Last week Benjamin Netanyahu finally mentioned the threat that Iran poses to the State of Israel. Since his resounding appearance at the United Nations, where he pointed to the Iranian threat by means of a ludicrous drawing, this fateful issue (from his perspective ) has somehow dropped from the public eye. It's a strange turn of events considering the fact that the Iranian nuclear program topped Netanyahu's agenda during his entire current term in office, and that the manner in which he handled it cast a pall of palpable existential threat over Israel.
Only last Tuesday's speech launching the Likud-Beiteinu election campaign again touched on this oh-so-burning issue, though it did so in the slightest way possible: Netanyahu named Iran as one of the many challenges facing the nations which only a strong person such as he (again, from his perspective ) is capable of confronting.
This conduct requires some answers: The same man who tied his decision on early elections to placing the Iranian problem before the Israeli public at the ballot box is now choosing to ignore it almost completely. It's not at the center of the election campaign; it's not the GPS guiding voters as they choose which paper ballot to slip into the envelope; it's not becoming a touchstone for judging Netanyahu's fitness as leader.
And so we need to understand what's behind the prime minister's silence. Has he retracted his conclusion that the fate of Israel depends on how the country's leadership confronts the Iranian nuclear threat? Has he abandoned his intention to attack Iran's nuclear installations? Does the fact he has pushed the Iranian issue to the margins during his public appearances indicate a weakened resolve, second thoughts, giving in to American pressure, or the existence of hidden diplomatic channels of communication to which the prime minister is giving his blessing?
There is something unreasonable about so extreme a development - from putting the Iranian issue at the top of the national (and international ) agenda for many long months to its almost total banishment from the public discourse, including the election campaign. A normal society cannot dismiss the fact that its leader sets a national objective, unusual in its audacity and scope, decides on a military method to confront it, enlists tremendous resources to do so (evident in the country's severe deficit ), spreads an atmosphere of oppressive doom over the nation, overwhelms the world with gloomy predictions, and then suddenly distances himself from the whole thing without providing any sort of explanation for his behavior.
The election campaign is supposedly a good opportunity to look at Netanyahu's ability to lead the nation. Was he right about the nuclear threat from Tehran and the place of prominence he gave it on his agenda? Did he choose the right way to confront the threat? Is the result reasonable compared to the cost?
But this examination isn't taking place. Netanyahu is saying nothing and for some reason the other party leaders are also choosing to ignore the issue. They too should be questioned: Are they pleased with the way Netanyahu dealt with the Iranian threat? Do they have alternate methods? Why are they cooperating with Netanyahu's attempt to push the issue to the sidelines of the public debate?
In Israel of late 2012, the political leadership is nonchalant about the extreme sense of urgency the prime minister of Israel imbued in the entire nation given the existential threat he had identified. In this Israel, Netanyahu waved about a threat of another Holocaust given the malicious intentions of the Iranian ayatollahs.
Avigdor Lieberman as foreign minister gave similar weight to the supposed threat discernible in Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal's boastful speech, and government ministers dutifully parroted the claim that the European nations' indifference to Hamas' threats against Israel was equal to their attitude to the fate of the Jews in World War II. Just as pornography is not a matter of geography, the same is true of the existential threat: It's not what it used to be.
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