What You Need to Know about Playing Israel

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--Benjamin Netanyahu's objection to the peace process is not rooted in mean-spiritedness, but in the deeply held belief that the current Palestinian leadership is totally untrustworthy. Netanyahu has declared that his government is willing to talk with the Palestinians whenever their leadership renounces violence and demonstrates its willingness to interact honestly with the Israeli government.

--Mr. Netanyahu retains personal popularity in the West, especially in the United States. This is due, in part, to Netanyahu's skill as an English speaker, owing to the fact that he attended MIT and worked in the United States for many years. Mr. Netanyahu has also been an eloquent symbol for those diaspora Jews who support a militarily strong Israel, and who fear both that Israel is too often blamed in the West for defending itself, and that she may be bullied by the West into accepting a lousy deal in any peace negotiations.

--For the religious right (including many in Netanyahu's Likud Party), the West Bank cannot be given up, because it is part of the Holy Land promised by God to the Jewish people. Any attempt to divide or relinquish this land is anathema to these believers, and as such the government has many members who absolutely will not agree to give up another portion of the Occupied Territories. While they are not a majority of the right, this religious bloc, in some ways very similar to Hamas, always plays its part in discussions of the peace process.

--When Benjamin Netanyahu retook the prime ministership in 2009, he had a powerful strike against him in the eyes of the West. Netanyahu has generally opposed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, advocating instead for a kind of economic cooperation that would someday lead to a political resolution. Though Netanyahu's opposition to a two-state solution is a cagey enterprise that will give him a political chip to play, others worry that his stance may seriously jeopardize his relationship with the United States and Europe, putting his entire government at risk.

--Israel is very concerned that for all the positives associated with the so-called Arab Spring, Israel's security will not benefit from the changes that have (and will) come. Israel worries, for example, that if the Syrian government falls, it will be replaced by a leadership more overtly hostile to Israel, with greater influence for Islamists, who both Mubarak of Egypt and Assad of Syria kept at bay.

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