Like paper, the Internet will tolerate just about anything, but sometimes a real pearl shines through the sea of garbage. Last week supporters of Benjamin Netanyahu disseminated a video clip from 1978: an archival Netanyahu, shy and polite, in his Boston-by-way-of-Philadephia-accented English, attempting to convince an American audience that Jordan is the Palestinian state, and there is nothing wrong with annexing the West Bank to Israel, where the Palestinians will become citizens with equal rights. The 28-year-old Netanyahu is presented as "an Israeli economist and MIT graduate" named "Ben Nitai."
Those were the days of Jimmy Carter. Netanyahu-Nitai awaited a Republican victory in the next elections. (He figured that George Bush Sr. would win the candidacy; Netanyahu's father Ben-Zion was correct in thinking Ronald Reagan would get it). When the Republicans entered office, Netanyahu was summoned to his first public post, as deputy ambassador in Washington, a position vacated by the father of the current commander of the Israel Air Force, Ido Nehoshtan.
The 1970s and 1980s were formative years for Netanyahu as an observer of the American government. During that time, he came to superficial and erroneous conclusions that influence his actions to this day.
Israel's political troubles of the current era are rooted in the 1984 election here. The rotation government, created so that Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir could share control, also created the precedent of dependence on the new Shas party. The two large parties, Likud and Labor, were afraid of Shas, and refused to put together a government without it, because Shas could take revenge in the following election. And so they produced the policy of balancing power between Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Aryeh Deri - and now, in the current generation, between Eli Yishai and Ariel Atias. The latest affair, the decision to build apartment projects for Shas voters in Ramat Shlomo in East Jerusalem at the cost of a crisis with the American government, is just another link in a long chain.
Netanyahu's latest excuse, that carrying out the decision to build beyond pre-1967 borders will take a very long time, is especially ridiculous. When Israel is angered by countries deciding to sell arms to Arabs or Iranians, it is not placated by the claim that it will take a long time to produce and supply them.
Only when it comes to money, the economist Ben Nitai emerges, overcomes his pride and is forced to admit that East Jerusalem, like the West Bank and the Golan Heights, is not within the sovereign territory of the State of Israel. The Palestinians in Jerusalem and the Druze on the Golan do not use their right to Israeli citizenship and vote for Knesset members, which would reduce the power of Shas and bring about a final decision on peace in return for territories.
Soon, after a long, drawn-out effort, Israel is to be accepted into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. This step is an upgrade into the world's business class section, to the joy of the Finance Ministry, where Netanyahu is the senior minister.
Except that the raw materials this exclusive organization requires for its calculations are data and statistics, which require that Israel do what it has persistently avoided, to define itself: thus the stipulation for a separate report on East Jerusalem, the Golan and the West Bank. It turns out that annexation is not irreversible if it comes with a price tag.
At this opportunity, while others are interfering in its affairs, Israel should also deviate from its regulations on limiting terms of office, and cancel the retirement of the manager of the Central Bureau of Statistics.
The problem in Jerusalem is not the stature of the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, but the stature of Benjamin. Netanyahu doesn't have enough of it to lead a state. He was tested once on this and failed, summoned for a second term and failed again. The continuation of his stay in office is a foolhardy bet that the disaster it embodies will not come to pass.
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