Netanyahu can't afford to stutter in his next Mideast policy speech
Will Netanyahu have the strength to make a Churchillian speech based on a real peace plan to break up the empire in exchange for saving the country?
The strategic question is open. Nobody knows whether we can achieve peace with the Palestinians in the near future. But the tactical question is closed. It is absolutely clear that Israel must do everything to achieve peace with the Palestinians in the near future. Even if peace is impossible, Israel must not refuse it. Israel must launch a peace initiative if it wants to be on the right side of the war for peace.
The problem is credit. Due to the occupation, Israel has no international credit in the 21st century. Israel cannot exist without international credit. So every prime minister's first duty is to create a credit line in which Israel can function. Ariel Sharon 1 beat the second intifada thanks to the international credit his predecessor Ehud Barak provided him at Camp David. Sharon 2 did well thanks to the international credit the disengagement afforded him. Ehud Olmert received generous international credit for the Annapolis Conference. Benjamin Netanyahu received scanty international credit due to his speech at Bar-Ilan University. But now the credit is dwindling. Israel's international credit shortage has become a credit suffocation.
The strategic situation is clear. Without international credit, Israel cannot deal with Iran's nuclear program, the rocket challenge and the dramatic upheavals in the Arab world. Israel already faces grave threats, and its war reserves are empty. If obligated to use force to protect itself, it will have trouble doing so. Its insistence on the occupation undermines its right to self-defense. With no international credit, Israel has no military power.
The economic situation is also clear. Without international credit, Israel's economic miracle will not last long. The economy is thriving. Exports are winning new markets. Israel is an economic tiger rushing forward. But nobody knows when exactly a besmirched state becomes a pariah state. Nobody knows when exactly Israel will turn into South Africa. What we do know is that the moment Teva, Iscar and Check Point are made to pay a heavy price for being Israeli, panic will strike. The international bankruptcy will threaten to become an economic one. We will all realize belatedly what we are supposed to realize now - without international credit, Israel has no economic power.
The political situation is just as clear. With no international credit, the prime minister is finished. It happened to Yitzhak Shamir in 1992. It happened to Netanyahu in 1999. It will happen to Netanyahu again already in 2011. In a no-hope situation, Avigdor Lieberman will swallow Likud, Aryeh Deri will devour Shas and Barak will liquidate Barak. In a futile situation, the government evaporates. The lack of international credit is the end of Prime Minister Netanyahu.
This September is going to be a black September. The UN General Assembly is set, in six months, to establish a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders without peace. If this happens, Israel will be defeated internationally as it never has been before. The prime minister will be seen as responsible for a grave diplomatic failure. Israel's credit crisis will become a strategic, economic and political crisis. The landslide will be felt everywhere. As beaten Israel licks its wounds, Netanyahu will be turned out of office in disgrace.
Two months ago I coined a new term in this column - Bar-Ilan speech B. Today it is clear there will be a Bar-Ilan speech B. Netanyahu will have his say in a festive setting at a special venue. But the question is, will Netanyahu be daring and practical enough? Will he have the strength to make a Churchillian speech based on a real peace plan to break up the empire in exchange for saving the country?
The film "The King's Speech" tells the story of a head of state who suffers from a flaw, fights it and conquers it. It tells the story of a head of state whose good wife and loyal aide get him to say at the last moment the words he has to say. The Netanyahus would do well to take an evening off and go to the movies. When they come out of "The King's Speech," they will understand that the time has come. Now he must not stutter. Netanyahu's speech is Netanyahu's last chance.