A Referendum on Netanyahu

Both the Likud and its various opponents have decided to make the upcoming election all about the current prime minister, with one left-wing politician adopting “just not Bibi” as her unofficial slogan. But there is still much popular support for the prime minister and, despite conventional wisdom in the U.S., this has little to do with dislike of the American president, as Haviv Rettig Gur explains:

Foreign observers routinely misunderstand Netanyahu’s popularity in the Israeli electorate. In 2009, when U.S. President Barack Obama pressured Netanyahu on settlement construction, eventually extracting from him a ten-month settlement freeze, Obama’s formerly sky-high popularity among Israelis plummeted. In the years since, many American officials, Obama included, interpreted this decline as a sign of Netanyahu’s popularity: when the two leaders bickered, Israelis rallied around their own.

But Netanyahu’s approval ratings didn’t soar when Obama’s crashed. Israelis wrote off America’s leader on the basis of his own failings, as they saw them. His tiffs with Netanyahu were secondary to the perception among many Israelis that Obama seemed to be shortsightedly expecting them, after the second intifada, the second Lebanon war, and a fresh war in Gaza, to trust once again in their neighbors’ peaceful intentions. . . .

[A] poll over the weekend found that just 36 percent of Israelis view Netanyahu as the most fit candidate for the job of prime minister among those running. Yet these numbers mark little change from the past. Netanyahu has won elections not because of his own popularity, but because of his opponents’ unpopularity.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Barack Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli politics, Knesset, Likud

As Hamas’s Reign of Terror Endures, the International Community Remains Obsessed with Jews Living in the Wrong Places

On Thursday, foreign ministers of the G-7—the U.S., Canada, Japan, Britain, France, Germany, and Italy—along with the EU, made an official “statement on the situation in the West Bank,” an area where they are very concerned, it appears, that too many Jews are dwelling. In particular, the G-7 condemned Israel’s decision to grant municipal status to five ad-hoc villages built without proper permits. Elliott Abrams comments:

I can see “condemning” murder, terror, kidnapping, and “rejecting” that legalization. Indeed in the next sentence they “reject the decision by the government of Israel to declare over 1,270 hectares of land in the West Bank as ‘state lands.’” Building houses should not be treated with language usually reserved for murder.

The statement then added complaints about the Israeli settlement program more generally, and about Israel’s decision to withhold some tax revenues it collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Why does Israel ever withhold such funds? Sometimes it is in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack. Sometimes it’s domestic politics. But it’s worth remembering something else: the Taylor Force Act, which became law in 2018 and stated that the “Palestinian Authority’s practice of paying salaries to terrorists serving in Israeli prisons, as well as to the families of deceased terrorists, is an incentive to commit acts of terror.” Until those payments cease, most forms of aid from the U.S. government to the Palestinian Authority may not be made. The payments continue. It is not clear if the State Department is pressuring the Palestinian Authority to end them.

Such moral considerations are entirely absent from the G-7 statement. The statement may be correct when it says, “maintaining economic stability in the West Bank is critical for regional security.” But it should be obvious that ending the pay-for-slay program and rewards for terrorism is even more critical for regional security. It’s a pity the G-7 did not find time to mention that.

The statement, it’s worth noting, appeared on the U.S. State Department website.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Europe and Israel, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy, West Bank