Griff Witte’s Feb. 14 news story “Israeli Election Reflects Resurgence of the Right” accurately described the rise of the far right in the Israeli election as a “shift away from politicians who emphasize negotiations with Palestinians.”

But the assessment was still fundamentally misleading. The same Israeli officials who favor negotiations have always rejected policies that might make those negotiations successful. Throughout 2008, Israel was led by the “centrist” Kadima party, to which Tzipi Livni — known for emphasizing negotiations with Palestinians — belongs. But that year brought even greater settlement construction. Historically, it was Labor-led governments that presided over the heaviest settlement expansion — even as their prime ministers visited Washington to “emphasize negotiations.”

The rise of the extreme right — especially the explicitly racist right wing of Avigdor Lieberman — is a dangerous development for Israel.

But it might end the illusion that emphasizing negotiations equals stopping settlements. And that just might make possible a new U.S. approach. If President Obama is confronted with an Israeli leader who doesn’t even feign an interest in negotiations, it will be much easier for him to consider ending the $3 billion annual U.S. aid that facilitates the continuing expansion of Israel’s occupation.

Director, New Internationalism Project
Institute for Policy Studies

Phyllis Bennis is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies where she directs the New Internationalism project. Her books include Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer and more recently Ending the Iraq War: A Primer.

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