The Free World has been faced with a conundrum: how to oppose Israel’s occupation of the West Bank while making clear that it does not delegitimize Israel’s existence per se. The E.U.’s new guidelines forbiding financing or supporting Israeli Institutions in the West Bank may send the right message: the West stands behind Israel, but will never accept the occupation.
While Israel’s current government includes two parties—Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid and Tzipi Livini’s Hatnu’a—that are committed to the two-state solution, the Likud itself is nowadays largely composed of people who expressly reject the two-state solution. They are taking over the party’s central institutions, and it is doubtful that Benjamin Netanyahu could genuinely move towards a two state solution, even if he wanted to, without losing his own party.
Add to this that Naftali Bennett has seemingly changed the face of Israel’s national-religious wing: suave, well-educated and far removed from the image of long-bearded fundamentalist rabbis, he seemed to make the case for Israel’s annexation of most of the West Bank in a way that the world could, and in his view should understand.
It therefore looked as if John Kerry’s massive efforts to restart the defunct peace process were doomed, and that the only question was whether Israel or the Palestinians would win the PR battle and be able to claim that the other side was the peace-refusenik. But most of all it seemed that Bennett’s explicit goal of having more than one million settlers east of the Green Line and thus killing the two state solution for good was becoming realistic. The E.U.’s publication of its new guidelines that forbid any funding, financing and cooperation with Israeli institutions in the West Bank may therefore have arrived at precisely the right moment.