Netanyahu, Don't Act - Just Keep Talking

Netanyahu is liable to leave his mark on history via an upcoming attack on Iran. Under such circumstances, the damage caused by his inaction would be dwarfed by the damage caused by his action.

The world was born out of speech, at least according to Jewish tradition: "And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light." God didn't have to do anything but speak. For the purpose of creating a new reality, the words he said did not need to be translated into actions. Put more precisely, his words were deeds.

A few billion years later (or several thousand years later, according to Jewish tradition ), during the 1950s at Oxford University, the well-known philosopher J.L. Austin developed speech act theory. According to this theory - described in Austin's book "How to Do Things with Words" - most sentences merely purport to describe reality, yet the utterance of some sentences in fact creates a new reality. For instance, the sentence "You sanctify this" does not describe a reality, but rather creates one. Similarly transformative is the sentence "We hereby declare the establishment of the Jewish state in the Land of Israel," or "We hereby recognize the Palestinian state."

Benjamin Netanyahu - AP - November 2011

Now, a few dozen years after Austin's theory was published, events in Israel are influenced by a politician who appears to be an acolyte of Austin and his theory, and who has turned words into his exclusive instrument of work. He advanced quickly from a position of public advocacy (as Israel's ambassador to the United Nations) to the country's premier executive post (prime minister) without even serving as a minister prior to this ascendance. Unlike other leaders - including Menachem Begin, Ariel Sharon, Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert - and despite the fact that this is his second term as prime minister (his winning a third term is not an inconceivable possibility ), no peace agreement, or war, can be affixed to his name. Nor can a sudden bombing of some nuclear reactor, or unilateral evacuation, be attributed to him.

What can be listed with his name are texts. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is an indefatigable producer of texts: the Bar-Ilan address; the U.S. Congress speech; the UN General Assembly address. Perhaps, like God, Netanyahu believes that he can create worlds with words - but do his texts really alter reality? In actuality, their effect seems to be the opposite: They guarantee that no change will transpire. Netanyahu is a rhetorician who spends his entire life on words, yet he has yet to learn how to do things with words. He simply doesn't have the correct syntax. Netanyahu negates each word by using its antonym. He is in favor of a Palestinian state on condition of a series of impossible circumstances. He favors the Quartet's proposal for negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, while he also sponsors accelerated building in the territories. He is in favor of reducing the cost of living, but opposes making the necessary budget adjustments. Even his major accomplishment up to now - the release of Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit - has a textual, symbolic character (Gilad as a symbol, as a word that symbolizes all of us, and our desire to return to a home that no longer exists ). What drives a man who does his utmost not to leave his imprint on history to cling, time after time, to the post of prime minister?

Netanyahu is aware of this question, and he is liable to leave his mark on history via an upcoming attack on Iran. Under such circumstances, the damage caused by his inaction would be dwarfed by the damage caused by his action. And as the flames kindle, we would come to long for his rhetorically incendiary speeches. In this period - with the Iranian issue on the agenda, when fateful decisions could possibly be reached, when there is concern that Netanyahu will for the first time stray from words and symbols and trespass into the world of deeds and attack Iran, thereby deviating from the position adopted by the security system, when there are indications that our most haplessly destructive war of all time is liable to erupt - the time has come for all of us to tell him: Netanyahu, keep talking, and be satisfied with your words.