Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


Bibi Floats Oath Quid for Freeze Quo

Fixation on settlements forces right-wing victory

Print Email
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman last month.(Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images)

You didn’t have to be a particularly talented tea-leaf reader to wonder whether Prime Minister Netanyahu’s capitulation to the right-wing nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu’s loyalty oath bill was intended to give him room to push through a two-month extension of the settlement freeze, which the Palestinian Authority has demanded as a condition for continued peace talks. One ought never forget that the first thing Bibi thinks of upon waking is how to hold together his hodgepodge coalition, and here was a post-coffee Eureka! moment: By allowing the hard-line bill preferred by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s party, Bibi gains political capital to extend the freeze, thereby pacifying Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s Labor Party as well as the Americans, who have offered Israel much (perhaps too much?) to keep the talks going. (The move is also payback for Netanyahu’s killing of the infamous Rotem Bill, Yisrael Beiteinu’s conversion law.)

And lo! No more than a couple hours passed before an anonymous Labor minister told Haaretz, “I hope that Netanyahu’s support is a payoff to Lieberman, so that the prime minister will be able to extend the freeze without breaking apart his coalition.” Concisely put.

The loyalty oath bill, likely to become law Sunday, would require all those assuming Israeli citizenship to swear allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state”—a thumb directly in the eyes of the 20 percent of the Israeli population that is Arab. If you are in favor of extending the construction freeze in order to keep talks going, you must reckon with the fact that this oath is what you are paying at the register.

Another way the loyalty oath maneuver functions is as a message to the Arab League, which Friday will vote on (and likely back) President Abbas’s decision to suspend talks without a freeze extension. Netanyahu has apparently been seeking cabinet approval for the extension, and is having great trouble; in addition to being the quid for the extension quo, this gambit assures the Arab League (and, again, the Americans) that Bibi is making an honest effort.

One problem with the fact that both Bibi and the Americans are throwing so much at resolving this intermediate settlement issue—in addition to the fact that it is merely intermediate—is that it is not at all clear that settlements are the main obstacle to peace. (Which is not to minimize their historic role in the conflict, nor Israeli culpability for them.) As experienced negotiator Aaron David Miller argued last weekend, “even if the settlement issue were resolved today, negotiations would still confront another galactic challenge: a crisis within the Palestinian national movement, with two authorities governing two discreet areas with two different security services, two different patrons and two different visions of the Palestinian future.” Or as another experienced hand, David Makovsky, noted, “It would be a bitter irony if a final peace resolution and the demarcation of a two-state solution were derailed due to problems with managing the lesser issue of the moment.”

One imagines the t-shirt the satirist will draw Bibi as wearing: “I tried to keep talks going another two months, and all I got was this loyalty oath.” This lousy loyalty oath.

Victory for Israel’s Right as ‘Jewish state’ Loyalty Oath Nears Vote [Haaretz]
Labor Expects New Settlement Freeze as Payoff for Loyalty Oath [Haaretz]
PM Testing Waters in Cabinet on Freeze Extension [JPost]
Related: Five Myths About Middle East Peace [WP]
Dear Prime Minister: U.S. Efforts To Keep the Peace Process on Track [Washington Institute for Near East Policy]
Editor’s Notes: Caught by a Red Herring [JPost]

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

Why is it “this lousy loyalty oath”? Do you think it is too much to ask of new Israeli citizens? It doesn’t apply to people who are already citizens so stop having crocodile tears for the 20% Arab population that would destroy Israel in a moment if they had the opportunity. You are dreaming if you think they want to live under Jews in Israel. Stop your liberal nonsense and understasnd for a change what is really going on. Never in history has a winner of wars begged the losers to make peace. There won’t be any peace-not now nor in decades. There is a fundamental irreconcilabkle conflict between Islam and Judaism. Have you noticed that anywheres in the world Islam never compromises in its demands? It won’t with the despised dhimmi Israel either.

Is Israel a Jewish state or not?

Is Israel a democracy? Has Israel won all it’s wars? When will the realization that occupation has eroded Israeli society ‘s sense of what Jewish values demand to be a Jewish
state. This loyality oath is a ridiculous obstacle to moving toward an agreement . Time is running out and the dmographis of the Arab Israeli birthrate will very shortly make a two state solution impossible.

brynababy says:

eXCUSE ME, and correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t our country, the United States of America, have it’s new citizens swear allegiance and loyalty to the US and it’s Constitution. Israel was created as a Jewish State, for God’s sake. Let the arguing about that be over!!

David says:


I guess you aren’t aware of the unspoken rule: Lefties have the absolute moral authority on everything. It’s been proven by science!

/over reaching sarcasm

On that note bryanbaby, it’s silly that you think that ‘facts’ would stop Marc from showing his displeasure towards Israel. IF you didn’t know, he is a proud member of Soros Street (aka J Street).


First, you should think before you write. Second, Israel doesn’t have an Arab demographic problem unless you like to double count people or just like to make up people from thin air. And if you actually read real reports about demographic trends in Israel/Palestinian territories you would know that the Jewish birthrate is rising, and the Arab birthrate is crashing. Well it’s not a European style crash, but the Arab birthrate has decreased significantly over the past decade. :o

Somebody essentially lend a hand to make significantly articles I’d state. This is the very first time I frequented your web page and so far? I surprised with the analysis you made to make this particular submit incredible. Magnificent activity!


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Bibi Floats Oath Quid for Freeze Quo

Fixation on settlements forces right-wing victory

More on Tablet:

Wolf Blitzer Explores His Jewish Roots

By David Meir Grossman — CNN host visits Yad Vashem and Auschwitz for the network’s ‘Roots’ series