Unfortunately Israel’s hardline government sees gains where others see losses. Its scandal-plagued prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has already got Donald Trump to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital despite its being underinternational jurisdiction and to cut US funding to the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees. Mr Netanyahu is now targeting the Palestinian right of return. Such behaviour steels Palestinians with the morale needed for a long struggle. These issues were meant to be resolved through talks. Instead Mr Netanyahu has seized the opportunity presented by Mr Trump’s absurd vanity about securing the “ultimate deal” to press home his advantage. The gains will be ephemeral.
The subjugation of Palestinians erodes Israel’s standing internationally and damages its democracy at home. Its politics are polluted by anti-Arab bigotry. As Israel grows richer, Palestinian destitution becomes more troubling. Its dilemma grows more acute as the number of Palestinians in the Holy Land approaches that of Jews. Israel cannot hold on to all of the land between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean, keep its Jewish identity and remain a democracy. It is in Israel’s interest to accept that Palestinians need a state as much as Israelis do. Otherwise, the choices are a single entity in which Jews could eventually be a minority; a form of apartheid; or perpetual occupation. Hollywood stars like Natalie Portman have understood the dangerous turn Israel is taking. It would be a good idea if the nation’s leaders did too.