TEL AVIV — It is hard to spend a week in Israel and not come away feeling that Israelis have the wind at their backs.
They’ve built an awesome high-tech industry, and everyone’s kid seems to work for a start-up. Even Israeli Arabs have caught the bug — the number studying for B.A. degrees at Israeli universities rose 60 percent in the last seven years, to 47,000. Regionally, the Arabs and Palestinians have never been weaker, and under President Trump, Israel has never had a more unquestioningly friendly United States. Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, asking Israel for nothing in return. The Arab states barely made a peep.
Alas, though, all of this wind has whetted the appetite of Israel’s settlers and ruling Likud Party to go to extremes. Reuters reported on Dec. 31 that the “Likud Party unanimously urged legislators in a nonbinding resolution … to effectively annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, land that Palestinians want for a future state.”
Sure, the world would scream “apartheid,” but Israeli rightists shrug that the world will get used to it. Nikki Haley will cover for Israel at the U.N. Sheldon Adelson will keep Trump and the G.O.P. in line. And the Arab regimes, which need Israel to counter Iran, will look the other away. It always plays out that way, and the settlers see that, so, they ask, why wait? They think they can annex the West Bank without giving Palestinians citizenship; they’ll just let the Palestinians vote in their own elections.