Netanyahu, Stop Being Afraid and Sowing Fear

Iran is not about to drop a bomb on Israel, in contrast to the scaremongering directed at us.

The entire world is against us. Yes, it's true. Yet there is no respectable entity in the world over which casts doubt on Israel's right to exist, in contrast with the line that is parroted here. Iran strives to attain nuclear capability. Yes, that is true. But Iran is not about to drop a bomb on Israel, in contrast to the scaremongering directed at us. There was a Holocaust. Yes, that is true. Yet there is no second holocaust waiting to suddenly befall us. Hezbollah and Hamas are trying to arm themselves. Yes, this is true. But they have no chance against Israel. The Arabs of Israel are multiplying. Yes, this is true. But there is no danger there. Crime is on the rise, swine flu is claiming more victims, road accidents are still deadly, poverty is increasing and corruption is extending its tentacles. This is all true, but life in Israel is wonderful, better, healthier, flourishing and at times it's even safer here than in most countries in the world.

Level-headed politicians seek to calm the public. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is doing everything in order to frighten it. This can be explained in one of two ways: Either this is a cynical, calculated ploy by a man who believes scaremongering is a good way to stay in power, much like the strategy used by insurance companies, which would only be a minor worry; or this is simply the product of the Zeitgeist - which would then be cause for concern about the judgment of an individual motivated by fear. Such a person is destined to take desperate measures.

If in Jerusalem sits a leader whose hallucinations bring him to believe that the state is facing an existential threat, this is a recipe for disaster. There is no existential threat - political or military - facing Israel, and a prime minister who conjures such a threat in his imagination is liable to pose a great danger. Because these are our leaders: either they stupefy us with their delusions ("time is on our side") or they terrorize us. What about having a prime minister who is sober and balanced for a change?

Dr. Bibi and Mr. Netanyahu - the prime minister is a split personality. There is Netanyahu the economist, the one who is calming, promising, who instills hope, proposes reforms and plans of action - ranging from the closure of balconies, to a train line to Eilat, to vaccines for the swine flu. The Netanyahu handling politics and security is the opposite: scaremongering, despairing and threatening, as long as hope will not be ignited here, God forbid.

Take, for example, the foreign-policy arena. Rather than talk to us about anti-Semitism, hatred of Israel and the imaginary threat to its existence, he could have taken confidence-building steps that would alter the picture. He could have established a committee of inquiry to probe Operation Cast Lead, offered bold initiatives to promote human rights in the territories while pledging to completely freeze settlement construction without any bargaining involved. It is all in our hands. Instead, the prime minister brandishes the blueprints for Auschwitz. And, really, what is the harm in frightening us a bit with the specter of another holocaust?

In tandem with his ideological twin, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the prime minister is doing everything he can to further abase Israel's standing. There's the vulgar reprimand of Norway over Knut Hamsun, the literary giant and Nazi sympathizer whose 150th birthday was officially marked in the Scandinavian country; the ridiculous threats against Sweden because of the organ-harvest article which appeared in Aftonbladet; and the silly tongue-lashing directed at Turkey because of some marginal television series. Rather than reduce the flames, pyromaniac Israel is doing all it can to fan them. We are also provoking President Barack Obama, trying American patience to the extreme, while abusing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to the point of collapse. Netanyahu the economist would have acted differently. He would have sought to calm tensions and he would have proposed reforms.

We have seen the same type of behavior on the domestic front. Netanyahu has said in the past that the "demographic threat" posed by Israeli Arabs is the worst threat facing us. Let's put aside the fact that the prime minister views citizens of his country as a threat. What is he doing to neutralize this imaginary threat? He's intensifying the Arabs' sense of humiliation while pushing them even further toward the extremist elements. A number of nationalist laws have been proposed in the Knesset - from the citizenship law to the Nakba law to the loyalty law - as if the intent is to realize the prophecies of doom. Netanyahu the economist would have certainly conducted himself differently. He would have suggested reforms.

History is rife with examples of leaders who came to power and entrenched their rule by sowing terror and intensifying the threats. Netanyahu the historian is certainly aware of these examples. Now Netanyahu the statesman needs to take a lesson from Netanyahu the economist: Rectify rather than ruin, soothe instead of scaremonger and, most of all, instill hope. To do so, however, it is not enough to capture another weapons-laden ship and use it as part of a pathetic, cheap propaganda campaign to be marketed to the entire world. Nor is it enough to dispatch Danny Gillerman to the United Nations. To do so, the prime minister needs to stop being afraid and stop sowing fear.