Had Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu been a cub reporter who wanted to impress the new editor with his statement "If it looks like a duck, if it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck ... it's a duck ... but this duck is a nuclear duck," this brilliant cliche would have been thrown in the garbage with the reprimand: "too banal." But when it's said at an AIPAC convention, in Bibi's basso-profundo voice, it rouses a standing ovation.
While he was speaking, only the TV viewers could notice that a bald spot was beginning to show through his graying hair. Yes, time marches on. It's hard to believe that on his way to his third term as prime minister and during Israel's seventh decade of existence, Bibi mentions the Holocaust as a basis for his government's policy, to win applause. What do our cynics say? "There's no business like Shoah business," especially when the United States is gearing up for presidential elections.
Doesn't Bibi understand that when he talks about the Holocaust in contemporary terms he encourages the younger generation to flee the country? In Bibi's equation, which made headlines in Haaretz this week - that he prefers missiles on Tel Aviv to nukes in Iran - it's not clear whom he's threatening: Iran or the residents of Tel Aviv. And as if Bibi's trips and speeches in Washington weren't enough, who jumps in but Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, demanding that the prime minister give Iran an ultimatum. He even spelled out a precise schedule. What would Bibi do without him?
Security experts say the government is playing with fire. Anyone who thinks we can solve the Iranian threat by ourselves is mistaken and misleading others. What we need to neutralize the threat entirely - including protecting our home front against a missile barrage - is the action of a great power. Samson's last words, "Let me die with the Philistines," is not what Israelis have in mind during these times of war over the price of a Pesek Zman candy bar.
Bibi's success lies mainly in bringing the Iranian threat to international awareness. The difference between the impatient people and the reality is that it always takes time to digest the threat and take action against it. U.S. President Barack Obama is not thinking only about the elections for a second term. You can understand a president who is trying to heal America, which has been bloodied in several wars, by using diplomacy on the Iran issue.
Bibi is puffing up his chest with his own rhetoric. That's a common syndrome among our friends on the right - to strike without considering the consequences. Bibi's threats that if you don't act we'll act on our own remind me of Hershele's ultimatum in the famous folktale - that if they didn't give him supper he'd do what his father did. After acquiescing to his demand, they asked him what he had planned to do if his demand hadn't been met. His reply: "I would have gone to bed hungry."
But joking aside, someone very familiar with our backyard believes that a prime minister who is afraid of his wife won't dare in the end push the button. And that's a good thing. According to a New York Times editorial this week, "President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel share responsibility for the strains in their relationship. But there should be no doubt about Mr. Obama's commitment to Israel's security. When he warns that an Israeli attack on Iran could backfire, and that 'there is still a window' for diplomacy, he is speaking for American and Israeli interests."
According to the Times, "This would not be a 'surgical' strike like the Israeli attack in 1981 that destroyed Iraq's Osirak reactor, or the 2007 Israeli strike on an unfinished reactor in Syria." The paper adds that "even a sustained Israeli air campaign would set back the program by only a few years, drive it further underground and possibly unleash a wider war." Not to mention the severe damage the civilian front might suffer.
The Times concludes that the U.S. military "is far more capable of doing serious damage to Iran's facilities than the Israeli military," and that "Mr. Obama is right that military action should only be the last resort."
Very good. Bibi constantly says Israel has a right to defend itself. In that case, let's not forget that our close ties with the United States and its commitment are an important part of our deterrence. If Bibi thinks he's the one who got the United States on our side, let him think so. Meanwhile, the wise man will advise him: You did your part. Now sit down and keep quiet.
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