Wild zigzags. Netanyahu
Photo: Reuters

Netanyahu isn’t a leader

Op-ed: Israel never had a leader like PM Netanyahu, who simply can’t make decisions

Since 1977, the Likud has won most elections held in Israel. Its old slogan, “Only Likud Can,” is probably still the most successful campaign slogan in the party’s history; three words that embody a whole political reality. The assumption they’re based on has already turned into a cliché around here: Only a rightist government can lead bold diplomatic moves, because alongside the automatic leftist support, such government can enlist a significant part of the rightist public and politicians who represent it to the cause.


This analysis is very logical, yet it is also premised on two key aspects regarding the Likud prime minister in power: Desire and leadership. Ariel Sharon was so determined to pass the Gaza disengagement that at some point he split Likud and swept half the party behind him. Earlier, Menachem Begin decided to go for a historic peace treaty with Egypt without batting an eyelid.


Here’s a brief example to illustrate the point: During one of the critical negotiation phases, Begin paid a visit to the IDF headquarters in Rapidim. Top officers presented him with a comprehensive assessment, arguing that the planned withdrawal from Sinai would prompt a strategic disaster for the State of Israel. Begin sat there quietly for hours, listened politely, and then got up and said: “Gentlemen, I got it. Thank you, but I decided to sign a peace treaty with Egypt.” The rest is history.


There are also the opposite examples. Yitzhak Shamir was dragged to the Madrid Conference against his will. The results were commensurate with this.


At this time, it’s very hard to determine anything about Benjamin Netanyahu’s desire: Beyond political survival, nobody has declared on his behalf what he truly wants to get, and not only on the diplomatic front. The problem has to do with the second aspect, leadership. There, the picture is becoming clearer all the time. He just doesn’t have it. The people of Israel elected a leader who isn’t really a leader.


King of zigzags

One woman and 11 men have served as prime minister in Israel thus far. Some of them were better than others, and all of them can be blamed for mistakes and failures. Yet we’ve never had a prime minister like Netanyahu: We are dealing with a person who simply cannot make decisions.


In his current term in office, we have not yet seen even one issue where he did not wildly zigzag (or worse, disappear at the moment of truth.) Tax reductions, imposing taxes on fruit and vegetables, preserving national heritage sites, transportation reform, settlement construction freeze, Turkish flotilla probe, Gaza blockade, deportation of foreign children, the wars of the generals – you name it. There is not even one area that has escaped Netanyahu’s lack of leadership.


This is a rather amazing phenomenon. Ministers and Knesset members of all factions and camps share this amazement. One of them, a rightist, likened Netanyahu recently to a certain object that can be easily shaped into any desirable form. As not to be disrespectful to the prime minister, I will leave it at that.


Politicians and other senior officials insist that they came up with the only way to influence Netanyahu – just be the last person who enters the room before he makes a decision. This joke is funny the first time you hear it. After the third or seventh time it’s no longer amusing.


The Likud includes level-headed, moderate ministers who understand the need for diplomatic compromise – for example, Dan Meridor, Gideon Sa’ar, and Michael Eitan. Yet they’ve been abandoned out there. Had Netanyahu left to Washington while showing real leadership in respect to the current move vis-à-vis the Palestinians, others could have joined him, in the government, at the Knesset, and on the street. Yet right now it’s difficult to see this happening. The peace camp had been described as dreamy by its rivals in the past, but even delusions have a limit.



פרסום ראשון: 08.30.10, 11:12
 new comment
This will delete your current comment