The president's day
In the next two days, Peres must step away from everyone who is trying to affect his decision. He must sit alone, with his conscience, and act as if the fate of the nation is in his hands.
By the summer of 2010, Israel will be forced to choose between the following options: Coming to terms with a nuclear Iran, bombing Iran, or convincing the international community to impose a siege on Iran. All of the options are near impossibilities. In order to put Iran under siege, Israel needs diplomatic dexterity. Bombing Iran carries the risk of isolation, conflagration and an all-out religious war. As for coming to terms with a nuclear Iran, that means taking the risk that Israel will fade out under the constant threat of nuclear attack.
Since its establishment, Israel has never faced such a difficult choice. The only decision that was somewhat similar was the one regarding Dimona. David Ben-Gurion made the Dimona decision during the 1950s, with Shimon Peres by his side. The decision of who will decide on Iran will be made by Peres himself. Without Ben-Gurion by his side, President Peres will decide who will be the prime minister responsible for an existential decision within a year.
First and foremost, the president must be loyal to democracy. Democracy says that more than 40 MKs support a Benjamin Netanyahu government, while less than 30 MKs support a Tzipi Livni government. Democracy says that during the 2009 elections, the majority voted right. Any attempt to strip the right from its rightful place would be an underhanded trick. This would undermine democracy, harm the president's prestige and lead to a dubious government designed to defraud voters.
However, the president must also be loyal to the state. At the time of truth, he must represent the good of the State of Israel as seriously as possible. Peres knows a Netanyahu-Lieberman government could not handle the Iranian challenge, because it would be ostracized. He also knows that a Livni-Lieberman government could not deal with the Iranian challenge, because it would lack the skills and be too cynical. Therefore, the president must not stand by and let petty politics threaten our future. He must work within the boundaries of the law to put together a national unity government.
It is appropriate that the next prime minister be Benjamin Netanyahu. This is what the majority decided when it voted for the parties that opposed the disengagement. This is also what Avigdor Lieberman said when, during the election campaign, he declared that he would support a nationalist, right-wing government. But if Netanyahu does not partner with Kadima, he will be a prisoner of Yisrael Beiteinu and National Union. He will be unable to propose peace with Syria or progress with the Palestinians, and may even be forced to participate in a wild assault on the rule of law in Israel. A Netanyahu who is imprisoned by Lieberman will not serve the country's best interests.
The solution is simple: Peres should appoint Netanyahu to form the government, but demand that he immediately approach Livni in order to include her in the government. A rotating leadership is out of the question, but there is room for full Likud-Kadima partnership. Only a broad, rational unity government with the two largest parties will reflect the will of the voter and be capable of handling the looming strategic threat.
Peres is not just a president - he is an institution. He reflects Israeli society through both his personality and his history. He is the last of the founding statesmen, and he has seen and experienced it all: the Holocaust and the revival, security and peace, anxiety and hope. Peres remembers the determining moments of the Dimona decision in the 1950s. Peres remembers the difficult moments of the Dimona dilemma in the '60s and '70s. Peres knows what we are facing today.
In the next two days, the president must step away from everyone who is trying to affect his decision. He must sit alone, with his conscience, and act as if the fate of the nation is in his hands. In spite of Dimona and Oslo, Peres' decision will be one of the most important decisions of his life. A decision about our lives.