also the matter of Israel's most important strategic partner, the United States. There is no way to prevent nuclear weapon capability from Iran without American involvement. There will be no normalization with Saudi Arabia without Washington's mediation and the critical development of superior weapons systems can also not proceed without American industry and unless the administration is on board.
Israel has yet to secure its U.S. military aid package for the coming decade, to the tune of nearly four billion dollars annually, promised by then president Barak Obama, and there is still a long list of other outstanding issues of national interest that rely on our American allies.
But those interests are diminished in the face of a coalition agreement to grant the power over the settlements to a minister who is not welcomed as a guest in Washington. This is an unprecedented situation, an embarrassment, self-inflicted damage that is already exacting a heavy price. The Negev forum has been suspended indefinitely.
Until now, supporters of the government complained on their far-right media outlets that the need for the approval of settlement construction from security officials must be canceled, in other words, security considerations be damned. IDF, police and intelligence forces are already under immense pressure amid the rising terror in the West Bank. But the far-right does not care because when their grand plan is fulfilled, more outposts will be established, and the military will be called upon to protect them. Have we gone mad?
Although there can be a response to most anti-Israel rhetoric heard around the world, on one subject, supporters of Israel are helpless when they attempt to respond – settlements. If to be more specific – the expansion of settlements beyond the settlement blocks is in violation of Israeli commitments to the Americans, including the dismantling of illegal outposts. Not only are those not dismantled, they are allowed to grow and expand.
American administrations, Democrats and Republicans as well as the U.S. Jewish community, all want to protect Israel, but we embolden those seeking our destruction.
The battle for a Jewish and Democratic Israel is important. Vital. But while Israelis are on the streets fighting against the government's judicial legislation, Netanyahu's coalition is advancing toward a bi-national county. We must wake up because if they succeed Israel with be neither Jewish nor democratic.