The conundrum was laid out clearly by Tzipi Hotovely, a young political ally of Netanyahu’s recently appointed to oversee the foreign ministry on his behalf.
She called together the country’s chief diplomats last week to cite rabbinical justifications for taking Palestinian land. Her broader message was that Israeli embassies abroad needed to stop worrying about being “smart” and concentrate instead on being “right”. Urging the country’s envoys into a headlong confrontation with the world community, she told them the “basic truth” was: “All the land is ours.”
Netanyahu is too experienced a politician to take Hotovely’s advice fully to heart himself. Having briefly spoken his mind to ensure he won the recent general election, he has now walked back a comment much criticised by the White House that he would never permit a Palestinian state.
Damage control was also the reason he quickly cancelled defence minister Moshe Yaalon’s plan to create separate buses for Jewish settlers and Palestinian labourers as they return to the occupied territories at the end of a day in Israel.