Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Photo by Emil Salman
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At times, when I'm watching my little grandchildren, my thoughts turn to Grandpa Bibi. Doesn't Shmuel's grandfather also wonder what kind of country our generation will bequeath to theirs? Grandchildren turn the future from a mere political, social or economic concept into concrete reality, replete with responsibility. Doesn't Benjamin Netanyahu ask himself what he is doing to ensure that his grandson will raise his children in a Jewish and democratic state? Is it possible that this man, who has taken upon himself for the second time supreme responsibility for the fate of the Zionist dream, believes that time and his own inactivity are working for the good of future generations?

The dramatic speech Netanyahu delivered last July at Bar-Ilan University elicited hopes that he had begun to free himself of the shackles of the past and to overcome the fears of his revisionist father. He addressed the Palestinians as neighbors, not enemies, calling on them "to give our young generation a better place to live" and to act together to advance the two-state solution, each state with its own flag and government. He placed the partition of the land at the center of his political vision.

The leader of the right spoke of the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state as a Zionist interest, and not as a forced response to external pressure.

In the year that has passed since that "historic" speech, no Israeli or Palestinian child, including the infant Shmuel, has been born into a better world. Negotiations over the two-state solution have devolved into small-time haggling over neighborhoods in the West Bank and buildings in East Jerusalem.

Instead of discussing the 2002 Arab peace initiative, which is gradually fading away, the government occupies itself with shopping lists of Gazans. Most of the time and energy of the decision makers is devoted to putting out fires in international relations. Not only doesn't the government advance a solution to the conflict, it is not even managing it correctly and preserving the status quo.

Any child who has ever ridden a bicycle knows that if you stop pedaling you fall flat on your face. An Israeli leader who gives up on progress in the negotiations toward a two-state solution is dooming his grandchildren, and perhaps his children too, to a binational, one-state solution. This is no longer the nightmare scenario of lunatic-fringe leftists who have lost their faith in the god of the status quo. Moshe Arens, Netanyahu's first political patron, who appointed him deputy chief of mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C. in 1982, argues that the only realistic alternative to partition is extending Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank and giving Israeli citizenship to the Palestinian residents.

Although all of the official documents Israel has signed declare that the Gaza Strip and the West Bank form a single entity, Arens has unilaterally erased the 1.5 million Gazans from the demographic equation. But even if his forecast proves correct, when the time comes for Shmuel to enlist in the armed forces of "Isratine" (Muammar Gadhafi's term) most of his age group will be followers of Allah and Mohammed, his prophet, or believers in the supremacy of halakha over the law of the land, or supporters of an apartheid government of isolated pariahs.

He will live, along with the grandchildren of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, if they remain here, in a state torn between fanatical Muslims and fanatical religious Jews. Sooner, rather than later, they will be an absolute majority and no Supreme Court will be able to intervene in the education of future generations of the enemies of progress and democracy.

You don't believe me? In Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, Jews who believe in the sovereignty of the Knesset are already in the minority.

Since the Bar-Ilan speech, Shimon Peres has been telling all guests to the Presidential Residence, albeit a little more hesitantly recently, that Netanyahu understands the dimensions of the "historical responsibility" that he bears. This is no mere inflated cliche: His actions and derelictions in coming months will affect Israel beyond 2010. When Grandpa Bibi plays with little Shmuel, he should know that his survival games are an irresponsible gamble on the fate of today's grandchildren.