Netanyahu will also ask the president, gently and politely, to make clear to the Palestinians that he does not intend to present and force an American peace plan, and therefore they would do well to start moving and show up for talks.
The West Bank construction freeze of all things should not be a problem: Firstly, because there was really never a full freeze, even for a moment. Secondly, because it’s possible to maintain a freeze without declaring it. A few days ago, AIPAC’s top brass visited Israel. AIPAC leaders met with Netanyahu and other ministers. They agreed that once the freeze period ends, Israel will engage in restrained, moderate construction in the West Bank and report to AIPAC accurately and in advance on every house or balcony to be built.
Netanyahu is a wise, realistic man who knows how to read a map and realizes what’s at stake. Here we have the nuclear Iran, there we have demographic-political processes, in the midst of it all there’s the occupation, and coming up from behind we have the rapid erosion in the State of Israel’s legitimacy.
Netanyahu realizes that he must take action. He knows he must do it during his watch, and now. However, he has gathered around him a bunch of ministers who would better serve as a collector’s item. Benny Begin, whose decision to join the government proved he is more of a fanatic than an idealist. The simplistic Bogi Yaalon, who uttered amazing jokes about Ben-Gurion voting Likud had he been alive today, and declared that our situation has never been better. Then there’s Eli Yishai, who fears former Shas leader Aryeh Deri more than he fears god.
Netanyahu can and must shake them off, yet he hesitates. He wants to do it but he’s scared. I believe that a man his age should know that one should fear nothing but for fear itself.
Putting Shas in its place
During his premiership, Ariel Sharon threw Shas out of the government. I asked him how he did it. Listen, he said, I took Eli Yishai with me to meet President Bush. Do you know what it’s like to fly with Eli Yishai for 12 hours? I said yes. Why do you say yes? Sharon asked - you have no idea. Do you know what it’s like to fly back with Eli Yishai in the same plane for 12 hours? I said yes. Why do you say yes? Sharon asked again - you have no clue. And after all that this cheeky man dares speak out against me?
The Shas movement is attached to the State budget like a necktie on one’s neck. It has no other source of livelihood. Hence, Shas is a member of Netanyahu’s coalition; it has no other partner. Instead of connecting the dots and putting Shas in its place, Netanyahu allows it to serve as a rightist obstacle and intends to lavish more funds on it.
The late Menachem Begin reached a popular support peak after he returned Sinai and the Yamit region to Egypt, despite his promise to move there. Sharon became immensely popular after carrying out the Gaza disengagement, despite his pledge to Gush Katif communities. Settler activists these days mock Netanyahu with their “keep your word” campaign. Yet history proves that one does not have to keep one’s word, but rather, must take real action.
Amnon Abramovich is Channel 2’s news commentator
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