Photo: Reuters
Herzog and Netanyahu. Coalition partners?
Photo: Reuters
Ben-Dror Yemini

Now's the time for a unity government

Op-ed: With a narrow right-wing government, Israel's battle over the Iranian nuclear agreement is doomed to failure.

Assuming that Benjamin Netanyahu's claims regarding the agreement with Iran are justified – and they are - it's time that he, too, did some soul searching. After all, preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold state was top priority for the Israeli prime minister. And now, according to Netanyahu himself, the agreement clearly shows that he failed.



Netanyahu had the right message. The problem was with the messenger. He made sure to paint himself not only as a tough leader, but as a rejectionist too. Most leaders of the free world support the existence of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. Even US President Barack Obama spoke the words, "Jewish state," during his visit to Ramallah, in full view of Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership.


Netanyahu offered a very flexible position vis-à-vis the Palestinians. But he kept it a secret. Throughout the years for the most part, Netanyahu has insisted, publicly at least, on continuing with the settlement enterprise, which is like a red rag to a bull not only for the leaders of the free world, but also for most of Israel's supporters around the world. The Palestinian issue was and remains one of the most sensitive in the international arena.


Netanyahu and Herzog (Photo: Reuters) (Photo: Reuters)
Netanyahu and Herzog (Photo: Reuters)


Not that there is any justification for this, but that's just the way it is. And even if it is clear that there is no immediate solution, on the backdrop of the threat of a Hamas takeover and Palestinian rejectionism, continuing to build in the settlements makes Israel the one responsible for the failure – despite the fact that Abbas has rejected every proposed deal over the past decade.


Apart from a 10-month freeze, Netanyahu came across as someone who has turned the settlements into his life's work. The settlers themselves complain that in practice, a freeze or something close to a freeze has been in place in recent years. Certainly outside of the large settlement blocs.


But just as he kept his willingness for compromises under wraps, Netanyahu also kept his policy of restraint with respect to construction in the settlements a secret. And at the same time, every small construction project grabbed huge headlines. And as a result, Netanyahu is viewed as a rejectionist.


A different position on the highly sensitive Palestinian issue would have won him more sympathy for the Israeli position on Iran. Because in the same way that Netanyahu is perceived as irresponsible with respect to the Palestinian issue, he is also viewed as less justified when it comes to Iran.


Obama's conciliatory stance vis-à-vis the Islamic issue in general, and Iran in particular, may have led to a bad agreement even if Netanyahu had turned into a pure white dove. But sometimes there are situations in which you have to take every step possible to limit the main danger. It didn't happen.


The Netanyahu rejection of a settlement freeze was a mistake, and so, too, was his support for a Republican candidate for the presidency. His stubbornness only weakened Israel's position on the Iran issue.


There's still a long way to go before the finalization of the deal at the end of June. With a narrow right-wing government, the struggle is doomed to failure. But we mustn't throw in the towel.

Now is the time to make the move that will best serve our national interests – the establishment of a unity government.


Zionist Union MK Eitan Cabel was the first to state a few days ago that he is adopting Netanyahu's position on Iran. This is big of him.


It's also a viewpoint that stems from lesson learned from an unsuccessful election campaign. It's a viewpoint that could and should lead to the right conclusion.


פרסום ראשון: 04.10.15, 23:34
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