Despite Benjamin Netanyahu's claim during that shallow press conference with Donald Trump that he wants to focus on "substance" not "labels", we now know that he actually rejected a peace deal (and what can be more substantial than that?) put forward by ex-Secretary of State John Kerry last year. This is not the first time that an Israeli prime minister has spurned offers which would put an end to the violence inflicted by Israel on the Palestinians living under its brutal military occupation.
The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement — Hamas — has offered a long-term truce (a "hudna") on a number of occasions; that would be peace by any other name. The intention behind the offers was, it is believed, to allow the current generations to move on with all the political baggage that they have, while allowing the younger generation to interact more openly, get to know each other and, hopefully, be in a better position to reach a peaceful agreement in the decades to come. Israel rejected the offers out of hand.
So what do Netanyahu and his far-right clique at the helm in Israel actually want? Although ardent Zionists, they seem to have developed their own vision of the future which rejects the thoughts of Zionism's founding father, Theodor Herzl — whose "Jewish State" wasn't to be one free of non-Jews —as well as, arguably, the founder of "Revisionist Zionism", Ze'ev Jabotinsky.
Although Netanyahu himself was born in Tel Aviv after the creation of the state of Israel in historic Palestine, his father was born in Warsaw as Benzion Mileikowsky, and became a follower of Revisionist Zionism; he was Jabotinsky's personal secretary for a time. The current prime minister of the Zionist state was, therefore, raised in a home which followed an ideology "known more for its advocacy of [a] more belligerent, assertive posture" and violence against both the British Mandate authorities and indigenous Palestinians.
Netanyahu's father was a supporter of "Greater Israel", which has a number of definitions. For Jabotinsky and his acolytes, the state of Israel was to be built upon all of British Mandate Palestine and what is now the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. This explains, perhaps, why Netanyahu Junior is so keen on Israel's illegal settlements across the occupied West Bank; annexation is definitely on his mind. All that is holding his government back, perhaps, is the knowledge that annexing all of the West Bank will bring with it a large Palestinian population who will have to be given full Israeli citizenship, or else Israel will become a de facto apartheid state. Although this will carry with it a whole swathe of opprobrium, with Trump in the White House, Netanyahu and his cronies may well feel empowered enough to weather the inevitable storm with the sort of audacity that would embarrass chutzpah itself.
Annexation is, therefore, a distinct possibility. What, though, would the Israelis do about the Palestinians who make up one-fifth of their citizens and those in the West Bank? Like Herzl, Jabotinsky apparently had no problem about there being non-Jews in the state of Israel; on occasions, though, he seems to have backed their "transfer", the Zionist euphemism for ethnic cleansing. "Silent transfer" is the term which best describes what we see happening today; Israel is making life as miserable as possible for the Palestinians in the hope that they will pack up and leave voluntarily. The withdrawal of residence permits for people born and brought up in Jerusalem is just one example of how Israel is slowly excluding and expelling the Palestinians from their own land.
In 1967, when Israel took control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the Six Day War, it also went as far as the Suez Canal, occupying the whole of the Sinai Peninsula. This was handed back as part of the peace treaty with Egypt. Today, we hear talk of Netanyahu suggesting to Israel's great friend in Cairo, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, that a Palestinian state be established in Sinai. This is not a new idea. It was detailed by Jonathan Cook in September 2014: "This month Israeli media reported claims — apparently leaked by Israeli officials — that Egypt's president, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, had offered the Palestinian leadership the chance to annex to Gaza an area of 1,600 sq km in Sinai. The donated territory would expand Gaza fivefold." Interestingly, Cook added that, "The scheme is said to have received the blessing of the United States."
The Sinai Peninsula at its northern end is a source of deadly irritation to Al-Sisi, with allegedly Daesh-linked terrorists attacking the policy and army. Let's play "what if" for a moment: what if the Palestinians accepted the offer of additional land for Gaza; what if rockets still find their way across into Israel, and Israel does what it does best and invades the territory yet again, maybe driving Palestinians deeper into Sinai in the process. Israel would, in effect, have reoccupied the now expanded Gaza Strip and part of Sinai; imagine that it then pushed a bit further in order to establish a "buffer zone" for bogus security reasons, occupying even more of the Sinai Peninsula.
Then imagine that Israel succeeds in pushing even more Palestinians out of the West Bank into Jordan and annexes the whole territory. The border could then be the River Jordan — with Israel having security control over the entire area to the west of it — but, as is it's wont, Israel would establish another buffer zone on the other side of the border inside Jordan itself. Its nominal border would thus have been pushed east as well as south and south-west.
Then, for good measure, it might head back into Lebanon to the Litani River, creating yet another buffer zone. Hezbollah would try to prevent this, of course, but Israel would be on a roll, and pressure from the West — playing the nuclear deal vs sanctions card — would possibly ensure that the Shia group's main sponsor, Iran, would toe the line and let things stand.
"Greater Israel", more or less, would thus become a reality. That is some "what if" scenario, but given Israel's track record of territorial expansion — from "national home" in 1917 to UN 1947 Partition Plan state to 1949 Armistice Line to 1967 occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai and Golan Heights to ongoing colonial settlements — it is not beyond the bounds of possibility.
Whether we accept the Biblical definition of the Land of Israel (as even atheist Zionists do) or the political definitions of Greater Israel, the fact is that the Zionist state has never declared its borders and probably never will. Like greedy entities all over the world, Israel's greed for ever more land appears to be insatiable; the more it has, the more it wants.
Would such a scenario ever lead to "peace"? Unlikely. Benjamin Netanyahu knows that his military industrial complex needs "The Lab" that is the Gaza Strip to field test new munitions and weapons on live targets. He also knows that he has to be able to cry wolf at every opportunity and get his donors in Western governments rushing to their treasuries to send billions of dollars in Israel's direction every year. In short, Netanyahu and his government know full well that conflict is essential for their Zionist vision of territorial expansion — we used to call it colonialism, the taboo c-word in international diplomacy — to be fulfilled.
If the Israeli prime minister rejects peace — which he does — do we know what he really wants? It might not be too difficult to work that one out for ourselves.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.