I've found myself spending a lot of time lately thinking about Benjamin Netanyahu. I can't help it. He runs my life. And not well.
Now, at the United Nations of all places, history has given Netanyahu a rare new chance to peaceably address Israel's two main challenges: Iran and the occupation.
But Netanyahu, in the manner of the bitter old man he seems to have suddenly turned into, dismisses all of it with cranky blasts of cynicism. The possibility of peace is to be distrusted, he tells the world, it is to be disparaged, reviled. Diplomacy? Bunk.
And so, at this very moment, Netanyahu is letting history pass him by. He is letting history pass Israel by.
Even when I look for an escape – to the local book store, say - I find that I can't get away. For example, when I looked at the store's prominent discount display of Fiction and Children's Books, the first work I saw there, bearing a large Fiction sticker, was "Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle."
Which brings us back to Bibi. And the idea that if you don't keep up with the times, the truths you may fervently believe to be eternal, may very soon deserve the designation Fiction.
This month, Benjamin Netanyahu made it official: Nothing has changed. Nothing will change. Not in Tehran, not in Hebron. Nowhere. Not on his watch.
On the nuclear front, rather than wait and see what new ground Iranian President Hassan Rohani might break in a visit to the United Nations this week, Netanyahu chose a truly inauspicious time to shelve himself near a copy of The Emperor's New Clothes:
Setting out sweeping conditions which Iran will certainly reject, and which even friends of Israel may view as intentionally unrealistic - conditions far beyond the "red line" he drew at the United Nations a year ago - Netanyahu told his cabinet:
"A recalcitrant state that develops or acquires weapons of mass destruction is certainly likely to use them. It is possible to say that ultimately it will use them."
Then there's Hebron, the Dimona Reactor of fundamentalist Jewish extremism. On Sunday evening, a sniper shot dead an Israeli soldier on duty in the West Bank city, where less than a thousand Jews live in heavily guarded compounds surrounded by a quarter of a million Palestinians.
Taking swift action which even the Israeli right knew to be suspect and likely empty of authority – except for its capacity to incite further violence – Netanyahu ordered that settlers be allowed to move back in to a Hebron house from which the IDF had forcibly expelled them not long ago.
In remarks widely compared and contrasted to those of Yitzhak Rabin, who pledged to pursue peace as if there were no terrorism, and pursue terrorists as if there were no peace process, Netanyahu declared:
"We will continue to fight terrorism and strike at terrorists with one hand, and strengthen settlement with the other."
These are not the acts of a vigorous leader heading a nation toward a better future. These are the acts of a bitter old man, his future increasingly behind him.
This is Netanyahu's message to the world, and to us:
The purpose of Iran is to be Israel's mortal enemy, Hitler in a turban. The purpose of Hebron is incitement. And the purpose of Israel is not to find a safe, democratic, affordable place for Jews and Arabs to live within borders recognized by the world and, for that matter, by its only real ally.
No, the bottom-line purpose of this Israel is to settle the West Bank and East Jerusalem, even if that means settling on Palestinian-owned land. Even if that means forcing Bedouin and other Arabs off their lands and destroying their rickety dwellings while leaving illegally squatting settlers in place, building their homes with brick, mortar, and government sanctioned water. Even if that means alienating the United States and the majority of its Jews, further alienating Europe, and daring – begging - the United Nations to mire Israel ever deeper in isolation and international scorn. Even if that means ever wider boycotts.
Even if – especially if - that means no peace.
For years, suggesting a product-unrealized Start-Up Nation software CEO, the prime minister's toyed with the idea of a grand exit strategy – as in the Hebrew understanding of "Exit" – making an enormous high-tech killing in one stroke. Sealing your place in history overnight. Clinching a master stroke that redeems you for all that time you've wasted and the ideas that went nowhere and the supporters now disenchanted and gone.
Like bombing Iran.
Or making peace with the Palestinians.
Or even, and at the very least, fostering affordable housing.
As things stand now, however, with housing much less affordable than it was during the social protests two years ago – unless you're a settler, of course; with an Israeli governing coalition in open mutiny against peace talks; and with Iran proving increasingly uncooperative with the image of the New Nazi, Netanyahu would do well to open a new chapter. A shock ending, perhaps. Maybe something real, something that has to do with hope.
Either that, or he may find that his place in history, in the end, turned out to be on the Remaindered shelf.