Far-right politicians prefer it when their more outlandish proposed laws are shot down prudently from across the aisle. One party on the Left now tries to edge out of that role.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon on Monday declared that her party will no longer rescue Israel’s ruling coalition from itself, and will not vote against an annexation bill proposed by Miri Regev (Likud).
The bill, endorsed by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, would apply Israeli law to much of the Jordan Valley – effectively negating the possibility a future Palestinian state that might share a border with any country other than Israel. Under international – and Israeli – law, the Jordan Valley is as much an occupied territory as Hebron, Jenin or East Jerusalem, successive Israeli governments have long insisted this area was of special concern – and Israelis have developed a narrative to match. Settlements in the Jordan Valley are referred to in Hebrew as “communities” and “kibbutzim,” creating the impression that they are in Israel proper. In a poll conducted two years ago, most Israelis under 20 did not even know the area was occupied.
The bill proposed by Miri Regev is unlikely to pass into law, and Galon hasn’t given up on the two-state solution: annexation would be a provocation even the apathetic second-term Obama would find impossible to swallow. When I interviewed Galon a few months ago she declined to even discuss alternatives to two states because she feared that would legitimize the one-state prospect. Like much of the center-left at the moment, Meretz seems intent on going down with the two-state ship rather than so much as be overheard considering a lifeboat.
The bill is actually meant as a statement of general intent from coalition members to the right of Netanyahu, and as a means of scoring points with their own electorate. The intention is not to wreck the negotiations so much as to rock the boat a bit. For balance, the provoacteurs and Netanyahu rely both on their own coalition partners – Livni’s Hatnua and Lapid’s Yesh Atid – and on opposition parties like Meretz to stop the boat from capsizing. This way, they can present themselves, time and again, as patriotic victims of back-stabbing lefties, while Netanyahu relies on the same lefties to spare him the need to intervene against a motion most of his own electorate would support. This is the role from which Meretz is finally bowing out.
The bill won’t pass anyway, with Meretz or without them. Nevertheless, it’s refreshing to see someone calling the bluff and indicating yet another way of putting Netanyahu into a corner.