The product of this sad history is today’s three-way division of the Israeli public. An increasingly fervent right rejects a two-state solution in theory (as a violation of God’s plan for Judea and Samaria) and in practice (as a mortal threat to Israel’s security). An enlarged, more skeptical center accepts it in theory but not in practice. A much-diminished left continues to believe in the two-state solution, in theory and in practice.
In the eyes of most Israelis, events have discredited the left’s noble dreams. If centrist politicians offer no alternative—and most have been reluctant—the right will retain the initiative.
.. Yet if Mr. Netanyahu is serious—and not just playing rope-a-dope until the Trump administration exhausts itself in the Middle East—he will do his utmost to broaden the talks by bringing the Saudis, and the Sunni coalition they lead, into the process.
.. If Mr. Netanyahu is skillful and determined, he will seize on the newly strengthened ties between Washington and Riyadh to engineer a similar invitation from the Saudis to meet face-to-face. To make this happen, the Israeli prime minister would have to utter some encouraging words about the Arab Peace Plan, a 15-year-old Saudi initiative, which he did as recently as 2015.
Two parties in the current coalition— Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home and Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu—would leave. The leaders of the Zionist Union, Ms. Livni and Mr. Herzog, almost certainly would be willing to join. There is a potential majority coalition for new and broadened negotiations, which only Mr. Netanyahu has the hard-line credibility to lead.
This would be the moment of truth for Mr. Netanyahu’s leadership. Does he want to use his mastery of coalition tactics to maintain himself in power indefinitely, or does he want to be remembered as a man who gambled on changing the course of history for his country?
The setting is dramatic. Moses has led the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt and across the Red Sea to freedom. He has guided them to Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, and repented their sin of the Golden Calf. Now, Moses stands with them near the boundary of the Promised Land.
.. The majority, ten out of the twelve, give a discouraging report to the people. “We came to the land to which you sent us, and it is flowing with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who inhabit the land are mighty, and the cities are extremely huge and fortified, and there we saw even the offspring of the giant. … We are unable to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we. … The land we passed through to explore is a land that consumes its inhabitants, and all the people we saw in it are men of stature. … There we saw the giants …. In our eyes, we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we were in their eyes.” (13: 27-33)
This is the first recorded example of “fake news.” It includes two types of fakery. One involves “facts” that are just made up — stories of giants and grasshoppers. The other involves true facts — “milk and honey” — that are spun in a damaging way, couched in editorial language — “We are unable” — that is calculated to create division and despair.
.. The “fake news” has had its effect — not only misinforming the people, but encouraging political division and sedition.
.. As punishment, the Children of Israel are condemned to wander in the desert for another 40 years, until nearly all of the adults have died. Only a new generation, the Lord decrees, will be able to enter the Promised Land. (14: 29-35)
.. So fake news is nothing new. What fundamentally divided the spies was not what they saw when they scouted the land, but what they believed about their ability to inhabit it. The majority did not have enough faith, and sought to undermine the faith of others. They planted faulty intelligence with that deliberate, destructive agenda in mind.
.. Today we face the same problem. The truth is obvious enough for our reporters to see. But some are determined to divide the country and undermine its leadership. They feed false information to the public, or present true facts in the most negative light. As a result, half the country lives in a nightmarish alternate reality, terrified of the country’s leadership.
It is not just a crisis of reporting, but also a crisis of faith. We lack faith in the country’s institutions; we lack faith in ourselves.
Despite the convenience of this narrative, there are other forces at play. In reality, Qatar has been ostracized by its “brotherly” neighbors, as the language of regional diplomacy has it, for not kowtowing to the collective vision for the Middle East now largely shared by the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
.. The more heinous sin for which Doha is being punished is its willingness to acknowledge that Iran occupies a position as an important regional power and that political Islamists like Hamas and Hezbollah have a role to play in determining the future of the Middle East. To put it bluntly, Qatar is being penalized for refusing to accept the status quo of the past 40 years, and for daring to challenge the conventional wisdom in the gulf that bashing Tehran, buttressing military strongmen and suppressing political Islamism are the right path for the region.
.. The measures, decided at a meeting of the government’s security cabinet on Sunday, include allowing construction of Palestinian residences in the area of the West Bank under Israeli control, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Monday, a controversial issue for right-wing Israelis who don’t want to give up the land.