It is possible that in retrospect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's policy toward "the Iranian threat" will be reminiscent of the joke about the man who stood in the street, waving his hands in order to drive away elephants. When the passersby pointed out that there were no elephants to be seen, he replied: "Nu, you see? It helped."
It appears that it is our fate never to know how serious that threat really was, is, or will be. After all, if the Iranians back down, Netanyahu will attribute this, and rightly so, to the policy of intimidation and will continue with it, all the more forcefully. If an effective agreement is signed, Israel will always claim that the Iranians are hiding something.
If Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Netanyahu nevertheless realize their obsession (described by former Shin Bet security service head Yuval Diskin as "messianic" ) and launch an attack, the Iranian counteroffensive will merely justify the war, post factum. And if eventually the Iranian bomb is pulled out, this will indeed be proof that Netanyahu was right. But it will also show that all the efforts invested in this issue, at the expense of so many other pressing issues, were in vain.
We shall never know whether we were saved from an apocalyptic disaster thanks to a brilliant and far-sighted leader who infected the entire world with his justified obsession, or whether a marketing expert pulled the wool over our eyes for years in order to divert attention from his central trick - remaining in office and allowing the inertia over the settlements to take its course.
But now, in fact in the coming days, we are arriving at the moment of truth for "the Iranian threat" - both as a threat in its own right and as an excuse used by Netanyahu and Barak to stay in power.
For the past three years, "the Iranian threat" has dominated Israel's political agenda, pushed aside every other issue and become almost the defining factor of national consciousness, a kind of theoretical appendix to the Holocaust itself. Because of its gravity, it cannot be dismissed out of hand. That is part of the deceit surrounding this threat. It remains the most prevalent menace, eclipsing much more concrete and immediate dangers hanging over our heads: the thousands of conventional and non-conventional missiles aimed at our cities, the growing number of boycotts against Israel around the world, to say nothing of the loss of national identity due to the creeping annexation in the West Bank.
However, it is much more convenient to market "the Iranian threat." It does not require any kind of change in the government's lack of policy. It merely justifies the continued gravitation between the same two poles of "Gevald!" on the one hand, and the army's ability to save the situation "at one fell stroke" on the other hand.
You can count on our leaders. "The Iranian threat" will not disappear from our lives. Sooner or later, however, there will be a change in its status, both because the other problems, which at the time were pushed aside, will once again reappear, and because of the change in the coalition which partially undermines the alibi used in the past for totally avoiding action.
But at the same time, there is something almost comical in the sparks of hope that are fanned from time to time, mainly by American journalists, that in just a minute the son of the historian will make history through some tremendous and courageous act; a cyclical hope that always remains in the only sphere of action with which Netanyahu is familiar: the verbal-marketing sphere.
But why deny it? This sphere hypnotizes the entire Israeli political system. That system has become a captive of Netanyahu's dream, for one simple reason. So far, we have been burned by all the alternatives. And if this is so, why should we move in any direction (so long as there is no terrorism and no war )? To what end? The Kadima party, like the Atzmaut party before it, did not join the coalition in order to do great deeds. It was sucked into the vacuum, like all the others, to become part of the do-nothing government, busy looking for the next threat.
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