Netanyahu-Tomer Appelbaum-Feb. 2, 2011
Netanyahu addresses the Knesset. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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Prime Ministers' Offices are almost always saturated with power struggles, intrigue and disputes. The prime minister's advisers and aides' desires and ego tend to soar at their entrance to the office and then, after a year or two, on their way out, shrink back to size.

Benjamin Netanyahu's office is no exception. Even if there never was and never will be an adviser like Uzi Arad, there certainly have been dispute-mongers of the same magnitude. We have seen (almost ) everything.

But usually on the other side of the corridor, behind a heavy door, someone is sitting and running the state's affairs. Yitzhak Rabin. Ariel Sharon. Ehud Olmert. Is that the situation after two years of Netanyahu's second government? Is the prime minister running his cabinet and navigating the state's affairs?

On election eve, Netanyahu promised at the Herzliya Conference "the end of the era of weakness and the beginning of the era of strength." At the same conference last February he presented the "heritage sites" project. This year he didn't even attend. That is how his second term looks, more or less - a loud blast transformed into a faint mumble. From the Bar-Ilan speech about freezing the construction in the territories to paralysis in the peace process. From the reform in the Israel Lands Administration and in planning and construction to fantastical apartment prices. From reducing taxes to a sharp rise in the price of services and dying social services.

The attempt to extract an achievement, hope or joy from the government's two-year term leads to grief. We've been through the Barack Obama-Netanyahu saga. We've witnessed diplomatic and economic flip-flops, futile news conferences and inexplicable announcements by the prime minister to the nation. We've heard Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's speech at the UN assembly. We learned that 49 ministerial committees have been set up. We saw a jurist being appointed justice minister who didn't say a word about racist bills and inciting rabbis.

The culture minister declared a prize for Zionist works, the education minister proclaimed students' visits to the Tomb of the Patriarchs and the transportation minister pledged that soon a train will chug through Jenin and Nablus.

What luck Israel was accepted to the OECD, and how encouraging to remember that two ministers did not give up the fight and succeeded. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (in the gas royalties ) and Improvement of Government Services Minister Michael Eitan (in the chief of staff issue ).

Two years after the government's formation there is no peace initiative, no negotiations and nobody is even talking about it. Even the sentence "not a day goes by in which I don't do something for the release of Gilad" has disappeared from our life.

Nobody knows where the government is heading and what its priorities are, what Netanyahu's diplomatic agenda is and whether he will make any sort of move to calm the Middle East. And everybody knows these questions will be redundant when Lieberman brings the government down at a time convenient for him.

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, ministers and experts scoff at the American policy in the Middle East and sneer - how original! - at the Palestinians for not missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

What about Israel and its policy? When was the last time the prime minister or any Israeli minister said anything about that? When will we hear about an Israeli initiative?

The Netanyahu government is silent and paralyzed. Why? Journalists have complained recently that the media failed in its duty when it refrained from dealing with the Moshe Katsav and Boaz Harpaz affairs. What is it doing now, pray? This is the question: What is paralyzing Netanyahu?