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With the window for a two-state solution rapidly closing, newly elected hawk Binyamin Netanyahu has drawn his strongest line in the sand yet, recently telling his cabinet, "The demand for a total stop to building (in the West Bank) is not something that can be justified and I don't think that anyone here at this table accepts it."
During last week's visit with Obama, Netanyahu flaunted the new president's desire to restart the peace process when he stated that his government "does not accept limitations on building" within Jerusalem, including the areas making up Arab East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank captured in 1967.
Since that time, over half a million Jews have displaced Palestinians to create Israeli settlements and outposts in the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem. Christian Zionists such as John Hagee and his Christians United for Israel (CUFI) have joined hands with Israeli fundamentalists in populating the disputed territories with Jews they have resettled from Russia and Ethiopia, Jews who are willing to take up arms against the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) should orders to dismantle the settlements come down.
Netanyahu's government craftily hopes to circumvent U.S. pressure through feigning cooperation by uprooting smaller, less significant hilltop outposts "Moving on outposts is relatively easy" compared to freezing the growth of larger settlements, which Israel wants to keep as part of any future peace deal, an Israeli official recently stated. It is dishonest and deceptive to make a show of dismantling these smaller settlements if there is no real effort to wrestle with the larger ones.
It is the marriage between genuine fear, Israeli right wing ideology/fundamentalism and Christian Rapture seekers that, if unchecked by the United States, promises to derail all hopes for resolution in this, the mother of all Arab concerns. Should Israelis not wake up and come to their senses about where their new prime minister is leading them, should they not take to the streets demanding an honest effort at a two-state solution, they will see their last best hope for peace dissolve and with it, their long-sought dream of security.
President Obama offers the best chance yet to set new terms. He has acknowledged the legitimacy of both sides more than have previous presidents. Despite Netanyahu's bluster, Obama knows that Israel cannot afford an altered relationship with the U.S. If ever there was a time to exert our diplomatic muscle, it is now. The entire region depends upon this most delicate and difficult dance towards peace. If the Netanyahu government cannot be brought to a saner place and fast, Israel stands to find itself in a dangerous and self-inflicted isolation from which it will be difficult to emerge.
As a relevant aside, Diaspora Jews, whom the likes of AIPAC and the Anti Defamation League claim to represent, will one day come to realize that an unchecked Israel will turn out to be the Jews' greatest curse.