Tag Archives: Israel

This week’s radio show: Peace talks, Burning Man, and Gays taking on Putin

“This week peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians kicked off in Washington DC. The price Israel had to pay to get into the talks was a release of 104 prisoners who have been in jail since before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. This is a steep price, for the families of the victims and for many Israelis in general. Between the heartbreak, there is hope. Hope that this time, after countless attempts at peace talks, this time will be different. That this time will lead to a deal that ends the conflict. It seems almost like a dream — an end to the conflict. Is that even really possible? Are our negotiators in Washington like Don Quixote, tilting at windmills? Or perhaps they’re like Sisyphus, rolling a large boulder up a mountain — a boulder that will always fall back down. Perhaps the Gods have decreed that there will never be real peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Or maybe this time, the Israelis and Palestinians will be able to push that boulder to the top of the mountain, and roll it off the other side of the cliff —  ridding us all of this endless, bloody conflict. Can we dream of that? Between the heartbreak and the pessimism, is there room for hope? Between the skepticism and yearning, is there a realistic chance that this time there will be a different outcome? And between the disappointments and frustrations, has anyone truly imagined what life here could be like if we did live in a country at peace with its neighbors? While we’re not currently living in war, and we’re not living in peace either, maybe it’s not so bad that we live in hope.”

russia

There goes the neighborhood

The internationalization of the Syrian civil war

World powers and regional actors are increasingly converging on Syria, a development which threatens to mesh the civil war between pro- and anti-Syrian regime forces into the wider regional conflict between Sunnis and Shiites, as well as the global tussle between the U.S. and Russia over spheres of influence. Continue reading

privacy

Spy on me, I want you to

Spy on me, please

The cyber security officer at the newspaper [since when did we need one of those?] just put a password code on my iPhone and iPad – something to do with me getting my work emails on these devices and apparently that makes me an information security threat, a walking unlocked safe. It was OK for a while but apparently now Israeli web sites are getting attacked like a gazillion times a day. Continue reading

Israelis and Palestinians

The Four State State Solution

The Four State Solution

Many of the Jewish settlers and their supporters don’t want the status quo to change. They do not want to be removed from their homes, God forbid, and they do not want a Palestinian state to rise in the West Bank, God forbid. Many of them don’t believe that the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem has any authority to relinquish Jewish holy land. Many Jewish Israelis who live west of the Green Line don’t want to hold onto any of the settlements east of the Green Line. Many of Hamas’ supporters in Gaza don’t want a Palestinian state to arise along the 1967 borders — they want it along the 1948 borders, i.e. they don’t want any Jewish state here. And they don’t think that the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah has any authority to relinquish Muslim holy land.

Many smart people just don’t see why other smart people are still talking about the Two State Solution. That solution is long gone, they say. In fact, many of them believe that there is no real solution to the physics problem of Jews and Palestinians inhabiting the same space at the same time. Many Jewish settlers don’t understand why the Palestinians just won’t move to Jordan [it's 80% Palestinian anyway]. The Jordanians, the Palestinians, and the rest of the world, what can you do, will have none of that. They’re stubborn that way.

So the Jews are divided and they won’t budge; the Palestinians are divided and they won’t budge, and don’t even talk to me about the Jordanians.

So we’re left with the status quo. No peace talks, or just an endless series of talks about talks, no territorial withdrawals, no border agreements, more conflict over land, more arrests, rocks, shootings and death.

We go on as before. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, according to many Jews living in Judea and Samaria. What’s wrong with the way things are now, they ask? There is real coexistence in the West Bank now between Jews and Arabs.  There are all the industrial zones and all the trade that goes on. So what if Europe boycotts us? We’ll sell our wine and goat cheese to China. Jews are living proudly in their ancient homeland, they say. Give us time, and the world will get used to the idea. You’ll see.

But the world doesn’t see.

And the settlers don’t see the Palestinians.

And the Palestinians don’t see the Jews’ point of view: that they truly believe they have returned to their ancient homeland. A miracle really, one of the biggest miracles in history — an ancient people banished from their land, keeping their faith for 2,000 years, and coming back to their ancient homeland. The Palestinians will likely never, ever, come to terms with that point of view – the return to Zion. As far as the Palestinians are concerned, there is no Zion and there never was. 

So there is no solution.

But there has to be a solution, because Israel cannot remain the only sort-of democracy in the Middle East [democracy on one side of the Green Line, military rule on the other]. And the Palestinians cannot remain a nation-in-the-making divided into the religious fanatics of the Gaza Strip and the secular crybabies of the West Bank.

So I have an idea: since over 60% of Israelis want Israel to be a real democracy and they want Israel to be a Jewish state and they want to end the conflict with the Palestinians, but neither the Palestinians nor Israelis want to give an inch of territory to the other, I propose that Israel draws its national border along the security fence [give or take a large settlement bloc or three] – and let the settlers and the Palestinians decide what to do with their mixed state, which we could call, until they decide what to name it, the State of Judea and Samaria and Palestine. The settlers and the Palestinians could each have their state – Judea and Samaria for the Jews, Palestine for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Palestine for the Palestinians in Gaza – and they can work out the details amongst themselves. They don’t need us for that. They certainly don’t need America for that.

So we have four states:

Israel – in Israel

Jude and Samaria – in Judea and Samaria

Palestine #1 – in the West Bank

Palestine #2 – in the Gaza Strip.

If all sides can’t agree on two states for two people in Judea and Samaria and Palestine #1 and Palestine #2, they could have four states for four peoples – the status quo if you will – and call it whatever they want to call it.

Sovereignty, representation, nationality, taxes, trade pacts, foreign alliances – this would all be up to them to decide. They could have their own elections, their own flags, their own Olympic teams, even their own mixed anthems representing the aspirations of each of them.

The Israelis on the western side of the security fence will live in the State of Israel, and the Jews and Palestinians living on the eastern side of the fence will live in the state of Judea and Samaria and Palestine #1, and the Hamas and its people in Gaza in Palestine #2.

Of course, there could be negotiations between the State of Israel and the State of Judea and Samaria and Palestine #1 over territorial swaps here and there; as well as border arrangements, visa waivers, family reunifications, economic agreements etc etc.

 

Jewish Palestinian coexistence

The truth is that this kind of thing already has a precedent in Jewish history, at least.

After the death of King Solomon in 930BC, the Jews of old were divided into two kingdoms: Israel, and Judea. These kingdoms remained separate states for over two hundred years, until they both disappeared.

 

Strength and Courage.

How do we carry on?

Tonight, as the Yom Hazikaron siren went off, I stood by my baby son’s cot, hovering above him as I do sometimes, stalking him while he sleeps.

One of my earliest ever memories is of my father coming into my room during the siren and standing me up in my bed – I must have been about 3 or 4 years old.

I still remember it now; the solemn, grievous look on my father’s face. I think it scared me.

Tonight, as I scanned over every inch of my sleeping son’s face, I feel that time is circular, that history repeats itself, only this time I am the one above the cot.

My beautiful boy, what have I gotten you into?

In this country, we’re either at war, or in between wars.

And even when we’re in between wars, there’s war.

And it’s always the same war. We fight for our right to belong here. There is no question we belong here.

We fight for our lives.

We fight because there is no other way.

And sometimes we fight because we’re too tired, too paranoid, or too stupid to look for another way.

Sometimes we make war because it’s easier than making peace.

Maybe there isn’t another way and maybe there is. I’m sad to think that it will always be like this.

And what if it is always like this? Will we always carry on fighting, killing and dying? Winning and losing, winning and losing, until we can’t even tell the difference between winning and losing.

How do we carry on, day after day, year after year, war after war, sacrifice after sacrifice?

It’s like those stories of bystanders lifting cars to rescue people trapped underneath. The strength just comes from somewhere within when it needs to.

Or like someone running into a burning building to save a complete stranger. You’d have to be totally insane to do that.

Superhuman strength, insane courage. That’s how we carry on.

I let you sleep tonight son; you’re too young to stand for the siren.

Who knows, maybe when the circle comes round again, please God, your son won’t need to.

Strength and Courage.

Strength and Courage.

An Orthodox Jew in an airplane with women - so he covers himself with a plastic bag... - Imgur

Nutbags

Like EL AL says in its marketing slogan: “It’s not just an airline, it’s Israel.”

Well, here’s Israel for you.

Jewish men of the Cohen priestly class are wrapping themselves up in plastic bags on planes to avoid “contaminating” themselves when flying over cemeteries.

An Orthodox Jew in an airplane with women - so he covers himself with a plastic bag... - Imgur

Another Jewish man in a bag on a plane

If you want to understand what’s going on here, read this

Some years ago, it was discovered that the flight paths of many international routes to and from Eretz Yisroel go over a large Jewish cemetery, and the question as to whether it was permitted for kohanim to travel on such flights was widely discussed by the leading poskim

 

If you’re interested in some of my writing on haredim, then look here and here

 

Israelis and Palestinians

One last round

My brothers we’ve grown tired.

Some of us are tired of trying to make peace.

Some of us are tired of trying to make war.

There is no solution here. Over and over again, no solution. It’s like a long day that never ends.

And we get used to everything and we accept no hope.

Sometimes I think we’re winning, and other times I know we’re losing.

If we keep on winning like this, in the end there will be nothing left to win.

Sometimes I know we’re getting stronger, but strength is meaningless without hope.

If we’re heading toward the end of whatever they told us the Zionist dream was supposed to be, then let’s go out with a bang.

This slow death is killing me.

Give me a spectacular failure over a long, drawn-out phyrric victory.

Give me a knock-out, not a victory on points that no one’s counting anymore.

There’s no more referee and nobody cares about us anymore.

It’s just us and them. For God’s sake. We’re all clowns.

I’ve got breath in me for one more round:

Either all-out peace or all-out war.

One last round and let’s finish this.

But it has to be all-out. Enough of this no-war, no-peace, no-thing.

Israelis and Palestinians

The Hebrew press.

In Israel, more and better media in English than in Hebrew

There is now more, and better, journalism out of Israel in English than there is in Hebrew. While the mainstream Hebrew press struggles with the same issues as much of the world’s press does, and many of its own extremely serious native issues, there is very little innovation and disruption happening in the local Hebrew media, in my opinion. On the English side however we are seeing a veritable explosion, not just of new and improving outlets, but, more significantly, of the quality, quantity, variety, and reach of the content they’re producing online. Leading the pack, in my opinion, is Haaretz’s English edition, which has recently launched a paid subscription model for its online version and its mobile apps.

The quality and frequency of the journalism and opinion its writers are producing in English is very high, with writers like Chemi Shalev making serious inroads into everything Israeli, Jewish and middle east foreign policy coming out of America. The Times of Israel comes in second, in sheer terms of quantity of content produced and their social media reach. While not breaking anywhere near the same amount of hard news as Haaretz does [a good amount of TOI content is curated], TOI nevertheless is increasingly reporting original material of a wider appeal, and is experimenting successfully with a super flexible site which allows their editorial to play around with positioning of stories, something they do with great skill. As far as I can see, TOI and Haaretz are the most widely referenced Israeli news sources [English and Hebrew] apart from Yediot Aharonot, which still breaks many big stories, but whose Ynetnews English version has not been elevated to anywhere near its full potential [it is still a player though and has a steady readership].

The Jerusalem Post, while having consistently lost altitude and attitude over the past several years is bouncing back nicely with a combination of smart, assertive reporting by the likes of Gil Hoffman, Lahav Harkov and others, content partnerships with its parent company’s Hebrew assets, and successful conferences in New York. Jpost still lags behind on mobile applications, and its homepage is still, yes still, horrendous. Haaretz is also planning a conference in America, and TOI has had several smaller meet-ups. Maariv and Makor Rishon’s UK-born publisher may not have launched English versions yet, but word has it that these outlets are planning specific English projects with a Diaspora Jewish target in mind.

After the main players in terms of traffic and clout, there are increasingly good moves by the always-steady Israel National News, which reports strongly from Judea and Samaria, has a great video presence, as well as strong editorials, and interacts effectively with its core readership. While the media outlet I’m in charge of, Israel Hayom English, is nominally still a daily newsletter, we are expanding our content and readership base at a steady clip and our visibility amongst international media and policy circles is growing. We are bringing new voices into the crucible and exposing an international audience to Israel’s most widely-read daily. On the left wing side of the political spectrum, +972 is doing strong on-the-ground reporting and expansive opinion, and is doing specifically well in long-form journalism, design, video and info graphics.

The Israel Project’s TowerDotOrg news blog is making a good entrance with some original reporting and insight as well as a growing social media presence. A strong new player on the field is Al-Monitor, which has original and translated material from some very heavy hitters. While very niched, Israel Defense is nevertheless a quality product with high-end reporting and analysis on security issues as well as a good focus on the business side of the military industries. Talking about the business side, while Globes in English at times looks like it’s getting its act together, there is still a very big gap in the market for a serious English business news site that can be of interest and value to a wider global audience.

Some non-Israeli, or non-Israeli-based news outlets are also doing impressive, quality reporting, analysis and opinion about Israel, Judaism, America and everything in between, and here I’m referring to Algemeiner, Open Zion, The Mideast Matrix,Tablet, the Forward, TIME Magazine’s man in Israel Karl Vick, The Jewish Chronicle, The Jewish Week, The Jewish Press, JTA, Commentary [its Israel stuff], and others. Meir Javendafar’s The Iran-Israel observer is as strong as anything by the best reporters in the Hebrew press.
Summing up, to me it looks like there is a lot more activity, originality and innovation in the English media coming out of Israel [and the US about Israel] than there is in the Hebrew press.
Whether the English players manage to sustain and grow the financial aspects of their businesses remains to be seen – some of them might have a better shot than others. But for now, the world is spoiled for choice, especially coming at a time when most foreign news organisations are scaling down their foreign bureaus. Israeli readers of the Hebrew press might be well served by reading some of what’s going on in their own country written by their Anglo journalists.
An increasing global reach and direct communication with audiences is also why several prominent Israeli Hebrew journalists are increasingly tweeting in English. It is a positive and welcome sign to see the likes of Ayala Hasson from Channel 1 and Israel Radio tweeting in English, as well as Chico Menashe from the same stations as Hasson.
Please forgive me if I’ve left out/ missed anyone/ anything I must have had a good reason to.

The battle over Israel’s brand narrative

The battle over Israel’s brand narrative

You might call it 3 narratives for 1 peoples, or 3 states of brand.
There are three distinct yet interlinked narratives of Israel:

The Start-Up Nation

The Comeback Nation

The Occupation Nation

The Start-Up Nation positions Israel as being about technology and innovation that makes the world a better place; a tiny place with huge brainpower, a nation that has more Nobel Prizes than all of its neighbours combined; about a liberal democracy, the only democracy in the Middle East, where gays are not beheaded, where Arabs are represented in parliament and the courts; a multicultural melting pot, with bright people who have a bright future.

The Comeback Nation is about our ties to this land – historical, Biblical, legal and moral – roots to our ancient homeland. We are an ancient nation that was exiled from its home into the cruel Diaspora, where we suffered untold evil and humiliation for 2,000 years, culminating in the Holocaust. We were defenceless, we had no army, we relied on others to protect us, a reliance that failed time and time again. But we kept our traditions, and eventually returned to our homeland, and the Jews’ return from exile is one of the most enthralling human dramas of all time. We keep on uncovering evidence of our past here and we celebrate each discovery. Now we are fighting for our biblical/ historical rights to parts of this land. Under this narrative, Israelis are not “settlers” nor “occupiers” as “one cannot be an occupier in one’s own land.” If anyone is illegally occupying the land, it is the Palestinians.

The Occupation Nation paints Israel as an usurper state taking what does not belong to it, an Apartheid state that is denying basic rights to the “original inhabitants” of the area – the Palestinians [I put original in quotes only to contrast it with the Comeback Nation narrative]. It negates the first two narratives: Israel is not the only democracy in the Middle East, it is, in fact, not a democracy at all because it doesn’t allow the Palestinians living under its rule the same rights as it allows Jews; and it negates the Comeback Nation narrative by denying the Jews’ have any rights to any part of the Holy Land. It is from this narrative that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign springs. There are some shades to this narrative: not everyone who ascribes to the Occupation Nation narrative believes Israel shouldn’t exist within the 1967 borders.

These three narratives are all vying for the coveted title of “the truth” – the one that actually frames “what Israel is.” And there are serious professionals working tirelessly to promote each narrative, mostly working against each other – like the three-headed Cerberus they try bite each others’ heads off while all connected to the same neck.

But the truth is more complex

The truth is that Israel is all three.

I also find it interesting that Naftali Bennett, the new leader of the Habayit Hayehudi settlement party, is an embodiment of all three narratives: a technology start-up guy who now represents a sector that lives in what they believe is their ancient homeland; he wants to perpetuate the occupation – i.e. deny the Palestinians the right to a state of their own. All three narratives in one. Quite remarkable, and perhaps a first in Israeli politics.

The truth is that anyone who sells you just one of the narratives is selling you an incomplete picture.

The complete picture is that:

We are creating a future with startups that are as alien to the region as the region’s inhabitants see us.

We are a start up nation with deep, legitimate rights and roots in this ancient land and we are not letting go of many of our ancestral places.

We are an occupation nation because the people who lived here while we were in exile can’t live in freedom from our rule.

The problem is that we can’t keep on being all three.

We even managed to convince the leader of the free world to adopt our Comeback Nation narrative, and move him away from his previous notion that Israel was created because of the Holocaust. But in his speech in Jerusalem last week, Barack Obama painted an accurate picture of Israel as a complex country with three competing narratives: Start-Up Nation, Comeback Nation, and Occupation Nation.

If we persist in being the Occupation Nation we could lose the narrative of Start -Up Nation as Israel focuses more and more of its finances, resources, morality and international standing on denying the Palestinians a state. Who will we sell our start-ups to if the Occupation Nation narrative gets stronger and we are boycotted more and more? We can win the third intifada and the fourth and the fifth until the only thing left to win is a permanent branding of Occupation Nation. If we persist in the Occupation Nation we will also lose our legitimate rights as the Comeback Nation, because we will never get the world to accept this narrative in its entirety. The key is to hold on to realistic aspects of the Comeback Nation, strengthen the Start-Up Nation, and ditch the Occupation Nation.

A light unto the nations?

A light unto the nations?

I've got your back

Love in the time of uranium

Why don’t you love my back?

I do love your back.

How much do you love my back?

Very much. I love your back very much.

Do you love my back more than anything?

I love my back more than anything, but I love your back more than anyone else’s back. You have such a wonderful back. Your back and my back, it’s virtually the same back.

Don’t leave me alone here.

I won’t leave you alone here.

There are so many bad men here. They want to do such bad things to me.

I won’t leave you alone with the bad men. Do you hear me bad men?!?

I’m strong, but I don’t want you to leave me alone here. If you leave me alone here there will be trouble.

You are very strong. I will make you stronger. You don’t need to worry.

But how can I be sure?

You can be sure.

But how? Show me a sign. Show me a big sign and put my worried mind to rest.

Wait, there’s time. There’s still time before the sign.

No, show me now. I need to see it now.

I’ll show you, I promise, when the time’s right.

When will the time be right? Why don’t you show me now?

Shh, be still my love. I love your back.

I've got your back

I’ve got your back

Stuck in the Middle East with you.

Israel’s new coalition government: Who’s the boss?

Israel’s new coalition government: a three-headed monster pulling in two different directions.

Stuck in the Middle East with you.

Stuck in the Middle East with you.

Israel’s 33rd government is on the cusp of being formed. It has been a tortuous coalition negotiations path, and the fact that it has gone all the way to the 42nd and very last day of the mandated time allotted to form a coalition does not speak well about the ability of the erstwhile political partners to work together in the future.

Assuming that there is no final [really final this time] glitches, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, and Habayit Hayehudi’s Naftali Bennett will sign a coalition deal Friday afternoon.

Netanyahu’s government will be made up of the Likud-Yisrael Beytenu [31 seats], Yesh Atid [19], Habayit Hayehud [12], Hatnuah [6], a thin ruling majority of 68 MKs.

Significantly, this government will not include the haredi Shas and United Torah Judaism parties. It is the first time, apart from one brief stint of two years in the Knesset opposition, that the haredim have not been included in an Israeli government for almost forty years – an entire generation. What was not possible with the haredim in government – teaching core curriculum in haredi schools, drafting haredim into the army and increasing their participation in the workforce – may now be possible. Possible, but perilous, as much rests on how much is done with the cooperation of the haredi leadership. While the haredim are out, the settlers of the religious Zionist stream are in, and they’re making a beeline for the institutions of religion and state, most significantly the position of Chief Rabbi. Again, the outcome of any potential changes to the fabric of haredi society relies on a smart and humanistic combination of kosher carrots and sticks.

Once installed in his third term as prime minister, Netanyahu’s first challenge will be to pass the national budget, ostensibly the reason he called elections in the first place. Israel is in murky financial waters, and the government will have to cut over NIS 30 billion in the state budget, as well as increase taxes and institute other painful austerity measures. He will have to do this while keeping the coalition intact, if that’s what he wants. It will be interesting to see how Lapid fares as Finance Minister in what is shaping up to be a severe austerity economy [it is telling that Netanyahu all but begged Lapid to take on the finance portfolio.] Lapid will have to immediately cut at least NIS 14 billion from state expenditure and may even need to raise taxes. “I’ve got your back,” Netanyahu told Lapid. Just Do It, go find the money.

On socioeconomic issues, the coalition may be able to make some important reforms to the structural flaws in Israel’s society and economy, but any far-reaching, root-and-branch reforms, if they happen, will take time. While some change can be expected to the institutions of religion and state in Israel, it is unlikely that Likud and Habayit Hayehudi will agree to transportation on the Sabbath, for instance. While the coalition will move to redress the imbalance in the equality of national burden, don’t expect to see thousands of young haredi men join the ranks of the IDF, or, alternatively, be locked up behind bars for draft dodging.

Not a lame-duck Prime Minister

Netanyahu’s second order of business will be to quell the uprising within his own Likud, borne out of deep and discernible dissatisfaction of many Likud ministers and MKs with the results of the elections and the results of the coalition talks. Netanyahu will move quickly to change the primaries system in the Likud, which was abused by interested parties, like the settlers and their supporters, to vote in hard-line politicians ahead of the moderate, old-guard conservatives. Tens of thousands of settlers, card-carrying Likud members all, voted in the Likud primaries to make sure that certain politicians were in and others out, but then voted for Habayit Hayehudi and other parties in the general elections. This was one major reason why the Likud fared so badly in the general elections. If he doesn’t want to be a lame-duck prime minister, Netanyahu first, and foremost, has to reassert his authority within the Likud party. Make no mistake, Netanyahu wants to run for a fourth term.

Divide and Conquer

His third order of business will be to make sure that Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett don’t make his bid for a fourth term impossible. The country may have voted for Lapid and Bennett to ease their financial burden, but they also voted for Netanyahu to steer the country through burning Middle East sands. And this is how the government has ended up being divided: socioeconomic issues go to Lapid and Bennett, defense and foreign affairs stay with Likud-Beytenu. Lapid and Bennett can tackle the labor unions, striking nurses and dissatisfied teachers. Netanyahu and Ya’alon will tackle the Ayatollah. Lapid can “look for the money” leaving Netanyahu to “look for the centrifuges.” If Finance Minister Lapid wins, Netanyahu wins. If Lapid loses, Netanyahu wins.

The story of this post-election coalition-forming period was undoubtedly the historic and ironclad alliance between Lapid and Bennett. It began because of Netanyahu’s negative emotional response to Bennett’s electoral success which pushed Bennett into Lapid’s arms, and ended with Bennett becoming the real power broker behind Netanyahu’s ability to form a coalition.

Apart from their ideology over the peace process with the Palestinians, the two ascendant leaders see eye-to-eye on almost every socio-economic issue, especially the tough nut that is the inequality in the national burden, also known as the non-participation of the majority of the ultra-Orthodox sector in the military and, more crucially, the workforce.

The alliance worked well for both Bennett and Lapid, essentially forcing Netanyahu to bring them both into his coalition, as forming a government without them would have forced Netanyahu to form a coalition with Labor’s Shelly Yachimovich and the haredi parties – something he tried desperately to do but failed, largely because Yechimovich wanted to stay in the opposition and build herself up there.

But the alliance between the centrist Lapid and the rightist Bennett was for coalition negotiations leverage only, and should, by all accounts, flounder on the rocks of serious diplomacy with the Palestinians, should such diplomacy actually happen.

That’s not to say that even if serious diplomacy happens, the Palestinian Authority will come to the party. They refused Barak’s offers, they refused Olmert’s offers, they refused to come to the table during a ten-month settlement freeze – so any offer they’re liable to get under Netanyahu now is not going to be better than anything previously offered them. Which is why Bennett is not sweating it.

Jewish Home won’t leave the coalition if talks with the Palestinian Authority restart. It won’t even leave the coalition if a limited settlement freeze is implemented to get PA President Mahmoud Abbas to the table. Bennett will only leave the coalition if a real deal is likely. Israel and the Palestinians can talk all they want, as long as there is no deal, no practical outcome to the talks that leads to a Palestinian state, says Naftali Bennett, the Jewish Home leader.

The truth is that this suits Netanyahu just fine: the kind of Palestinian state he’s willing to agree to is the kind of Palestinian state the Palestinians will never agree to. And in any case, there is absolutely no appetite in Jerusalem to make any bold moves in the current regional turbulence, and especially the implications of a rapidly imploding Syria and an uncertain Egypt.

The Americans can push to restart the talks, but the ball is really in PA President Abbas’ court. If he comes to the party without any preconditions, then it’s game on.

During the election campaign, Netanyahu said repeatedly that should he form a government, he would make sure that Tzippi Livni gets “nowhere near” the negotiations with the Palestinians. Livni was the first person Netanyahu signed a coalition deal with, placing Livni in charge of peace talks with the Palestinians, with the caveat that a Netanyahu representative is in the room with her whenever she’s meeting the Palestinians. It’s obvious why Livni accepted this: she had no choice. With six mandates, her and her “Movement” would have disintegrated in the Opposition. Livni was not a very effective Leader of the Opposition with 28 Knesset seats, so a b backbench with 6 seats and a slow death, or “Justice Minister and person in charge of talks with the Palestinians that go nowhere.” The choice was clear and Livni signed on to become this government’s centrist fig leaf. Bennett however is demanding that Netanyahu amend his coalition deal with Livni, to make doubly sure that she is not able to give away any meaningful concessions [read settlements] to the Palestinians.

Some movement on the diplomatic track does seem likely, even though the consensus in Washington, Israel and the Palestinian territories is that a deal is very, very far off, if even possible. Right now, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and the second Obama administration have an interest in restarting the process and keeping it going. Whether Abbas can deliver the Palestinians [he does not speak for Gaza] has always been a sticking point. And the same goes for Netanyahu’s right flank.

The upcoming visit by US President Barack Obama, and the planned visit to the region afterward by Secretary of State John Kerry do not represent an American administration imposing a peace plan on both sides. Obama and Netanyahu have much bigger fish to fry, namely the Iranian nuclear program, Syrian chemical weapons, and an Egypt spinning out of control. But there will be increasing pressure by the international community to move towards a two-state solution.

2013 could be the year of Iran, or it could not. What we are seeing however is an increasing military threat from the Sinai and the Golan Heights, both formerly quiet borders, now major issues on the Israeli national agenda. The next government then is likely to focus on internal issues such as the haredi question and the cost of living, and gird for possible violence against jihadis in Sinai and the Golan.

Netanyahu, convincingly drubbed in both the elections, and in coalition negotiations, is not going to let Lapid and Bennett dictate his premiership.

The prime minister has already stated his intentions for his next term in office:

“The coming term will be one of the most challenging in the country’s history. This is no exaggeration. We face security and diplomatic challenges. The important thing is for this government to be able to meet the challenges. We did our best with 31 Knesset seats; we’ve kept the important portfolios. We’ve taken back the defense portfolio and we’ve kept the foreign affairs portfolio.”

In other words: this will be the government that deals with Iran; this will be the government that deals with the Sinai and the Golan Heights; this will be the government that deals with fallout from Syria’s implosion; this will be the government that deals with the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood across the region. Equalizing the national burden is important, lowering the cost of housing is important – and best of luck to Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Economics Concentration Minister Naftali Bennett. But what’s more important is facing the most challenging security and diplomatic challenges this country has ever faced. And for that, I’m the boss.