It's taken me two weeks, 6,000 miles, and Mark Zuckerberg, to finally get what Benjamin Netanyahu was telling Barack Obama - and the world - in Washington those six days in May.
But first, a note of background. Netanyahu knows what Israelis think. His every move in Washington was choreographed by extensive polling. He knows what Israelis would like to see as an eventual solution for the Middle East conflict, what they'd prefer to see happen in the West Bank.
Netanyahu knows that the critical mass of Israelis want to see what the president was advocating - Israeli-Palestinian negotiations based on the twinned outlines of the pre-1967 war Green Line border and land exchanges agreed upon by the two sides, "so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states."
So why did Netanyahu seize on the "'67 borders and mutually agreed swaps" issue and couple it so immediately and effectively to the annihilation of Israel and the Jews therein? Why did he so consciously and so effectively misrepresent Obama's position as advocating withdrawal to the '67 border? So effectively that Mitt Romney lost no time in declaring that Obama had "thrown Israel under a bus" and Likud MK Danny Danon likened Obama to Yasser Arafat, saying the president had adopted the late Palestinian leader's "plan for Israel's destruction."
Why did Netanyahu so quickly turn to Facebook to publicly and officially slam Obama even before the prime minister was wheels down for his news cycle triathlon at the White House, at AIPAC, and before a Joint Session of Congress?
It was only when I came across a recent statement by Mark Zuckerberg, that Netanyahu's performance began to make sense to me. The Facebook founder was explaining a personal challenge he'd set for himself this year, a way of "being thankful for the food I have to eat."
"This year," Zuckerberg told Fortune magazine, "I've basically become a vegetarian since the only meat I'm eating is from animals I've killed myself." Zuckerberg's neighbor, Palo Alto chef Jesse Cool, advised the social network tycoon on his slaughter of a pig and a goat, which, the magazine noted, he then cooked and ate.
At long last, it struck me, what Netanyahu's been trying to do here. The prime minister has put us all on notice: Benjamin Netanyahu will not take part in any peace process that he cannot kill by himself.
The prime minister knows what Israelis want, but he's made a firm decision not to give it to them. He wants to stay prime minister, but he also wants to make sure that there is no peace process, and, crucially, that he won't be the one who's blamed.
Which brings me to the 6,000 miles. I was in Atlanta, on an airport stopover, when I came across a debate over the '67 borders on the opinion pages of the Journal-Constitution.
If Netanyahu wants to deflect blame over the failure of the peace process, he may now be able to enlist an unlikely ally: the Palestinians, and moderates, at that. When Palestinian lawmaker Mustafa Barghouthi attacked the concept of mutually agreed swaps as "a euphemism for forcing a bad deal on Palestinian negotiators," his first target was not Netanyahu, but Obama. Netanyahu, having delighted Republicans by casting the president as anti-Israel, can now leverage the Washington trip into having Palestinians and hard leftists dismiss Obama as being in Israel's pocket.
I learned something else in Atlanta as well. Waiting in the long line to enter immigration, I was talking to some fellow passengers about Netanyahu, Americans, when a young Israeli behind us said to me, in Hebrew, "Tell them - tell them that there's never going to be peace. That all the Arabs want to do is to exterminate us. That's why we can't say yes to this. Tell them."
"Let's say, for the sake of argument, that you're right," I said. "What do you propose for the millions of Palestinians who live in Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem and don’t think it's Israel, and will never think so?"
"Like Bibi said. They're going to have to go to a country of their own."
Had he been listening to the same Netanyahu speech as the rest of us? Turns out, he was. The man behind me in line explained, referencing a quote from the address to Congress. It was this one:
"Palestinians from around the world should have a right to immigrate, if they so choose, to a Palestinian state. This means that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel."
Which the Israeli behind me understood to mean, "Those people in Judea, Samaria, and East Jerusalem. If they donlt like it, they're going to leave." End of problem. End of Palestine. End of peace.
No waiting, either. Everywhere you look, analyses herald the Death of Peace.
At last, it all makes sense. Netanyahu has found a way to keep his father happy, keep the settlers at bay, keep AIPAC delirious, and keep his job.
Who, in the end, is really the New Arafat? Who is the man who would rather dither, duck and weave indefinitely than say the one, tough, crucial Yes? Who is the man who extols peace even as his aides, under his direction, take steps to make it ever more distant?
In speaking out of both sides of his mouth in the service of obstructionism, Netanyahu turns out to resemble Yasser Arafat even more than he does Yitzhak Shamir. The prime minister's sense of history is finally clear. He has come to bury peace, not to praise it, and bury it he has, in ringing tones, to the tune of standing ovations from Congress and the coalition. He believes he's found the formula. And maybe he's right. For Benjamin is an honorable man. So are they all, all honorable men.
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