Will Netanyahu Insist on Remaining a Footnote in History?

It will be a surprise if the prime minister goes beyond his tradition of stale promises in his second consecutive term.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Television photographers and radio journalists were urgently summoned to the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on Tuesday night to hear a special message from Benjamin Netanyahu. Upon reaching the lobby, they found it set up for an event appearing at least as important as an historic peace-treaty signing.

With a crowded row of Israeli flags behind him, Netanyahu got in front of the cameras, declared his election victory, and said he strives to form as broad a coalition as possible. He then recited a few messages designed especially for the ears of Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid. He promised the next government would promote a more equal distribution of the national burden, lower housing costs, and change the system of government.

The main problem with Netanyahu's message is that he already made these promises during his previous term - and failed to make good on them. If Yair Lapid or anyone else forgot, or doesn't believe it, they can go ask Shaul Mofaz, who is still waiting for the soldiers' votes to be tallied to see whether he will have a place in the 19th Knesset - or ask U.S. President Barack Obama.

Just like in the call Lapid received from Netanyahu shortly after the first exit poll results were released, Mofaz was also once on the receiving end of the prime ministers declarations to "do great things together and change the country." Obama also heard Netanyahu make those empty promises,: "I will surprise you yet." We all know what those two think of Netanyahu today.

In the last four years, Netanyahu has been busy mostly making promises and speeches, rather that actions. Instead of going out to the court, taking initiative and being creative, Netanyahu has been playing it safe. Instead of pushing forward he pushed on the brakes, and instead of leading, was led.

At U.S. President Obama's inauguration in Washington earlier this week, the re-instated president presented his vision for the next four years. In his time left in the most powerful position in the world, the ambitious Obama wants to change America and the whole world. Netanyahu, on the other hand, who is just barely holding on to the highest seat in Israel, is only looking to preserve the status quo. Sometimes it even seems that he is trying to turn the wheels of history backwards.

An examination of Netanyahu's record over the last four years raises the unavoidable question: Why did he want to reassume the premiership in the first place? Why is he trying to form a coalition? For what purpose? To achieve what? It's sad to say, but there are no satisfactory answers to these questions.

Netanyahu, who was raised on the ideology of his father Ben Zion, has gone through the last four years without leaving any stamp on the nation's history. What will be remembered are only anecdotes like the affinity of his chief of staff for taking photos with his smart phone, his non-stop political survival tricks, the condemnations he got from foreign leaders, or his relentless threats to blow up Iran's nuclear reactor.

Like only a few of his predecessors, Netanyahu got four additional years in which to try and leave some kind of legacy behind him. He may use this term to make some kind of monumental decision that may put him in the history books. We can only hope that Netanyahu will assert himself and not insist on remaining a footnote.

PM Benjamin Netanyahu waving to supporters, January 23, 2013.Credit: AFP

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