Many of the political dynamics involved in such a sequence would be between Netanyahu and members of his right-wing coalition who are even more extreme than he is. As Satloff accurately observes, “the shrewd and risk-averse Netanyahu would most likely prefer to find a way to keep the murky status quo, in which Israel maintains security control over the entire West Bank and channels support to many existing Israeli settlements while holding out the admittedly dim prospect of a diplomatic resolution with the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority.”
This reasoning may be behind the recent leak. Israel Hayom is the free-distribution newspaper that casino magnate Sheldon Adelson bought to support his friend Bibi and that is widely regarded as a mouthpiece for Netanyahu. The leaked document is unlikely to have been published without Netanyahu’s concurrence and possibly active involvement. The most plausible explanation is that the prime minister calculated that backlash against the ugly nakedness of the fully fleshed-out Kushner plan would defer yet again its formal release. He may believe that the plan will enable his government to continue indefinitely the fiction of an eventual diplomatic resolution while solidifying its control of occupied territory.
Satloff is with Netanyahu on this and seems satisfied with the murky status quo. But that status quo means continued subjugation, strife, and bloodshed. It means perpetuation of the conflict rather than resolution of it. It is not the best alternative available, but a better alternative would come into play only if Israel were to dissipate the murkiness, squarely face the trilemma, and choose democracy as one of the two things it will be.
In the meantime, whether the months ahead see more of the status quo or a slightly modified version of it under the Kushner plan, Israel will continue, as Netanyahu has said, to “live by the sword.” That’s not peace.
Paul R. Pillar is a contributing editor at the National Interest and the author of Why America Misunderstands the World.