What Happened to Sara's Counsel?

There are three women in Benjamin Netanyahu's life. There's the diplomatic one, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; the political one, opposition leader Tzipi Livni; and the personal one, Sara Netanyahu, nee Ben-Artzi.

If we ignore Limor Livnat, the way we ignore a cuckoo that pops out of a clock once every dozen years (the 1997 Hebron Agreement, the 2009 settlement construction freeze), there are three women in Benjamin Netanyahu's life. There's the diplomatic one, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; the political one, opposition leader Tzipi Livni; and the personal one, Sara Netanyahu, nee Ben-Artzi.

Had the prime minister shifted toward Clinton and Livni eight months ago, he wouldn't be in such a dismal position today. In late March, Benjamin Netanyahu could have established a moderate government, even if it were only a rotation government with Likud, Kadima and Labor; he also could have responded immediately to the Obama administration's call for a settlement freeze and continued talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

But a man like Netanyahu won't cave easily. His consent must be acquired by force, producing the image of one who has been defeated rather than one who gives generously. And after he's wasted precious time, he ends up weakening Abbas and strengthening Hamas.

This is a bogus leader who is completely lacking a worldview and administrative ability. He's just a hired mouthpiece, a deputy marketing manager. That might be good enough for a furniture factory, maybe, but not for a country.

Netanyahu's 1996 book "Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorists" provides a good demonstration of his consistent ability to succeed in theory but fail when put to the test.

Those seeking a manual for Netanyahu's current actions need only read his statements then and omit one small word: "no."

A Palestinian state (which Abbas and his comrades are less than thrilled to establish, like the chick that refuses to break through its shell and go out into the cold world), a settlement freeze, the release of murderers in a swap - everything in the book is written in the negative.

Netanyahu is certainly not the first politician whose actions contradict his philosophy. But the customary explanation that the dichotomy is due to the change in perspective caused by having a wider view is incorrect; it is due to the desire to hold on to power.

When politicians are out of power, they want to get into a better position and say whatever they think will get them in. When they're already in power, they do all they can to stay there, and to hell with principles.

Netanyahu isn't fooling anybody by his pride in the tremendous accomplishment of limiting the freeze to 10 months. The freeze is forever. Who's the naif who's going to clash with U.S. President Barack Obama on October 1, 2010, as the Iran issue looms, and on the eve of midterm elections for the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate, just to put the pro-Israel lobbyists to the test?

Add to this the deal for the release of dozens of murderers in exchange for Gilad Shalit. Public opinion, which Netanyahu wants to appease, is too unstable to base any arguments on it. All that needs to happen is for Shalit to utter a single sentence upon his return that is interpreted as being understanding of his abductors' troubles, and public support for the price of his release will be replaced with helpless rage.

Even without waiting for the next attack aimed at gaining the Palestinians another bargaining chip, from now on Netanyahu will have to justify the military order requiring soldiers to keep going without stopping to treat the wounded, because the mission takes precedence over everything else.

Netanyahu appointed Hagai Hadas to coordinate the Shalit case on the coattails of Hadas' operational reputation in the Mossad and Israel Defense Forces, in the hope that he would pull a rescue operation out of his hat. But like Netanyahu, who opposed the Oslo process but continued it on the pretext that he would do it better than his Oslo-supporting predecessors, Hadas was dragged into an effort to improve the deal without eroding its logic.

This is the Col. Nicholson syndrome, as per the character in "The Bridge on the River Kwai": Opposition in principle to the construction of a bridge that would help the enemy turns into the aspiration to prove the ability to build a better bridge.

One result of this is the strange submission to the German mediator. The achievements of a mediator are judged by the signing of an agreement. A mediator has no yesterday and no tomorrow. What does he care about terror victims, or deterrence, or the ties between Hamas and Abbas? And as for the Germans, give them a mission and they'll carry it out.

Netanyahu, it turns out, is no longer so attentive to his closest adviser. The book that describes the opposition of Netanyahu of 1996 to the acts of Netanyahu of 2009, the author writes, could not have been written without the support of his wife, Sara, who helped him tremendously with her wise counsel, clarification of important matters and emphasis on the principles underlying the book.

It's clear what happened to Netanyahu and his principles, but what happened to Sara, to her counsel, clarifications and emphasis?