A Second Chance for Revolution

As prime minister, Netanyahu is mostly busy with security and foreign affairs, but in his heart he is a revolutionary and social reformer.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is consistent. He has stuck to his ideas for years despite political reversals. He has the patience to wait until the Israeli public understands and supports him. For example, the idea of "broad national agreement on a demilitarized Palestinian state," which Netanyahu is selling today as a historic revolution in his positions, was presented back in 1996 in an interview with Haaretz's Ari Shavit.

His formula has been adapted to the spirit of the times. Netanyahu is willing to say the word "state" today, and in return he is demanding that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. But his basic principle has stayed the same.

As prime minister, Netanyahu is mostly busy with security and foreign affairs, but in his heart he is a revolutionary and social reformer. The refashioning of Israeli society is much more important to him than a few more houses in the settlements, most of which he has never even visited. In the 1996 interview, Netanyahu attacked the "elites." He accused them of monolithic thinking and attempting to delegitimize his election and government, which had undermined the "old regime." He promised to change things.

Netanyahu absorbed his worldview from his parents and the years he spent in America. He is a staunch opponent of Bolshevism and dictatorial thinking, and believes that the essence of democracy is open thinking and integrated opinions.

"There are academic and media institutions that are obligated to think uniformly, and they simply clone themselves. They are raising more and more generations of young people with the same uniform thought," said Netanyahu, who wanted to break the left's control of academia and the media. He also wanted to break the power of bureaucrats and unions who controlled the economy, and of the legal and military intelligentsia associated with the Labor Party.

Netanyahu is at his best when he is fighting his own battles against powerful forces: the left wing, unions and U.S. President Barack Obama. The fatal mistake of his first term as prime minister was his declaration of war on all such elites at the same time, which made them unite against him. In his second incarnation, Netanyahu has placed himself in the political center and avoided loud attacks on the elites and various other groups. Instead of getting into fights - and causing them - the 2009 model Netanyahu unites.

In his current term, instead of attacking along a broad front, Netanyahu is choosing his battles. What is important, as far as he is concerned, is stopping the Iranian nuclear program. To do that he wanted Ehud Barak in the Defense Ministry and was prepared to pay the price: full autonomy for Barak in managing the Israel Defense Forces, and strengthening the Histadrut labor federation headed by Ofer Eini, who brought Barak into the coalition. He does not love the unions any more than in the past, he just needs them more.

The move to add right-wing and religious judges to the Supreme Court is apparently being led by others. After he got MK Uri Ariel (National Union) onto the Judicial Appointments Committee, Netanyahu quickly met with Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and announced his support for the judicial system, as if he were saying he is the good cop and the right-wing politicians on the appointments committee are the bad cops.

The younger Netanyahu fought IDF officers, whom he saw as foolishly devoted to the Oslo Accords, and kept them away from the peace negotiations. The more mature Netanyahu does not interfere in IDF matters, though his recommendation to the head of the Shin Bet security service not to speak out on policy matters and to leave them to National Security Advisor Uzi Arad shows he has not relinquished his wish to tighten control over the intelligence and security services. The difficult situation of the universities, which are begging for funds from the state, gives Netanyahu the unique and golden opportunity to influence and undermine the hegemony of the current powers in academia, under the guise of efficiency measures and reining in wage excesses.

Netanyahu will not give up on his social revolution and dream of becoming Ronald Reagan, the popular conservative who created a revolution in America. He has "learned to be a politician" and is trying to avoid battles he has no chance of winning - the scale of the opposition to his land reforms surprised him. Instead of a noisy Kulturkampf, he will fight the elites one by one and quietly until he fulfills his dream and weakens their influence, because Netanyahu is consistent and believes the Israeli public is willing to listen to him more than before