Is Netanyahu Breaking Toward the Center?

There are signs that reality is forcing Prime Minister Netanyahu to the center, just as reality pushed Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, his two predecessors, to the center. Goldblog Central has been hearing rumors and intimations for some time that Bibi is going to announce something dramatic -- perhaps before a joint session of Congress (a friendlier audience than the Knesset, by a long shot). How dramatic? This is what is unclear. It's got to be pretty dramatic to keep Bibi's ostensible allies, President Obama and Angela Merkel among them, from giving up on him. According to Ha'aretz, Bibi has been telling associates that he fears the creation of a binational state in Israel's place if the country fails to allow the birth of a Palestinian state next door. He is even said to be thinking about endorsing a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. For a man like Bibi, a hard-edged nationalist, this would be quite something, and would invest a speech with suitable drama. Here is Aluf Benn, the best Israeli analyst of Bibi's intentions:

Signs have become plentiful in recent days that Netanyahu is following in Sharon's footsteps and breaking away from the extreme right to the center. It began with his address to the Knesset last week, in which he hinted at an interim settlement with the Palestinians that will keep the Jordan Valley in Israeli control, and also dropped the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a homeland of the Jewish people. He continued with the razing of the Havat Gilad outpost, a clear sign to the extreme right.
On Monday, Netanyahu told Likud − like Sharon before him − that he will not continue along the same line in view of the tremendous amount of international pressure.

Now he is saying in closed meetings that "a binational state would be disastrous for Israel" and suddenly Netanyahu sounds like former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who in an interview with Haaretz at the Annapolis Conference declared: Two states or Israel is finished. And this is the same Netanyahu who has always denied the demographic threat, regarding it as a scarecrow in the service of the left.
 
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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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