Remember Benjamin Netanyahu's slogan in the 1999 election campaign? If you don't, search on Google and YouTube and you'll be able to see and hear him stirring up his fans with the slogan "They're a-f-r-a-i-d." The fact is that it was Bibi who was afraid at the time, and rightly so. He was roundly defeated by Ehud Barak. Today the prime minister has an overwhelming majority in the Knesset. He can decide whether to move up the elections and whether to promote an agreement with the Palestinians, but even now he is working on the element of fear. He is both afraid, and is frightening the nation.
The rules of the game between Israel and the rest of the world have changed. The war today is over awareness, and we're losing it. Should Gunter Grass, the German Nobel laureate in Literature who published a poem critical of Israel earlier this month, want to visit Israel, would the government really deny him entry? According to Interior Minister Eli Yishai, it would. Yishai has declared Grass persona non grata. Is a person forbidden to express his negative opinion of us? Are we living in a dictatorship? Why not start to burn his books as well.
What's eating Netanyahu, with his macho behavior toward Iran, that he's afraid of a few hundred peace demonstrators who want to travel to the Palestinian territories via Israel? Was it really essential to mobilize 1,000 police officers at Ben-Gurion airport and to cause chaos at European airports? Why should we care if they come? The country that boasts the only democracy in the Middle East has to maintain basic principles, which include freedom of expression. The demonstrators would talk against the occupation? Let them talk. As in the case of the Mavi Marmara flotilla, and other actions that encountered insane opposition, our fear not only undermines our status, it may even undermine our security.
On his Facebook page Benjamin Netanyahu thanks the members of the Israel Police and their commanders for the firm and successful prevention of the activity planned at Ben-Gurion International Airport. "The organization of all the operational and diplomatic factors proved itself," writes Bibi. "The world now has a better understanding of where the real problem in the Middle East lies." It's been a long time since I read such nonsense. The world does not understand; it has long since stopped understanding us.
It would be interesting to know what Bibi would have written on his Facebook page had U.S. President Obama, for example, gotten a standing ovation in the Knesset, similar to the one Bibi received in Congress. That won't happen, of course, because the Knesset is enslaved to a majority of opponents of peace.
Remember the panic of the "burning tape" (hakaletet halohetet ) that led Bibi to make his personal confession on television? It is that same fear that propels him to behave improperly towards President Obama. In effect Netanyahu actually scolded Obama for giving Iran a five-week "cease-fire." As though we were about to drop a bomb and only Obama rescued Iran. What would the late Prime Minister Levi Eshkol have said? "The ledger is open and the hand is writing." If Obama is re-elected, a less tolerant president will be in office.
There are Americans in the know who claim that the president can't stand Bibi. French President Nicholas Sarkozy was reportedly heard calling Bibi a liar, though he denies it. Apparently we will have no rest until we become the most offensive country in the world in spite of Benjamin's beautiful English. Netanyahu's Israel is building the delegitimization of the country. We are lumping together not only our enemies, but also friends and Jews wherever they are.
The police say that they are successful, but all over the world we are left with the photographs. The same is true of the lieutenant colonel who beat the Danish demonstrator with his rifle last weekend. Bibi can repeatedly say "two states for two peoples," but one photograph on the ground proves, as an incidental tourist said, that Israel needs a shrink.
Bibi's fans blame the camera. "Why on earth did they allow photographers to film freely?" We can reply that maybe it's because we're a democratic country, after all. Or more importantly, we can examine what lay in the soul of this soldier that caused him to behave as he did.
Netanyahu aroused a spark of hope when he coined the principle of two states for two peoples in his 2009 Bar-Ilan speech. As a nation we accepted the diplomatic logic of two states for two peoples, but when the country is headed by a leader who is afraid despite his solid majority, the entire nation is afraid. Until it's too late, heaven forbid.
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