This is the shortest column I’ve ever written, because it doesn’t take long to get things into focus:
President Biden will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Wednesday for the first time since he returned to office in December. He has formed the most extremist government in Israel’s history, and yet his administration is considering forging a complex association with his coalition and Saudi Arabia. There are enormous potential benefits and risks for the United States. I hope they do not continue without getting satisfactory answers from Netanyahu on three key questions, so that we know which Israel and which Bibi we are dealing with:
1. Prime Minister Netanyahu, his government coalition agreement He is the first in Israel’s history to define the annexation of the West Bank as one of its objectives or, as he says, to apply “Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.” But before you supported the Trump’s Middle East peace plan which proposed dividing the West Bank, with Israel controlling about 30 percent and the Palestinian state getting about 70 percent, albeit with strict security guarantees and no contiguity. Does he intend to annex the West Bank or will he negotiate its future disposition with the Palestinians? Yes or no? We need to know. Because if he intends to annex, all his normalization agreements with Arab states will collapse and we will not be able to defend him at the United Nations against accusations of building an apartheid state.
2. bibi, you he said in his first cabinet meeting last December that his top priorities include stopping Iran’s nuclear program as well as expanding Israel’s growing relations with the Arab world. But we saw him decide instead to prioritize a judicial coup to strip Israel’s Supreme Court of its ability to hold his government accountable. That, in turn, distracted its military leadership, fractured its air force and elite combat units, bitterly divided its society and weakened its diplomatic alliances from Washington to Europe. Meanwhile, Iran launched a diplomatic offensive, mended its ties with all its Arab neighbors, and ate its lunch. Why should we make confronting Iran’s nuclear program our priority when we haven’t?
3. Prime Minister, the Saudis are ready to do something difficult: normalize relations with Israel. We are doing something difficult to help facilitate it: forging a mutual defense treaty with Saudi Arabia. What difficult things are you willing to do to the Palestinians to complete the agreement? It seems to us that you don’t want to take any political risks, that you want everyone to do something difficult except you.
Bibi, you are out of focus for the American people. We need to know: Who are you now?