The style is the man. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opted for common language during his speech at the end of last week: "We are willing to make concessions for peace, but we won't be suckers," he told members of his Likud party at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds - an address that already has been dubbed "the suckers speech." Perhaps he wanted to flatter Likud members by speaking in their language, perhaps he thought he was speaking as a candidate at an election rally and not as prime minister. In any case, it is hard to fathom a serious statesman using such vulgar language.
But Netanyahu's statement also raises a series of disturbing questions in terms of its content. Concessions are essential now to improve Israel's position in the world and to jump-start the stalled peace process. Such concessions have absolutely nothing to do with being "suckers." It is actually the prime minister's attitude of refusal on the matter of freezing settlement construction that could cause serious political damage. If Israel makes concessions, it will not be a sucker; if it continues to refuse, Netanyahu's term will be apt.
The promise Netanyahu made the settlers in that speech - to live "normal lives," as they deserve in his view - is no more than a hollow and infuriating election pledge. Either the prime minister is heading toward realizing the two-state principle to which he committed himself in the "Bar-Ilan speech" - in which case the settlers' lives will not be "normal" and most will be asked to leave their homes - or their lives will continue to be normal, and there will be no diplomatic progress. The suspicion now arises that in both speeches, at Bar-Ilan and at the Exhibition Grounds, Netanyahu sought only to flatter his audience.
On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, six months after assuming office, Netanyahu must stop with his feints and leading us astray, and finally reveal his true intentions. Conflicting messages - such as the commitment to a two-state solution and at the same time a normal life for settlers - first and foremost damage his credibility. Netanyahu has not made one significant political achievement so far other than his survival maneuvers in the face of his coalition, and his wheeling and dealing in the face of the United States' just demands. It's not too late to change not only the style, but especially the content.
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