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Netanyahu is unique in personifying three types that coexist at the Prime Minister's Residence in one person: the millionebbish, the narcissist addict and the Conceptiyahu

Amir Oren
Amir Oren
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during an event marking 50 years of Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley, near Ma'ale Efraim, West Bank, October 19, 2017.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during an event marking 50 years of Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley, near Ma'ale Efraim, West Bank, October 19, 2017.Credit: GALI TIBBON/AFP
Amir Oren
Amir Oren

For nearly 40 years, more than half the State of Israel’s existence at this point, the country has been governed by three highly productive prime ministers born in the space of a week and a half in October in various years — the first three prime ministers (David Ben-Gurion, born on October 16, Moshe Sharett, born the 15th, and Levi Eshkol, on the 25). They were followed later by Yitzhak Shamir, born on October 22 and Benjamin Netanyahu on the 21st. Against all odds, that’s five of a dozen prime ministers in the space of 10 days.

But Netanyahu, who on Saturday celebrated his birthday for the 11th time in the Prime Minister’s Residence, is unique in personifying three types that coexist at the official residence in one person: the millionebbish, the narcissist addict and the type that I would like to call the Conceptiyahu. The first type is the unfortunate soul who, despite having a fortune, requires handouts in the form of cigars, champagne and meals with other millionaires through fraud. (Not his own, just his wife’s, if the suspicions are true. As usual, he knew nothing).

In addition, there is the narcissist addict, in a contradiction that only a politician could square. It involves the extreme case of a narcissist – addicted to the point of suffering from withdrawal pangs – to self-adoration. One of the symptoms: excessive use of the first person singular. (“I always get what I want”).

By virtue of his profession, the Conceptiyahu type is also part of him. That’s a mindset, a worldview into which you pour the essential facts needed to decipher reality. But when this mindset becomes rigid, it results in a fixed “concept.” That expression entered the lexicon after the Yom Kippur War thanks to the Agranat Commission, which denounced the blindness leading up to the war.

The commission determined that the concept involved a simple mistaken assumption, namely, that Egypt would not go to war without first acquiring certain arms. This was the concept — or misconception — of the army and intelligence services. An even bigger concept was that held by Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan and their cabinet colleagues, according to which it was in Israel’s power to hold onto and settle the territory that it captured in the Six-Day War without paying an unbearable price.

Golda and Dayan had a single disastrous misconception. Netanyahu has two – regarding Iran and the Palestinians. In recent weeks, the success of the Palestinian reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas caught not only Netanyahu by surprise, but also the Shin Bet security service, the army intelligence corps and the coordinator of government activities in the territories. They didn’t properly assess Egypt’s determination to reach an agreement and the aversion of both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar to Abbas rival Mohammed Dahlan. Until the last minute, the Israeli assessment was that the reconciliation efforts would fail, so now they are digging their heels in, promising that the accord will ultimately blow up.

This line of thinking is also reflected in sighs of relief over the American response to efforts by Abbas and Sinwar to form a unity government. As usual, they are blocking their ears. When the UN Security Council Resolution 242 in 1967 spared Israel from withdrawing without getting peace in return, the immediate result was the removal of pressure on Israel to withdraw. But in the long run, the pressure proved greater. Over the past decade, the international Middle East Quartet (the United States, Russia, the UN and the European Union) have been demanding that Hamas acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. The Trump administration has been echoing the same conditions. Netanyahu, who is afraid to act, is leaving the decision to Sinwar. If he recognizes Israel, he will win worldwide accolades.

When Golda’s line of reasoning collapsed, it spawned a new formula involving talking to the Palestinian Liberation Organization, so long as its ceased being the PLO in its opposition to Israel’s existence. If Hamas were to meet the same challenge, it would place the Conceptiyahu government opposite a broad front, from Cairo to Brussels, Moscow and Washington. The end is clear. The only question is the price that Israel will pay as it is dragged along.

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