A Road From Which There Is No Turning Back

Netanyahu is the only figure in Israel who is both willing and able to lead the country toward major concessions in Judea and Samaria and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Most opinion leaders, both abroad and in Israel, have developed a personal dislike of Benjamin Netanyahu. This prevents them from dispassionately analyzing, with intellectual honesty, the huge ideological about-face he has undergone, and which is sweeping him in the direction they themselves so strongly favor.

Practically speaking, Netanyahu is the only figure in Israel who is both willing and able to lead the country toward major concessions in Judea and Samaria and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Supporters of withdrawals and evacuations claim that Netanyahu is a hypocrite, that he is maneuvering and juggling and making unreasonable demands of the Palestinians (though if Israel is to withdraw in order to preserve the state's Jewish majority, why is the demand that they recognize Israel as the national home of the Jewish people unreasonable? ), or demands that they cannot possibly accept, such as conceding the right of return (though if the demand for withdrawal is justified by the desire to preserve a Jewish majority, why not make forgoing the right of return, the Palestinians' chief instrument for thwarting such a majority, a sine qua non? ).

When the head of the Likud party uses the term "two states for two peoples," or calls Judea and Samaria "the West Bank," these terms reflect an ideological turnabout. And the logical consequence is a strategic turnabout: The prime minister is trying to outmaneuver not the Americans or the Palestinians, but rather the members of his own party - that large political camp that chose him as its head to conduct a policy antithetical to that of the Kadima-Labor government, just as he repeatedly promised to do.

Netanyahu's dramatic turnabout is being dismissed - or at best, improperly understood - because many of his critics never adhered, as he did, to a fervent, binding belief, and do not understand the inner storms in the heart of a leader who is abandoning beliefs he imbibed with his mother's milk. They are alienated from the historical significance that Netanyahu, in his writings and speeches, attributed to those parts of the country they so ardently desire to transfer irrevocably to the sovereignty of another people. Thus they cannot grasp the fact that Netanyahu, via his statements, has embarked on a road from which there is no turning back.

For what is the uprooting from Gaza, which destroyed 25 settlements, compared to what is coming in Judea and Samaria, where communities and individuals will be evacuated from the heart of the land in which we became a people, in which we developed our identity and culture, and to which we returned at such a heavy price in blood? If they treated Ariel Sharon as an etrog - a precious object to be carefully guarded - then they ought to be treating Netanyahu as the most valuable etrog of all.

If Netanyahu still adhered to the Likud's principled position, he could explain his willingness to make concessions as stemming from American pressure, especially since Israel faces an existential threat. Any rabbi would agree that when it comes to saving the nation from the Iranian bomb, national pikuah nefesh (saving a life ) takes precedence over Judea and Samaria.

But a man like Netanyahu, a man of dignity and honor, would not take the path of deceit. His heart and his mouth were one in the past, and they are one now.

Perhaps in Yom Kippur's "Kol Nidre" prayer, Netanyahu can find something to help him cope with the cognitive dissonance caused by the dramatic turnabout in his political personality. The thrust of the prayer is the worshiper's declaration that he repents of all his vows and obligations, including those from the past. These, the worshiper declares, are "absolved, forgiven, annulled and void, and made of no effect."

And God, we are promised, accepts, understands and forgives. If that is true in heaven, it is all the more true of the Likud party and the cabinet.