Nahum Barnea

Give Bibi a chance

Netanyahu given rare political gift: Second chance as prime minister

In a day or two, the new government ministers will get together for their festive yearbook photo, with the president and prime minister in the middle. Based on the number of ministers, it would be proper to take the photo at the Jerusalem soccer stadium, with the ministers taking over the pitch and their bodyguards taking over the bleachers, but our ministers are good people: They are willing to crowd for the photographer.


Despite its outlandish size, despite the mistakes made en route to establishing it, and despite the suspicion it is being received with in large parts of the world, the Netanyahu government is the only one we have. It is not exactly the government that the voters of Kadima, Likud, Labor or Shas dreamed of, but it is a legitimate government. It must be given a chance.


In the coming days all the politicians, including the ones who secretly pray for the government’s quick downfall, will say they wish it good luck. This is not about giving a chance; it’s about manners. I’m talking about a real effort to separate the important from the less important on the government’s agenda, and for several weeks at least put aside the secondary items and focus on the essence.


From its first day, the Netanyahu government will contend with two major fronts: One is the economic crisis. Those who listened to Netanyahu’s statements on economic issues in recent weeks were very impressed by his command of the terms, his familiarity with what’s going on in other countries, and his confidence in his ability to overcome, by himself, the crisis at record speed. The solutions he is talking about, topped by tax cutbacks, are less convincing. Netanyahu is much less determined than what he is conveying to the public.


The truth is that the confusion is global. There isn’t one leader in the world who knows how long the crisis will last and what to do to make the recovery faster. Never before have governments thrown so many billions into the economy while praying that the bank gods show mercy and that the storm will pass. In terms of the Israeli economy, what Obama and Bernanke will do is more meaningful than what our local economic leaders do. Netanyahu’s instinct will push him to cut down the budget, decrease regulation, and nurture the free market. He will be tested on his ability to successfully do the opposite of what he preached for as a finance minister.


Second chance club 

The second front to be faced by the government is diplomatic and military. Seemingly, there is government consensus: Netanyahu, Barak, and Lieberman do not believe there is a chance to secure peace agreements. However, the conclusion each one of them drew from this is different. As Barak does not believe anyone, he is willing to talk to anyone. He believes in limited understandings that would allow for security calm between violent rounds.


Meanwhile, Lieberman’s rhetoric aims for elimination. If Iran is building a nuclear bomb, the solution is to bomb Tehran. If Egypt insults us, the solution is to bomb the Aswan dam. If Hamas fires missiles, we need to topple Hamas’ regime in Gaza. If Barak believes in limited understandings, Lieberman believes in removing threats.


Netanyahu is focused on the Iranian threat, which he views as the essence of everything. Based on his worldview, Israel will not be able to coexist alongside a nuclear Iran. If the international pressure on Iran fails, the US needs to be convinced to act military, or alternately, Israel needs to prepare for independent military action.


A policy of understandings in line with Barak’s views has no chance in the Netanyahu government. Initiating wars in line with Lieberman’s approach also has very little chance: It is doubtful whether Foreign Minister Lieberman, even him, will adopt the belligerent rhetoric of Lieberman from Yisrael Beiteinu. The compromise will be neither elimination not understandings, but rather, maintaining the status quo.


Except for the Iranian issue; this issue cannot be put on hold. Netanyahu will look up to Obama’s America: Perhaps salvation shall come from there. There are two questions here: Whether Obama will be able to subject his agenda to Israel’s, and whether Netanyahu will be willing to accommodate the American president on a series of issues, topped by the negotiations on the establishment of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu will be able to draw out the negotiations; it is uncertain whether he will be able to fool his rightist partners.


Netanyahu was given a rare gift in politics: A second chance as prime minister. Barak too was given a gift: A second chance as defense minister. Lieberman, meanwhile, has been given a priceless opportunity to leave the empty slogans that brought him here behind him. The Netanyahu government’s kitchen-cabinet will be the second chance club.


Netanyahu probably assumes that there will be no third chance. He will do everything he can in order not to fail. He deserves a chance: Perhaps this time it will work out for him.


פרסום ראשון: 03.30.09, 19:15
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