Remarks made this week by US President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, regarding his "deal of the century" peace plan for the Middle East have added fuel to the election campaign fire in Israel.
Trump has agreed to postpone publication of his proposals until after Israel's upcoming national election. But Kushner told Sky News on Monday that neither Israel nor the Palestinians will find too many surprises in the plan. He said most of the proposals are similar to those that have been on the table for the last 25 years, with a bigger emphasis on economic incentives for both sides.
The New Right party immediately latched on to Kushner's remarks, interpreting them to mean that Trump will, like his predecessors, pressure Israel to make sweeping land concessions, including dividing Jerusalem, to facilitate the establishment of a Palestinian state.
"Kushner’s words confirm what we already know — that the day following the elections the Americans will push a Netanyahu-Gantz-Lapid government into allowing the establishment of a Palestinian state along Highway 6 (near the Green Line) as well as the division of Jerusalem and Netanyahu will have to make concession," said New Right leader Naftali Bennett.
Many Israelis fear Bennett might not be wrong.
The centrist Blue and White faction headed by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid is already assumed to be in favor of a further "disengagement" from the Palestinians that would lead to the creation of some form of Palestinian state with some part of Jerusalem as its capital.
Netanyahu has been warning Israelis that a vote for Blue and White is actually a vote for the Arab agenda, as he paints himself as the only leader capable of preventing the rise of a Palestinian state.
But, as Bennett suggested, Netanyahu's close personal relationship with Trump might actually make him more susceptible to the American leader's pressure.
In his latest round of campaign ads, Bennett has warned that Netanyahu will divide Jerusalem, which echos Netanyahu's own election campaign ads in 1996, when he was running against Shimon Peres.
A spokesperson for Netanyahu's Likud party responded by accusing Bennett of dividing the right-wing vote in such a way that will all but guarantee a center-left victory at the polls, and insisting that Netanyahu will always put Israel first, regardless of who's in the White House.
"They are making false accusations against the Likud in order to draw votes away from the Likud and this will allow for the rise of a leftist government by Lapid-Gantz," said the official, noting that Bennett had initially promised to target centrist voters so as to bolster the right-wing bloc.
"Netanyahu watched over the Land and the State of Israel in the face of the unfriendly Obama administration and he will continue to do so in the face of the supportive Trump administration," the official added.
Bennett and his party called the Likud reaction "fake news."