What Is Paralyzing Benjamin Netanyahu?

The prime minister is paralyzed because of his family's ideology and Lieberman's politics, and also because of the threat of Ahmadinejad; but paralysis cannot be a policy.

One rumor has it that what is paralyzing Benjamin Netanyahu is his latent fear of Avigdor Lieberman. Some people attribute this fear to these politicians' past together. Some attribute it to the interaction between the foreign minister's threatening personality and the prime minister's threatened personality. The result is one and the same - Netanyahu is gradually turning himself into Lieberman's poodle. He is behaving like someone who has been abducted by Yisrael Beiteinu and given himself over completely to his captors. A strange version of the Stockholm Syndrome is leading Bibi to serve Lieberman even as Lieberman ties his hands, abuses him and forces on him a humiliating political death.

According to another rumor, what is paralyzing Benjamin Netanyahu is his loyalty to Benzion Netanyahu, Avner Netanyahu and Sara Netanyahu. Benzion Netanyahu is a powerful and unique centenarian. Avner Netanyahu is a gifted and cute 17-year-old. Sara Netanyahu is a smart woman different from her public image. But the closed circle at the Prime Minister's Residence has inflexible right-wing views. Benjamin Netanyahu has great difficulty standing up to the people close to him, looking them in the eye and telling them he has given up on parts of the Land of Israel. Bibi's fidelity to his father, wife and son have made him insufficiently faithful to his citizens, the state and himself.

A third rumor states that what is paralyzing Netanyahu is his total immersion in the Iranian threat. Netanyahu views the Shi'ite nucleus as the be all and end all. He believes he emerged from his mother's womb to save the Jewish people and Western civilization from the danger emerging from Natanz. On the intellectual level, the prime minister understands that there is a link between the ability to win the struggle against Iran and a willingness to divide the land. On the emotional level, Netanyahu refuses to recognize it.

He doesn't want to go down in history as the person who set up Palestine and divided Jerusalem, he wants to be the person who defeated what he sees as the Nazism of the 21st century. That's why Bibi relates to all events as if they were mere bubbles. He believes if he is victorious against Iran, the settlements, the loyalty-racism pledge and the misery of his first two years in office will all be forgotten.

There is a grain of truth in each of the three rumors. The prime minister is paralyzed because of his family's ideology and Lieberman's politics, and also because of the threat of Ahmadinejad. But paralysis cannot be a policy. Stagnation is not leadership. Netanyahu is walking into a stone wall. The Israeli prime minister sees, hears and understands, but he acts as if he doesn't. Bibi is turning himself, eyes open, from a figure with historic potential to one whom history will treat with scorn and mockery.

In another 10 days, the U.S. congressional elections will be held. In another two weeks or so, the extension granted by the Arab League to the peace process will expire. The diplomatic moment of truth will arrive within months. Soon after that, a non-diplomatic moment of truth is likely to arrive. As in 1972 and 1973, 2010 and 2011 are decisive years - in one direction or another, to peace or war, a great deed or a great crisis. So when Netanyahu chooses not to choose, he is making a choice. He is choosing war. He is choosing a crisis and collapse. There is writing on that wall that Netanyahu is walking into. It says Yom Kippur. The Yom Kippur of Benjamin Netanyahu.

The reality Bibi is facing is an incomparably cruel one. The president of the United States is after him. The Palestinians are acting hostile toward him. The international community has turned its back on him. At the same time, Lieberman is sucking his blood. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni and Likud's Silvan Shalom want his head. The army is nothing to write home about. The administration is nothing to write home about. The politics are politics of dwarfs.

So when Netanyahu looks left and right he sees he is completely alone. No one really understands the enormous mission he has to face, and no one is helping him deal with it. Tough luck. Leaders do not have the right to moan about their bitter fate. Leaders are supposed to lead. If Netanyahu is not a man now, he will be the man who wasn't there.