Netanyahu - Reuters - May 1, 2011
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in Jerusalem on May 1, 2011. Photo by Reuters
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Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who condemned the killing of Osama bin Laden, is a reckless idiot, but he’s not the only leader, Israeli or Palestinian, who is endangering us with his failings and folly. With all those charlatans, every level-headed, responsible person has to protect himself lest the charlatans snatch our future away from us.

In an exclusive report in Haaretz yesterday, Barak Ravid disclosed a classified Israeli Foreign Ministry document that suggested that the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation could represent a strategic opportunity and actually serve Israel’s interests. The ministry has a wise and experienced staff, but who pays attention to them and their advice?

Not two hours after last week’s surprise announcement about the agreement between Fatah and Hamas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with a stark choice: either us or them, as if Abbas could favor Netanyahu over his own people. President Shimon Peres was quick to back Netanyahu up, and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz couldn’t let himself be left behind; he announced that he would withhold NIS 300 million in tax transfers that Israel collects for the Palestinian Authority.

It’s hard to know if the hysteria was genuine or contrived. It was another surprise that didn’t need to surprise. Israel’s leaders are again viewing every prospect for progress as a threat, every opportunity as a calamity.

To ease such constant surprises and the cycle of panic, it’s worth revising the handbook for shocked leaders, however trivial these points may seem:

• Every occupation will come to an end, if not by force, then by civil uprising complemented by diplomatic activity. All occupations are similar.

• The status quo, whose roots continue to sow animosity and vengeance, will give rise to another round of bloodletting, which, like those before and those after, will decide nothing. The balance will continue to totter and sag under the parties’ weight. A stalemate means defeat, particularly for the stronger party. It leaves a bitter taste for just one more victory, and that’s it. But the next round, too, will be futile and unnecessary, leaving only losers.

• Every nation fights for its liberty and independence. Compromise is unavoidable, and without it there will be no agreement, but a rotten compromise or one too many is just a compromise on paper, soon to be ripped to shreds. Both sides need to be satisfied and appear as victors.

• Every anomalous situation drives the desire for resolution. A nation is destined to close ranks despite its internal differences to achieve its collective dream.

• Politicians’ predictions are usually without foundation, representing more a wish than foresight. Civil servants, including army personnel, would do well to look after themselves and, to be on the safe side, steer clear of the politicians and their predictions.

• An occupying country will never receive understanding, even when it is right, because the occupation itself is an absolute injustice that cannot be justified. That’s why countries gave up their colonies long ago.

• He who is not a partner to negotiations will be one tomorrow. Anyone who assumes the burden of governing and responsibility will out of necessity become more moderate. The act of sitting at the negotiating table is de facto recognition, whether implied or explicitly expressed. And even if de jure recognition is delayed, it will gradually come.

All the rules above, of course, are obvious, but for the Netanyahu government, they are obscure. People in government will therefore rack their brains over the situation. Unfortunately, this comes at our expense as well.