He’s victorious once again. Again, he’s managed to slip away, against all odds, with his back to the wall and a gun to his head. With the Americans hovering over him and the settlers holding him close, the son of professor Benzion Netanyahu has won again. With his heart deep in the right, his head brimming with Machiavellian tricks, his clear cut understanding of the art that is realpolitik and his catlike movements, Prime Minister Netanyahu has managed to melt the Israeli psyche and undermine Palestinian diplomacy.
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While Finance Minister Yair Lapid is busy trying to understand how the Knesset works and chastising his underlings; while Justice Minister Tzipi Livni wanders the U.S., ashamed of the negotiations that have led to nothing; while Labor Party head Isaac Herzog revels in the halfhearted moves of the opposition he leads — Netanyahu continues to go on about recognizing a Jewish state, when in actuality, he’s already cutting the ribbon. He’s got good reason to be happy: He managed to kill the negotiations, just as he wanted to. Not with blows, bombs or fierce remarks, like those of Economy Minister Naftali Bennett or Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. Those kinds of things would make Netanyahu out as an illegitimate leader. Rather, he killed the negotiations with a long, slow, yet quiet and effective poison, a “Jewish-state recognition” serum. Yes, professor Netanyahu raised his son to have sharp battlefield abilities, including trickery and spin.
Reality reflects just how effective the Netanyahu camp’s spin has been. It seems like just a second ago we believed that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was about to put a package deal of compromises on the table that both sides would have to swallow. And now, just a couple of months later, Israelis, Americans and Palestinians are wading in the mud yet again, looking for lost words like needles in a haystack: Jewish state? Jewish democracy? Jewish state with an Arab minority? Homeland for the Jews? A house of Jewish cards? Just 4 1/2 years ago, we watched as the prime minister spoke of his sincere desire to create two states for two peoples to end the conflict. And now, MK Orit Strock (Habayit Hayehudi) is nested in the upper echelons of the government, and our taxes are used to water settlement gardens.
Netanyahu managed to bury the negotiations, as he was smart enough, yet again, to use his tired, but effective trick. He fished out a rather insignificant issue, a literal definition, and threw it into a sea of emotions and anxieties. Livni is surely cursing the day she ever said it. For the Israelis, Netanyahu dangles the catastrophic image of the Jews being thrown into the sea — for that must be the Palestinians’ aim, if they refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state — and in doing so, strikes at the center of the Jewish central nervous system, which is, of course, fear of the Holocaust. For many Israelis, that fear is the only justification for the existence of this “villa in the jungle” and makes them willing to consider possible catastrophic chains of events. For Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Netanyahu’s demand is that he erase his people’s history, crush the Palestinian narrative and admit that the Arabs are nothing more than guests in the State of Israel, which of course was built (only) on thousands of years of yearning and not (also) on the ruins of Arab villages. Netanyahu knows that Abbas cannot make such a declaration, which would call his leadership into question, especially since Netanyahu knows that both Abbas and the PA do recognize Israel, de facto, in its current form.
Just as with the Iranian threat or statements like “Leftists forget what it means to be Jews,” Netanyahu has proven that simply by instilling fear and terror, he can move the world and change perceptions of reality. It’s not us, who are holding millions of refugees hostage, it’s not us, who continue to build on territory we annexed — it’s them, who won’t accept us as Jews. And Bibi, as the campaign slogan went, is good for the Jews.