The problem with Benjamin Netanyahu

Posted: December 25th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: elections, In the News, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Why the PM’s brilliant political moves this week won’t help him

netanyahu

This was one of the strangest weeks I can remember in Israeli politics. It started with everybody waiting for a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas that could change the diplomatic reality in the entire region – just to forget it immediately as PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s move against Kadima was reveled. Gilad Shalit was back in his cave in a split of a second, and all attention was turned to the seven backbenchers who supposedly agreed to deflect from Kadima to Likud, thus making Netanyahu’s coalition – which is fairly strong as is – significantly more stable.

Even as it turned out that Netanyahu wasn’t able to split Kadima (only one Knesset Member, the unimportant Eli Aflalo – known mostly for his impressive mustache – announced his departure from the opposition party), it seems that he handed his political opponent the blow of her career. Now Tzipi Livni has to chose between abandoning her entire political strategy and accepting Netanyahu’s offer to join his coalition, to trying to keep her party together in the opposition – a task which seems much more daunting by the day, if no entirely impossible.

In the last couple of days, many pundits were praising the PM for his brilliant move. Here is for example Amir Mizroch, news editor at The Jerusalem Post, on his blog:

If he had managed to pull it off, Netanyahu would have stepped up a level as a political operator. This was a Sharon-like move. In fact, this was the move designed to counter Sharon’s establishment of Kadima. Sharon undone. Disengagement from Kadima. If he had managed to pull it off…

But to what end?

When Yitzhak Rabin was split Tzomet party in 1995 he did it to pass the Oslo agreement in the Knesset, once it was clear that the Orthodox Shas would vote against it; and when Ariel Sharon split the Likud he did it to carry out his plan of unilateral withdrawal from the Palestinian territories. Netanayhu, it seems, is trying to break Kadima for little more than getting even at his political opponents. The only reason that would really require Netanyahu to strengthen the left flank of his coalition is some sort of diplomatic progress with the Palestinians or with Syria. With regards to Iran, the Goldstone report, the Hamas and Gilad Shalit, the Knesset and the public are more than likely to support whatever decision the PM would take.

Right now there are no negotiations with the Palestinians or the Syrians, and in any case, all indications are that Netanyahu wouldn’t go one step further than where the White House forces him. He accepted the two state solution because of president Obama’s speech in Cairo, and he agreed to a partial settlement freeze only after tremendous pressure from Washington. As even some of Netanyahu’s supporters recognized, in both cases, his move came too late to hand him real political gains, and the world remained suspicious of the Israeli PM’s agenda.

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This is something that characterized Netanyahu’s approach to politics throughout his career: he (almost) never initiates moves. He always reacts. This has nothing to do with ideology, Left or Right. There are leaders on the right who try to shape reality themselves (Ariel Sharon and George W Bush come to mind, and maybe that’s part of the reason they had such good personal relations), as there are some leaders on the Left who tend to react to events. It’s a matter of personality. Read the rest of this entry »


What does Netanyahu want?

Posted: April 25th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: elections, In the News, The Right, the US and us | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

After his refusal to accept the Two State Solution, PM Benjamin Netanyahu brought up his own term for an agreement with the Palestinians: a demand that they would recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

You have to give it to Netanyahu – he was always good with PR. This new condition sounds very reasonable to almost all of the Jewish public in Israel, as well as to most of the community in the US. Naturally, the Palestinians will never accept it – not because they seek to destroy Israel, but because it will be a death blow to the legitimate political claims of the large Palestinian minority within Israel – so Netanyhu probably assumes that his new demand will help him avoid meaningful negotiations or concessions.

Why is this claim so absurd? For once, because the nature of the state of Israel – whether it is a Jewish state or “a state for all its citizens” or whatever other model – is the business of the its citizens, not the International community or the Palestinian Authority. We can just as well demand that Mahmud Abbas will announce that he accepts Israel as a Parliamentary Democracy. And what if we all decide to be Republicans tomorrow?

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Netanyahu’s father discusses the peace process: excerpts from the exclusive Maariv interview (part I)

Posted: April 3rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

My paper, Maariv, published an eight pages interview Sari Makover-Belikov did with professor Ben Zion Netanyahu, Benjamin Netanyahu’s 99 year old father. Netanyahu often refers to his father as the person who inspired him the most. When he resigned from the government just before the disengagement from Gaza, Netanyahu mentioned his father as one of the reasons for his move (Prof. Netanyahu opposed the disengagement plan). “From you I’ve learned, father,” said Netanyahu that day.

In this interview, Prof. Ben Zion (who’s mind and thinking are clear as ever – in fact, he is about to go on a work tour to the US) explains his political views in length, discusses the dangers from the Left in Israel, and even passes judgment on his son’s character. He also discusses personal issues, such as his relations with Netanyahu’s wife, their kids and how he misses his son, Yoni, who was killed leading Operation Entebbe in 1976.

Prof. Netanyahu gave the interview without informing the PM’s office. As walla.co.il reported, Benjamin Netanyahu tried to prevent the publishing of this interview, and even called Maariv’s publisher, Ofer Nimrodi, on the matter. Finally it was agreed that because of the father’s age, the PM’s brother, Ido, will have the right to go over his answers. I believe this makes this interview even more valid, since Ido wouldn’t have let Maariv publish a text which doesn’t reflect the father’s personality and views.

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