Netanyahu? Believe him
In recent years, especially since he was able to convince the entire world that he single-handedly saved the Israeli economy from collapse, many in the left and center have come to view Netanyahu as a pragmatist.
Benjamin Netanyahu was not the only politician to pose for pictures beside the destroyed wall of a house struck by a Qassam this week in Sderot, but he took advantage of the situation better than any of the others.
Not only was the countenance of the Likud leader severe and concerned, as if responsibility for the country's security were already weighing on his shoulders, his remarks also seemed to carry a historic message, promising to destroy Hamas and "restore our national honor."
The night before he met with Avigdor Lieberman to talk about Yisrael Beiteinu joining forces with Likud ahead of the election, or forming a united opposition front after it. It later emerged that MK Effi Eitam had contributed NIS 12 million to Likud along with his National Union Knesset faction, thus raising chances for Netanyahu's party winning the votes of those on the extreme right, many of whom left the Likud after Moshe Feiglin disappointed in the party primary.
This weekend, despite its wink to the right, Likud was estimated to have lost six seats, according to a Haaretz-Dialog poll. Not to Kadima, however, but to the extreme right. Netanyahu has no reason to present voters with a more extreme image in order to draw votes. It is clear, after all, that after the election the right-wing bloc will unite its forces anyway.
But is Netanyahu any different from Lieberman or Eitam? In recent years, especially since he was able to convince the entire world that he single-handedly saved the Israeli economy from collapse, many in the left and center have come to view Netanyahu as a pragmatist.
I care what the Americans think about Netanyahu, they say, and ultimately, when he comes to power he will give up the entire West Bank if necessary.
The only problem, they further say, is that he is unreliable. Kadima's public relations gurus have built their campaign against him on this premise, using the slogan, "Bibi? I don't believe him."
Throughout his political career, Netanyahu never acted as an unprincipled pragmatist - not as foreign minister, who represented the uncompromising policies of then prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, not as an inexperienced prime minister and certainly not as finance minister.
Netanyahu's term at the Finance Ministry proves more than anything how much he adheres to a clear, defined worldview, both economically and politically. In the best neoconservative tradition, these worldviews are not in contradiction, but coexist in complete harmony. His promises of restoring national honor and the Golan Heights remaining in Israeli hands forever, as well as his assurances that Israel will never have a partner for peace - all these are real and it is no use dismissing them.
The "economic peace" he speaks of has Israel holding on to the occupied territories but provide work and quality of life to the Palestinians, thereby suppressing their national ambitions. It is identical to Moshe Dayan's colonial idea, which laid the basis for Israel's settlement fiasco in the territories.
It was Dayan who created the illusion of pragmatism while actually shifting rightward. But Netanyahu is far more extreme than Dayan - "good for the Jews" he may be, but very bad for Israel.
When he speaks with pride about the elimination of child allowances for large families, for example, he prefers not to mention the ultra-Orthodox, but only Arab citizens of Israel, in a way that makes the listener quiver.
It seems as though those of the left and center who embraced Netanyahu as finance minister have suddenly forgotten all his errors, injustices and careless remarks, and are struggling to understand how the wonderful economist from a first-rate American university is closer to Eitam and Lieberman, two extremists easy to hate, than he is to them. Kadima's slogan seems to be aimed at them, but it remains mistaken and misleading.
Netanyahu? Better to believe him, because he does exactly what he says he will - along with Eitam and Lieberman, with United Torah Judaism and Shas.