White House - Biderman - 1.5.12
Illustration by Amos Biderman.
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True, it would very much benefit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold the election as early as possible, before Kadima chairman MK Shaul Mofaz gains altitude and former media personality Yair Lapid manages to convince people that his nascent party really does have a future. Indeed, Netanyahu would benefit from summoning voters to the ballot boxes before the 2013 budget compels the next government to plunge its hands deep into their pockets.

He also has another reason, perhaps the most important of all, to hold the election in 2012. It is lurking in the margins of former Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin's restaurant performance, after the bit about Iran and the messiahs from the Akirov Towers and the villa in Caesarea. In the paragraph on the Palestinians Diskin ripped the camouflage from the most guarded secret in the country.

The man who for four years had in his possession the finest collection of data in the world about what happens in the Muqata in Ramallah revealed that there is no partner for the two-state solution. Diskin wanted the whole world to note that contrary to the international campaign Israel is conducting - the one according to which Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is the one who is refusing to negotiate - the one who is refusing is Benjamin Netanyahu.

United States President Barack Obama did not need Diskin's services in order to know which of the two dignitaries rejected his formulation - two states in the 1967 borders, with agreed and mutual boundary adjustments. One can guess what the American president's opinion is of the shopping list of 21 meaningless items envoy Isaac Molho presented to the Palestinians instead of meaningful positions on the issues of borders and security. Netanyahu did not need the service of diplomatic commentators in order to know that when he arrives for his next visit to the White House empty-handed on the Palestinian issue, he'd better have a fresh and upgraded mandate.

And with respect to his Iranian project, too, Netanyahu would do well to lead the Israeli public to an election at a time when the American president is a lame duck. Facing a president whom the Americans will elect at the beginning of November, Netanyahu will have a difficult time making Popeye noises and threatening to bomb Iran even without the great power's consent. And who knows, if Netanyahu waits too long, the forum of six countries is liable to reach an agreement with the Iranians and the historian's orphan will have to give up the comparison to the Holocaust. The last thing he needs is to be stuck with only the Palestinian problem and the social protest.

If Netanyahu goes to Washington at the beginning of the fall, when every Jewish vote and Jewish dollar will be worth its weight in gold, the American candidates will fall at his feet. After presenting to the president his new ministers - Shaul Mofaz, Shelly Yacimovich of the Labor Party and Yari Lapid (Meretz is the only Zionist party that has pledged not to join a Netanyahu-led government ) - Netanyahu will turn to scolding the host: "What are you pestering me about the Palestinian state for? The citizens of the only democracy in the Middle East aren't stupid. Most of my nation wants a leader who is nuts about settlers."

So if it is possible to call an election when the polls are smiling on him, why should Netanyahu take the risk that Obama will scowl at him or that his conservative buddy, Mitt Romney, will be elected president and find out that what you see from the Oval Office is different from what you see from outside. (That is how President Gerald Ford, a Republican, explained to Yitzhak Rabin his denial of his promise to move the United States Embassy to Jerusalem ).

A fatherless leader

With the death of Prof. Benzion Netanyahu we have lost not only an important historian of the Jewish people but also a source of information for understanding the Israeli reality. In interviews the elder Netanyahu was kind enough to grant the press from time to time, he revealed the face the younger Netanyahu did not want us to know. Thus, in one of his last interviews, Prof. Netanyahu was asked his opinion of the Bar-Ilan University speech in which his son promised to advance the idea of the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel.

"He doesn't support that," said the father, who was 100 years old at the time, to Channel 2 reporter Amit Segal. "He supports [a Palestinian state] under conditions that will never be accepted."

A few months earlier Netanyahu Sr., who stuck to his Revisionist beliefs until his last breath, told the daily Maariv that his son was aiming for the same goals but was keeping to himself the ways to achieve them, and if that were not the case he would reveal them publicly. The aged professor explained that this was just a tactic aimed at concealing positions that people with other ideologies were liable to reject. In that same interview Netanyahu the father said that although there is no hope of making peace with the Palestinians, they will maintain quiet as long as they understand that doing anything else will cause them great pain.

In his new book, "The Crisis of Zionism," Peter Beinart found an interesting resemblance between the father's "Iron Curtain" perception and the son's observation that if the Palestinians realize that Israel "won't give them" an independent state, they will agree to content themselves with autonomy.

Netanyahu has expressed reservations about the spirit of the father hovering over him. It is natural that a prime minister would want to be considered a big boy. But with his resignation from Ariel Sharon's government in the wake of its approval of the disengagement from the Gaza Strip, Netanyahu did not hold it in and declared:"I have learned from you, Father."

Will the release from the fear of the historian father engender a more realistic Netanyahu, or is fear of the Inquisition a part of his family's DNA?

Read this article in Hebrew.