As one of the people who occasionally financed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of his political career, I could write a book about the sponging and hedonism of generations of Israeli leaders. Bibi’s trick was very simple. He would invite a journalist for “lunch,” and at a certain moment he’d look at his watch and hastily jump out of his chair saying, “Oh, no! I’m late for a meeting, gotta run.” And then he’d say, “You take care of the bill.”
That gimmick was not as annoying as his political sales pitch. He tried, for example, to convince me that before an election he had to speak “right-wingese,” but that after being elected he would adopt positions that even Haaretz would praise. As we know, that didn’t happen during his first term and it’s not about to happen in his current one.
“Brainpower is what we have,” declared President Shimon Peres this week during his visit to CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Switzerland. But the truth is, you don’t have to be very smart to become friendly with millionaires, live in luxury hotels and even take your dry cleaning there. Tycoons the world over like to rub shoulders with Israeli prime ministers, and if Bibi enjoys it, let him. The question is, where is our leadership’s brainpower?
How are we taking advantage of the upheaval in the region, in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya and now Syria? In countries that used to be our allies, how are we dealing with their feeling of disgust at our continuation of the occupation? Or with the threat of the Black September awaiting us at the UN General Assembly, which may be asked to recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders?
But here it’s business as usual. The media are preoccupied with the laundry that Sara Netanyahu takes abroad, and with Bibi, who people say surrendered to the pressure of the right-wing rabbis in appointing the Shin Bet security service’s new chief. Yes, he also promises a speech to get German Chancellor Angela Merkel on board, instead of presenting a plan to the Palestinians.
While Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is still condemning the murder in the settlement of Itamar, Bibi goes there and incites. “With these people you want to make peace?” asks one of the mourners. And Bibi replies: “They murder and we build.” Our leader who aspires to convince Abu Mazen that he wants peace is demonizing the Palestinians, and by doing so is shackling himself to the right. The person who said that we’re sitting on a time bomb is right. Bibi will not change the ill wind blowing toward Israel with speeches in Congress or at the AIPAC conference in Washington.
It’s true that the General Assembly’s decisions are not binding, but the very discussion about recognizing a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders will increase the intensity of the ill wind against Israel. Bibi didn’t tell the people that there is a UN Resolution 377 (from the time of the Korean War) that authorizes the General Assembly to serve as the Security Council if disagreement paralyzes the council. The fact that the decision has never been implemented doesn’t mean that it won’t be implemented if the tsunami of fury against Israel intensifies.
During this period, when the rest of the neighborhood is on fire, U.S. President Barack Obama is not dealing with us, but neither is he forgetting us. Not because we’re in trouble, but because now of all times, and in light of the situation in the region, he expected a positive initiative from us. The fact that we’re sitting like observers is a mistake. The fact that Bibi is “conditioning” the presentation of a plan on an appearance in Congress is receiving the reply: We’re not a stage in a theater. If you have something to say, speak in Jerusalem or Ramallah. The only way to halt Black September at the General Assembly is to enter genuine negotiations with the Palestinians without delay and to give them the feeling that there is something to talk about.
Beyond the threat of September, a Facebook-style popular protest is getting organized on the Palestinian side. Rulers who are just as strong as Bibi are unable to deal with the waves of mass protest. The fear that tens of thousands of Palestinians will march to our borders has always hovered over us as an abstract threat. Now, when we see what is happening around us and how contagious it is, what will we do if they march to the checkpoints? Shoot them?
For heaven’s sake, forget the nonsense about the flights and Sara’s laundry. The paralysis of our leaders is our real enemy.
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