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Benjamin Netanyahu's stubborn refusal to utter the phrase "two states for two peoples" - he will not even whisper it, even at the price of not heading a broad, sustainable government - is reminiscent of Y.L. Peretz's story about a wealthy Jew who was robbed at knifepoint. When the robbers took his money, gold and jewelry, the man did not blink an eye. But when they found the secret place where he had hidden his treasure, he protested, and was stabbed to death. And what was this treasure for which he paid with his life? "Only a fistful of earth from the Holy Land, on which to rest his head when his time came .... It was this handful of earth that he wanted to save ... a bit of earth from the Land of Israel."

What extreme devotion Netanyahu is showing when he suddenly rises to the defense of "the Greater Land of Israel," that very same bundle of earth that was abandoned long ago, with varying degrees of acceptance, by representatives of 95 percent of Israel's political spectrum! After two intifadas and who knows how many "peace processes," the solution of two states for two peoples has not only turned into a kind of consensus among the majority of Israelis, but almost into a wish (or, at least, a declaratory one - "if we could just find a serious partner"), as well as into an axiom accepted worldwide, including in the most Israel-friendly White House in history. So from where, from which false bottom of which battered suitcase, has this ancient baggage suddenly been pulled? Netanyahu is prepared to give his coalition partners all his treasures: the treasury, foreign affairs and defense. But the very mention of dividing the land has suddenly become a sin that one should die rather than commit.

Did Tzipi Livni do to Netanyahu what Ehud Barak did to Yasser Arafat at Camp David? After an election campaign in which the Likud leader was presented as someone pragmatic, whose main aim was to shake off the extremists who had attached themselves to him, Livni put Netanyahu to the acid test, pushed him into a corner and, at the moment of truth, revealed his true face. Indeed, in one respect there is no difference between Netanyahu and the Palestinian extremists - their emotional opposition to the idea of two states for two peoples, which is apparently deeply rooted in their psyches, background and education.

At the same time, it is difficult to ignore the ironies and paradoxes that accompany this acid test (which, incidentally, revealed a no less stubborn and "principled" side of Livni herself). After all, in an almost comic fashion, this entire drama has taken place on a purely theoretical plane. Livni comes from a government whose leaders said all the right things about compromise and diplomatic processes, but did all the wrong things, including two pointless wars that alienated and humiliated the Palestinians and ongoing construction in the settlements. Netanyahu also has a record of being someone whose lofty words have no backing in reality, but from the opposite direction: His grand promises and fighting words about "the rocks of our existence" generally turned flexible very quickly once he was faced with the first constraint of reality.

So whom should we disbelieve more - Tzipi with her obduracy or Bibi with his obduracy? And what practical significance does either of them have when faced with an even more ironic reality in the background: Those who determine reality in Israel are unwilling to give up territory except on a rhetorical basis, and those who determine reality among the Palestinians are unwilling to recognize Israel even on a rhetorical basis.

Moreover, has there been any significance whatsoever over the past 40 years - on the ground, where it counts - to the platforms and composition of the parties that comprise the coalition, their leaders' campaign promises or the "government guidelines" that were so painstakingly crafted, with haggling over the crossing of every "t"? Whenever reality changed, action was taken without regard for previous declarations - and, often, in defiance of them. A war would come and sweep everything away, an initiative would be imposed and upset the applecart. The irony of history, which works diligently all over the world, appears to work overtime in this region.

This being the case, there is no choice but to stick with the old 14th-century English adage: The proof of the pudding is in the eating. No grandiose declarations and no nonnegotiable conditions can prove the maturity and seriousness of a leader, only his behavior in reality. Therefore Tzipi, and especially Bibi, need to grow up, and quickly. With all due respect to principles, maturity means, among other things, understanding when reality requires you to shake off grand fixations, free yourself from outdated stipulations and, if necessary, even rebel against family traditions.