As long as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered the goods, Iran had no representative more authentic than its president, in the eyes of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But now that Ahmadinejad’s successor, Hassan Rohani, has breached the trust and has the chutzpah to keep on smiling, that is no longer the case. Were Netanyahu instructed to tailor a tender for the post of Iran’s president, there’s no doubt that it would be awarded to none other than Ahmadinejad. This shouldn’t come as a great shock: If the shoe were on the other foot, Ahmadinejad would surely pick Netanyahu Prime Minister of Israel. Devious are the ways of the extremists.
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And so, the bigger the trick, the bigger the disappointment. Here’s the new gospel according to Netanyahu, the teacher: If the child doesn’t make an effort, he’ll get it. And if he does make an effort and get good grades, he’ll still get it. No more “carrot and stick.” From now on our policy is the stick and the stick: Even if the Iranians change their attitude, Netanyahu wants to continue with sanctions. The same thing with the Palestinians. If they recognize Israel they will receive - how did Yehoram Gaon put it, in his tortured voice? - “nada.” And if they don’t recognize Israel they will get nothing. If they give up on the right of return they’ll get nada and if they don’t they will still get nada. If they agree to conduct talks while construction in the settlements continues they’ll get nada, and if they don’t they’ll get nada.
Why nada? Because Netanyahu wasn’t looking for a sulha, a reconciliation, in the first place. He’s looking for surrender from the other side. And after the surrender, rest assured, there will be additional demands. Now Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz tells us Iran has not passed Netanyahu’s nuclear red line. But despite this - and please note Steinitz’s alertness - despite this, he says, they are expanding their capabilities so that at the moment of truth they can leap right over and beyond the red line. Kapish? Now wait, dear Iranians, for another red line, one you’ll have to crawl under in order to remain below. The Palestinians, too, are being asked to crawl in order to satisfy Netanyahu, and there’s no guarantee even then that he’ll be satisfied.
But in the eyes of the civilized world, Iran is the prodigal son. After the era of Ahmadinejad’s bullying, the world is welcoming Rohani’s Iran with open arms, with kisses and caresses and with a presidential apology for the traffic jams in New York. Only Israel is acting as if nothing has changed in Iran. Friends, a new wind is blowing in Iran. And a new government needs a new terminology. When summer begins, one puts aside the cold-weather coats.
For peace, one must do anything. Mu’awiya ibn Abi Sufyan, the first caliph of the Umayyad dynasty, said, “I do not apply my sword where my lash suffices, nor my lash where my tongue is enough. And even if there be one hair binding me to my fellow men, I do not let it break. When they pull, I loosen, and if they loosen, I pull.” It is not one hair that now binds Israel and Iran, rather an entire braid, but Netanyahu’s black scissors are about to undo it, strand by strand.
Frankly, I feel for Netanyahu. The man simply has nothing new to say. Not about an agreement with the Palestinians, not about relations with Iran, not for Israel’s middle class and certainly not for its poor. Netanyahu’s goal, it seems, is to preserve the status quo, and so he conducts an exhausting, thankless rearguard action, without a hint of joy that could inspire people to dance. Life as seen through Netanyahu’s glasses is scary, desolate and boring. Lebanese poet Eliia Abu Madi wrote: “Be beautiful, see that life is beautiful.”
The Americans were dragged into Libya, they didn’t want to intervene in Syria at all and would prefer not to get involved in Iran. The time has come to follow the new zeitgeist in the world. After the Iranians got rid of their boogyman, Ahmadinejad, now it’s the Israelis’ turn to say goodbye to theirs.