The silly season is early this year
I wouldn't be surprised if Benjamin Netanyahu wakes up every night bathed in a cold sweat. I bet you he's having nightmares that his threat to vote against the government is being taken seriously, and that Sharon will make good on his promise to kick him out.
I wouldn't be surprised if Benjamin Netanyahu wakes up every night bathed in a cold sweat. I bet you he's having nightmares that his threat to vote against the government is being taken seriously, and that Sharon will make good on his promise to kick him out. Then, while toweling off the sweat, he gets to thinking about what he will gain from being out on the doorstep right now. Is this a good time, when Sharon is beating all his rivals for prime minister at the polls and support for unilateral disengagement has taken a leap - 62 percent in favor versus 31 percent against?
The violent, bullying behavior of the extremists has actually worked in Sharon's favor. The public didn't like what it saw as a crazed minority's declaration of war on the majority and an attempt to block the free choice of those settlers willing to leave of their own accord. If there were any lingering doubts about the ability of Israel's enforcement authorities to carry out the disengagement, they have been allayed by the swift, elegant removal of the squatters holed up at the Maoz Yam Hotel in Gush Katif.
If only in this respect, Bibi has screwed himself by joining the last-ditch effort to stop the withdrawal, scheduled to begin on August 15. When the Knesset met on Sunday, Agriculture Minister Israel Katz came up with the bright idea of postponing the pullout for three months. After all the decisions signed and sealed by the government and the Knesset, Katz clearly has some hope in the back of his mind that if we stall long enough, some miracle will happen.
But what does Netanyahu figure? That after all we've been through, after all the decisions and all the plans that have been made, suddenly a majority will pop up in favor of toppling the government? And let's say the government does fall. So what does he think? That he'll be automatically elected prime minister instead of Sharon? And let's say that does happen. Does he think the Americans will let him torpedo the disengagement?
It's not that he hasn't been through this sort of thing before. After beating Shimon Peres in the 1996 elections, didn't America force him to continue the same policy on the Oslo Accords? Wasn't he the one who ordered the withdrawal from Hebron, which neither Rabin nor Peres dared to do? Wasn't he the one who agreed at Wye to give back 13 percent of the land, and warmly shook Arafat's hand after signing the papers?
Bibi knows America - and this administration, in particular - just as well as Sharon. He's had a taste of their anger and of being called an inveterate liar. Just how does he think he would get along today with an angry Bush, if his vote had set off a chain reaction that resulted in his return to power in exchange for blocking the disengagement plan?
Netanyahu made a mistake to embark on what is clearly a lost cause. Eighteen ministers - a crushing majority by all accounts - voted against the proposal to postpone the disengagement. It's amazing how this intelligent man, a talented finance minister and a candidate to succeed Sharon, is always being tripped up by his own character.
Why ruin a perfectly good career with a foolish initiative that leaves him alone on the hill with Katz and Naveh? While this twosome had enough brains to announce that in the Knesset they would vote against postponement of the disengagement along with the majority, Netanyahu says he will not attend the vote.
This is not the first time he's treated the public like a bunch of idiots, as if they don't understand that no matter where he is, from Uganda to Timbuktu, he will be a partner to the government's decision. He can vote against the government or skip town that day, but he can't get away from the principle of collective responsibility.
Sharon was not wrong to threaten Netanyahu with dismissal. He just wanted to torment him a little, and supply the media with a couple of juicy headlines to heat up the "who will blink first?" affair - an imbecilic contest in which the winner is known in advance.
In the knowledge that we are going to be busy in August with the disengagement, the prime minister has done us a great service by pushing up silly season this year to July.