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The Perennial Excuse of the Impending 'Brave Diplomatic Step'

When will the Zionist Union face reality and stop trying to join Netanyahu's government?

Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht
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Herzog walks past Netanyahu at the Knesset, January 20, 2014.
Herzog walks past Netanyahu at the Knesset, January 20, 2014.Credit: AP
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

It happens every two months or so, and the truth is that it isn’t so much funny anymore as merely weird and repulsive. The spin doctors of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu feed Zionist Union Chairman Isaac Herzog and the media some spin about the formation of a unity government (usually to annoy Naftali Bennett a little — mainly when there’s some Amona outpost issue on the agenda and his Habayit Hayehudi colleagues are careening ever rightward). Herzog is Herzog (let’s leave it there, it’s no longer nice to keep kicking him). And journalists are eager to report on something, so we get stories about an upcoming unity government.

The reasons change — but they are always creative and topical. There’s the brave diplomatic step, which is necessary because of the final months of the Obama administration/Palestinian moves in the United Nations/the French summit/the Egyptian initiative/the Caucasian wedding, etc. It was completely serious the last time, until it ended with that well-known dove Avigdor Lieberman joining the government as defense minister.

Some special flavors are added every time, because the old arguments keep wearing thin. This time, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev will be ousted in favor of Merav Michaeli. (Yay, Ashkenazim! You’ve been saved from the process of “replacing elites,” which, Regev-style, simply means angry exchanges between the minister and arts ceremony attendees.) Leftists, where do you demonstrate in favor of this revolution?

But let’s say it’s for real this time. And let’s say it will succeed and they will find some wretches and lawmakers lacking self-respect and willing to bind themselves to Herzog and join the governing coalition. How is the Middle East expected to change?

Those around Herzog say he won’t join a coalition without a significant political achievement, so that Labor Party attendees at the next conference won’t be able to remain apathetic toward him (and some of the sharks will be forced to accept the party ruling that it’s a historic obligation, etc.). What is this achievement that demands joining the government without being satisfied with, say, external support — as happened, for instance, in such marginal events as the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt? At this stage, the achievement seems too big to even be formulated.

It might be possible to guess its scope based on the political vigor that has characterized Netanyahu throughout his tenure, or merely according to one small current example: They either can’t or don’t want to evacuate Amona, which is built on private Palestinian lands — even though the state admitted to the High Court of Justice in 2010 that construction on the site is illegal, and in 2011 announced that the outpost would be evacuated by the end of 2012. It is now 2016, and the latest statement by the prime minister on the issue (in an interview with Gil Tamary on Channel 10 last month) says: “We’re making a special effort to try to reach a solution that would resolve this problem — both Amona’s problem and other Amonas.” No doubt Herzog is the man who will instill in him the courage to veer away from the path of his father, the electorate and those fearsome settlers.

There is nothing more pathetic than a guy or woman who pursues someone without understanding that the other party simply isn’t interested. After 20 years, the time has come to recognize the fact that Netanyahu doesn’t want a political solution. He doesn’t want two states for two peoples. He doesn’t believe in it. Sometimes, he just says something to calm the Americans. (He also clearly says the opposite, as he did on Maariv’s NRG website in March 2015: “I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands is giving attack grounds to the radical Islam against the state of Israel. ... The left is doing it, but we are realists and understand.”)

It’s a mistake just to attribute to Netanyahu the lust for power and his wife Sara’s iniquities. Netanyahu is an ideologue, a “Greater Israel” man. He doesn’t believe in the feasibility of an agreement with Arabs. And when he needs his political base, he breaks wildly rightward and feels pretty comfortable there. Still, there’s no doubt that the former secretary-general of the Kibbutz Movement, Eitan Broshi, will make a terrific agriculture minister.

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