Drop the Stretcher

Like the inflexibility of Golda, which led to a war which broke the impasse, so Netanyahu's weakness encourages external elements to take the initiative. It is too heavy a strategic burden to bear.

Here are two reading recommendations for the summer, a long and a short one, a depressing and an amusing one, with the same moral in both stories. The main dish requires slow digestion of 1278 pages. The light dessert is a page on a website.

The History Department of the United States State Department delayed the release of a volume of its documents on Arab-Israeli Crisis and War of 1973, completing the job only last week.

In theory, there is not much new to add. Everything has been written, everything has been revealed. It turns out though that not quite everything. The American researchers managed, in their slow but effective way, to carry on their backs, to the diplomatic history bank, a sack full of coins and to exchange it for a banknote which carries on it the portrait of Henry Kissinger.

For the Israelis this is a bitter reminder of the standstill and the missed opportunity, the arrogance, the narrow mindedness, and the sanctification of the status quo - and not the final chapter in the ongoing "our situation has never been better," which ends when the illusions burst into body parts.

The greatest stupidity of them all was the rejection of offers by Jordan's King Hussein to take under his control a demilitarized West Bank, and a gradual withdrawal from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with an access corridor to the Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem. That formula was similar though not identical to the Alon Plan, including the Nahal outposts. Those who did not want an Arab leader like Hussein in the territories got Yasser Arafat and Hamas, without being spared the 1967 lines handicap.

Even more crucial was the assumption that the impatient Anwar Sadat who was, in the absence of negotiations for a final status solution, threatening war, would wait for Golda Meir to win the Knesset elections in late October.

"The time has now come that we've got to squeeze the old woman," a frustrated President Richard Nixon told his aides who nodded in agreement. Kissinger agreed that Israel must be pressured. Nixon said that the United States will tell Israel it would not pressure it but go ahead and do precisely that. As for the link between political flexibility and the supply of fighter aircraft, he said that the United States is making no linkage, even though that is precisely what the plan was.

Even if Nixon appreciated the eternal pretext of elections - to the Knesset, Congress, or the Presidency - he was good enough to wait, fearing the rise of an even tougher government, headed by either Defense Minister Moshe Dayan or the Likud leader Menachem Begin. The cost: 2600 dead, hundreds of prisoners, thousands of casualties in body and soul, a national rift, and in the end a Begin-Dayan government.

Netanyahu is not Golda. As much as she was tough, he is weak. Look at the page on Netanyahu on the Likud website and chuckle at the way he is presented, the last of the prophets, whose gloomy predictions always come true. He is like a lifeguard who comes to the rescue by shouting warnings from his station. The guy in the water, waving his hands and asking for help, will drown. This was the case with firefighting from the air, and so it is with the housing crisis.

In his self-image, the "photoshopped" image, Netanyahu is absolute perfection. In 1999 he became a business consultant and "a highly sought-after speaker." When? When he completed his first tenure as Prime Minister. He does not mention losing the elections. According to the website he and his wife have three children. (Actually, two. Benjamin Netanyahu also has a daughter from a previous marriage, but one can't mention that ). The Netanyahu's live in Jerusalem (and Caesarea; not in a tent ).

The Palestinians have steadily been building their state during the past two years, ahead of September when they are expected to bring their bid for statehood to the United Nations. Netanyahu projects helplessness and reliance on the graces of the rightist segment of his party (which also decides who will lead it in the next elections, and who the other candidates will be ), on Avigdor Lieberman and on Shas. The popular protests will always reveal that he lacks armies to back him. Those who are angry at him and suspect him of having ulterior motives will not follow him into battle, not against Iran and not against Palestine.

Like the inflexibility of Golda, which led to a war which broke the impasse, so Netanyahu's weakness encourages external elements to take the initiative. It is too heavy a strategic burden to bear. Israel should drop Netanyahu's stretcher from its shoulders before it is too late.