Netanyahu is breaking to the right. He did not succeed in bringing down Sharon through a referendum, and now he is coming out against the entire disengagement plan. It is creating, he says, "a pattern of unilateral withdrawal without receiving anything in exchange." True, he voted for it in the cabinet, but so what? It is also true that we received calm in the territories, a cessation of terrorist bombings in the cities and launching of rockets at Sderot - but who's counting?
Netanyahu says there is no partner on the other side, but based on the conditions he is setting, there never will be, "and if there is no partner, I suggest not adopting the unilateral withdrawals."
At a conference in Jerusalem on Tuesday, he added that even if we had a partner, the goal should be "preserving as much territory of Judea and Samaria as possible, because two-thirds, if not three-quarters, are uninhabited land, but full of historic, strategic and security importance to us, and these should be annexed through negotiations."
Sharon continues to build in settlements, and is also planning to build housing units in the area between Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim. He is not taking down unlawful settlement outposts, is not releasing veteran prisoners and is continuing the process of intensifying the occupation. But Netanyahu is passing him on the right. He wants to remain in Gaza and also to annex all of the "empty" land in the West Bank. He would thereby kill off for good the only possible solution to the conflict: establishment of a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Is it any wonder, then, that the Palestinians are once again feeling frustration and disappointment, bitterness and lack of hope? These will inevitably lead to the downfall of Abu Mazen and the outbreak of a third intifada that would be more violent and difficult than its predecessors.
His extreme world view helps Netanyahu in his strategy to conquer the prime minister's office. It is a four-stage strategy. Stage one: Bringing down Sharon, be it through a putsch (that failed in the Knesset) or through the effort to persuade Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to vote in favor of a referendum, which failed as well. Stage two: Conquest of the Likud Central Committee, the majority of which is opposed to disengagement and to any other concession, and which laps up Netanyahu's statements with thirst. Stage three: Acquiring the support of the extreme right. This is why Netanyahu declared that he wants to annex sizable chunks of the West Bank.
The fourth stage will begin only when he is elected as the Likud's candidate for prime minister: That is the stage when Netanyahu will wink to the left. Netanyahu knows that in order to beat the Labor candidate in the elections, he must also gain the votes of the center. Therefore, a month or two before the elections he will shift direction and begin talking about the "importance of peace," the "necessity of negotiations with the Palestinians" and about "honoring signed agreements." Some voters from the center will believe that perhaps this time he is being serious, and will vote for him. This is precisely how he acted in the race for prime minister in 1996.
But immediately after settling into the prime minister's seat, he reverted to his extremist positions: He opened the Western Wall tunnel, set the territories alight once again, destroyed the trust that had been built between the sides, expanded settlements - and buried the Oslo Accords. The years in which he served as prime minister were bad years for the economy, society, growth and employment.
The Peter Principle says that every individual will advance to their highest level of competence and then be promoted to and remain at a level at which they are incompetent and cause damage. This is why his advancement should be halted one level lower down. Netanyahu is suited and competent to be a finance minister. He extricated the economy from a deep pit and led it to a series of important reforms. But the office of prime minister is one level beyond his skill set.
Netanyahu is not suited to a people that wishes to arrive at a solution with the other side. He is not suited to a people that wants to invest in the Negev and Galilee, and not in Gaza and the West Bank. He is not suited to a people that wishes to reduce unemployment and fight poverty - and no longer invest in bypass roads and army bases. He is not suited to be prime minister.
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