Israel’s current government—the fourth headed by Benjamin Netanyahu over eleven years—is often referred to as “the most right-wing in Israel’s history.” This claim, however, is not evidence-based analysis. Reacting to the uncertainty resulting from regional chaos, Israelis continue to respond to the sense of insecurity and vulnerability that has been central to the political culture since 1948. Demands in negotiations that Palestinian leaders stop naming schools after “martyrs” (terrorists to Israelis), acknowledge Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, and end international boycott campaigns (BDS) are recent manifestations of this deep insecurity.
In part, the perception of a sharp “turn to the right“ also reflects eight years of conflict with President Obama over the failure to reach a breakthrough with the Palestinians. Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry repeatedly attacked Netanyahu over Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, identifying those actions as “the central obstacle to peace.” This view also dominates the agendas of U.S.-based groups, such as J Street and the New Israel Fund that oppose Israeli policies from the outside, which had significant influence during the Obama years. In December, just prior to leaving office, Obama departed from previous policies by pointedly refusing to veto UN Security Council Resolution 2344 which singled out Israeli settlements for condemnation, Just five days later, this theme was highlighted in Kerry’s emotional speech on the future of the Middle East.