Analysis

In the Right Power Relationship, Even Netanyahu Is Willing to Talk Peace

The prime minister simply craved a public reprimand from a manly authority. And if Trump thinks someone is un-American, the president’s lie detector goes off.

Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint press briefing at the White House, February 15, 2017.
Carlos Barria / Reuters

There’s nothing more exciting than seeing a happy man. For a woman, it’s doubly exciting. On Wednesday, for the first time since Benjamin Netanyahu entered our public life nearly 30 years ago, we got to see him happy. Really happy, not make believe.

Finally, after years of suffering Netanyahu’s depressed visage – the depression of a man who believes his personality is too big for the country he’s fated to lead – we saw what Netanyahu looks like when his self-image fits the treatment he receives. We saw how he beams with pleasure when he’s in his natural place in the master-slave relationship.

Happiness is a complex thing. It’s common to think that a person is happy when he gets everything he wants. A person is happy when he gets what he needs, even if what he needs is pain.

In Netanyahu’s case, he simply craved a public reprimand from a manly authority. Netanyahu has been crying out for years to be ordered around and to compromise. For years he has secretly dreamed to be ordered to stop building in the settlements. Between us, what did the Democrats ever do to him when he didn’t do what they said?

With Trump, Netanyahu won’t even be tempted to try to find out. That’s the beauty of natural authority, of clear limits. You don’t even need to raise your voice, and there’s no need for threats. It’s enough to lightly tease Netanyahu “You know that, right?” – and he immediately gets his act together.

No matter how you put it, on Wednesday the United States renounced the two-state solution no more than it adopted the idea of a state of all its citizens. All Trump did was point out the obvious fly in the ointment. It’s obvious that the two-state solution is the reasonable one, but if the two peoples have been insisting for 50 years on fighting not to be separated at any cost, maybe they’re meant for each other?

Netanyahu glowed Wednesday because he finally was received with the American honor reserved for “one of our own.” Unlike Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, it was clear that Trump didn’t have to make an effort to be at ease with him. It came naturally. And why shouldn’t it? Netanyahu really is one of them.

It’s hard to ignore the feeling that Netanyahu looks more at home beside Trump than in the Knesset, and certainly more than in a Jerusalem hummus joint, the kind where he staged a meeting the other day with his finance minister. These places are too cramped for him, the local color isn’t right. Hebrew isn’t English. The mannerisms, the food, the neighbors, the weather – they’re not for him.

And in Trump’s circles, it’s not strange to see a conservative Jewish American, educated and rich, with Israeli citizenship. (In Netanyahu’s case it also happens to be Israel’s prime minister on and off for 20 years.)

Once Netanyahu received the treatment that conformed to his self-image, he dropped all his defenses immediately. The truth is, if Trump sees Netanyahu as one of their own, it’s 100 times more than the Clintons, 100 times more than Obama. With those folks, maybe it was an affirmative-action welcome.

Trump is a walking lie detector. If he thinks someone is un-American the detector goes off. Indeed, one identity-verifying look from Trump and Bibi melted like butter on a frying pan. In one moment all the problems disappeared.

For the entire press conference it was only him and Trump. Not a force in the world could penetrate the envelope of intimacy that Trump’s authority created around them – not the journalists, not the cameras, not Naftali Bennett and the far right, not the Likud Central Committee, not even the police investigators. Even Benzion Netanyahu was left outside. Trump is even stronger than Dad.

The truth about our relationship with Netanyahu has come to light. It’s not him, it’s us. He actually enjoys talking about the Palestinians, Iran and Islamic terror; it’s just that with us he doesn’t enjoy doing it. In the right power balance, he’s even willing to talk about peace, an all-the-way peace.

In front of a man who doesn’t hide his nuclear bomb, he’s even willing to discuss the real deal, not just the label. Not only is he ready, he always wanted to. You want the truth? The two-state solution has never felt so close. At least until someone wrecks the party.