With Israel led by the most right-wing government in its history and a weak, fragmented opposition, the right is virtually free to carry out its program. So why is its decade-long vision of annexing the West Bank not really on the table?
Things have never looked brighter for the Israeli right’s political prospects. Israel’s current government is widely acknowledged as the most right-wing in the country’s history. The opposition is so weak and fragmented that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is practically leading the country unopposed. The decades-old project of expanding Jewish settlements into the West Bank has lured more than 300,000 Israelis into the West Bank, threatening to render the two-state solution obsolete.
Yet scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find that neither Netanyahu nor his allies on the religious right know what to do with this power. In fact, as its political influence grows, Israel’s right is becoming more aimless and confused. It excels at crushing its political adversaries, but doesn't know what to do once they’re vanquished. Much of its conduct over the past few years has been about buying time. It all comes down to the simple fact that the Israeli right has no endgame.
For the past 50 years, the major strategic goal of the right wing has been to formally annex the territories Israel occupied after the 1967 war. The idea was not merely to pass legislation extending Israeli sovereignty to these territories, but more importantly to make them part and parcel of what Israelis, Palestinians and the international community consider to be Israel. The aim was to attain wide recognition of the Jewish people’s right to these lands, first and foremost among Israeli Jews themselves. In this respect, the story of the Israeli right is one of absolute failure. Its success in prolonging the legal and political limbo of military occupation actually betrays its inability to go all the way to annexation.