Merkel and Netanyahu - Reuters
Benjamin Netanyahu and Angela Merkel at a joint cabinet meeting in Jerusalem in January. Photo by Reuters
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Last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He phoned to say he was disappointed that Germany's had voted for a UN Security Council condemning the settlements. Merkel reportedly responded: "How dare you. You are the one who disappointed us. You haven't made a single step to advance peace." In response to Merkel's aggressive remarks, Netanyahu promised to deliver a new speech about the peace process within two or three weeks.

This little anecdote says something about Netanyahu's current state of mind. In order to call and berate Germany's leader, the caller must feel a certain sense of power and authority over the object of the reprimand. But Netanyahu's power and authority vis-a-vis key countries have run out, in part due to the man he appointed foreign minister. Netanyahu is seen as all talk and no action, a chronic time-waster. The fact that he was the one to initiate the conversation points to his recent confusion as to his place in the world. He hasn't internalized his new weakened and somewhat ridiculous status.

Netanyahu earned that status by obsessively insisting on separating the concept of speech from that of actions. To the outside world, Netanyahu operates in the sphere of talk. He promises things and expects the words alone to enable the continuation of the status quo. He gave the Bar-Ilan speech in 2009, and despite the fact that its words have not been translated into concrete changes on the ground, he believed that the very talk of change would be sufficient to keep things as they were.

In the UN Security Council, 14 states voted for a resolution condemning construction in the settlements. The United States vetoed the resolution. The reason the 14 voted to condemn construction in the settlements is simple: They condemn construction in the settlements. In other words, the verbal act of condemnation is directly linked to the actual position of these states. There is a link between their talk and their actions.

Netanyahu called Merkel because that conjunction intersection of talk and action are dangerous for him. He called to verify that Germany did not intend to shift the center of gravity from words to deeds. Under normal circumstances, the call would have been absurd, with one person phoning another to express disappointment in the other's acting in accordance with her worldview. He is telling her: "I never expected you to say what you meant."

And that's precisely why Merkel got angry. For her, Netanyahu's phone call was proof that he expected her to continue to say one thing and do something else. The German chancellor understood that from Netanyahu's perspective, her real purpose was to sanction the stasis in the peace process in exchange for empty formulations with just a hint of promise.

Merkel's rebuke put Netanyahu on the defensive. His radical shift from an offensive posture to a defensive one points to the shakiness of the foundation supporting him. Netanyahu does his trick, and as soon as the sleight of hand is revealed he jumps to the next one, a new speech on the peace process. More words, more talk, another Bar-Ilan.

Netanyahu is a text whose goal is to create a detachment between the listener and reality. He speaks in order to be listened to, and he expects the listening to come at the expense of sight, of looking at what exists, of reality. Netanyahu stands before the world, destruction and devastation behind him, and his mouth does not cease to declaim, "Move along, folks, there's nothing to see here."