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Nahum Barnea
Netanyahu the converso
Op-ed: Appointment of new central bank chief just another example of PM's zigzagging

The prime minister's father dedicated many years of his life to studying the conversos in Spain. Conversos (or "Marranos") were Jews who publicly recanted the Jewish faith and adopted Christianity under the pressure of the Spanish Inquisition, but they secretly yearned for their previous religion. They worshiped one god publically, and worshipped another in the basements of their homes.

 

Sometimes the focus of a man's work is passed on to his son. Perhaps this was the case with the politician son of Benzion Netanyahu. He opposed the Oslo agreement, but signed the Wye and Hebron agreements; he was against the disengagement from Gaza but voted in favor of it; he opposed the Shalit deal and then embraced it warmly; he was against the release of prisoners who are Israeli citizens and prisoners with blood on their hands, but agreed to release them as a gesture to Kerry and Abbas; he was opposed to the appointment of Karnit Flug as Bank of Israel governor, and after four months of embarrassing foot-dragging he welcomed the appointment.

 

This, more or less, is how the conversos managed to survive in hostile surroundings. Some of them produced pretty good careers from their double lives.

 

There is nothing wrong with a pragmatic prime minister who understands that in real life you cannot always get what you want. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and compromise. Netanyahu's problem is the gap between his self image of a determined man who values his principles more than his position - and his actual conduct. "The prime minister instructed," "the prime minister decided," read the statements coming out of his office. We will never see his office issue a statement saying "the prime minister was forced," "the prime minister changed his mind" or "the prime minister was coerced into."

 

Netanyahu's determination dissipates as soon as he realizes that if he continues to insist he'll pay a personal price. This is his breaking point. He is not the only politician who acts this way. If Netanyahu is different from other politicians, it is in the effort he invests in denial.

 

Unfortunately, the process Netanyahu goes through again and again is no state secret. The Iranian enemy knows; this is why it disregards the threats issued by Israel. The American ally knows; this is why John Kerry threatens to bring the stagnating peace negotiations with the Palestinians to the moment of truth, when he will force Abbas and Netanyahu to pay a price for running away from decisions. The ultra-right faction within Likud also knows, and it is preparing for battle.

 

Zeev Elkin, Yariv Levin and their friends are not counting on Netanyahu's hawkish statements and his resiliency. On the contrary: They are counting on his weakness. They believe they will be able to fend off the pressure the Americans will apply on the PM with threats of their own. As soon as the negotiations reach the six-month mark, the Americans will demand that Netanyahu evacuate additional territories in the West Bank or accept the UN Security Council's resolution regarding the establishment of a Palestinian state. The hawkish Likud members believe that when Netanyahu will have to decide between a crisis with the US and being overthrown as party chairman, he will surrender to them.

 

To this day it is not known why Netanyahu initially dismissed Karnit Flug. It is easier to understand why he changed his mind: He realized that the sharp drop in public support for Yair Lapid and his party forces Lapid to stick to his guns. He desperately needs a victory, and Netanyahu understood that the public is putting most of the blame for the farce on him. Ninety-nine percent of Israelis have no idea who Flug, Medina, Blejer or Eckstein are or what are the differences between them, but they expect their prime minister to make a decision. They are particularly anxious when they sense that the decision will affect their pockets.

 

Flug made the right move when she ignored the insult and accepted the appointment. Losers are offended, while winners have the last word. She doesn't owe her appointment to anyone, and this is a very promising start for the governor of the central bank of Israel.

 

 

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