Naftali Bennett, the education minister of Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s chief political rival on the right, has been really chuffed by the Trump presidency: He announced that it means the end of the idea of a Palestinian state, and he has demanded the annexation of a large settlement that is several miles east of Jerusalem, Ma’ale Adumim, and he has called for the annexation of large portions of the West Bank. He also wants the establishment of autonomous Palestinian areas in the West Bank and Gaza — in a word, Bantustans. And he has pushed for more settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank, which Israel just announced.
So why is the president of MIT meeting with this guy?
From Naftali Bennett’s twitter feed: Here is L Rafael Reif, meeting Monday with Bennett to discuss education.
The two men also looked at the Old City together, evidently from the northwest in Jerusalem.
It’s an odd message for Reif to be sending when the UN Security Council just voted, 14-0, with the US abstaining, to condemn the Israeli settlement project as a “flagrant” violation of human rights. Imagine the president of a prestigious university meeting with a leader of the Jim Crow south back in the day; there would be a furor. There is surely a fundraising piece; as former Boston-area Rep. Barney Frank once said to anti-settlement activist Jeff Halper, I can’t come out against the settlements unless “you bring me the names of 5000 Jews in my district that support you… If you can’t do that…. I’m not going to commit political suicide for the sake of the Palestinians… ”
Reif, an electrical engineer, is of Jewish descent, and MIT described him as a “citizen of the world” in announcing his appointment five years ago:
Leo Rafael Reif (pronounced “rife”) is the youngest of four sons of Eastern European emigrés who fled Europe in the late 1930s, living first in Ecuador and then Colombia before settling in Venezuela. The family was poor, supported by his father’s work as a photographer, and spoke Spanish and Yiddish at home.