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As Tuesday’s national elections in Israeli neared, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was struggling to hold on to power, appeared to become more worried about his prospects and more desperate in his pitchmanship. Dropping all pretenses, he played the race card early on Election Day, posting a Facebook video with an explicit ethnic message: “Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls.” The intent was obvious—to scare the hell out of right-wing and anti-Arab voters who had not yet hit the polls. This brazen move followed another brazen sop to the right. On Monday night, Netanyahu declared that if he were elected, he would never permit the establishment of a Palestinian state. With this last-minute pander, Netanyahu reversed his previous public position—announced in a 2009 speech—that he supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
His back-flip was not much of a surprise. It’s an indicator of what was widely suspected at home and abroad: Netanyahu never really believed in the two-state solution, which has the been the foundation of Mideast diplomatic initiatives for two decades. But this issue is bigger than Netanyahu. Conservatives in his Likud party and Republicans in the United States have played the same game for years: expressing support for the two-state solution without meaning it. Why would they do that? Because there is a strong international consensus in favor of the two-party path to peace. Those who don’t buy it are not part of the mainstream debate; they’re outside the tent. Consequently, many Israeli conservatives and their comrades in the United States—who truly don’t want a Palestinian state—have figured out that if they mouth the words, they can gain entrance to the tent and piss away, or, at least, slyly obstruct.