God is not in the small details, but rather, in the big words, and the moment the words “Palestinian state” came out of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reluctant mouth, we are in a different world.
“I am about to speak here courageously and honestly,” Netanyahu said, and surprisingly he delivered. There was quite a bit of political courage in the fact that he recognized the two-state vision Sunday night, with the clear knowledge that he is about to be pounded by all those people who brought him to power only three months ago.
And there was honesty in all the reservations he raised. One can accept them or not, but at least there is no doubt that Netanyahu believes himself. He did not try to circumvent, but rather, raised all the points bothering every sane Israeli who does not put his hand in the sand, one by one: Palestinian rejectionism, the incitement, Hamas’ rise in Gaza, and the right of return.
Netanyahu passed the classic Israeli leadership test Sunday night: If not everyone is pleased, it’s an indication he did the right thing.
The Left will argue that his many reservations will bury his recognition of the two-state vision; the Right will say that this recognition marks the end of the Zionist dream; the Americans won’t like the brief mention of the natural growth in the settlements. Yet all of them are wrong. We did not see a burial ceremony yesterday, but rather, the launch of a new product: Netanyahu 2009, the upgraded model.
Words stronger than weapons
In 2003, the very same Netanyahu abstained in the vote on the same principles he endorsed last night. The shock will come soon. The coalition will be slammed and will engage in debates, the settlers will protest, Netanyahu himself will have to explain himself to death, yet he understands – or is supposed to understand – that there is no turning back.
The person who chose to quote the Declaration of Independence in his speech knows – or ought to know – that words shape reality more than all weapons. The Palestinian state was established last night through Netanyahu’s mouth, while the Greater State dream was once and for all hurled beyond the Israeli fence. The delusional ones on the Right and Left will play with it a little more, until it rusts and crumbles, while we engage in a final battle for the terms.
His reservations – both the logical ones and the less logical ones – will be placed on the negotiations table tomorrow and be attacked time and again. We should hope that he will do a better job than his predecessors, but we are starting from a whole new place. The Palestinians will have a state. Time will tell what kind of state it will be.