Netanyahu. Faces a problematic audience
Photo: AFP
Photo: Meir Partush
Eitan Haber
Photo: Meir Partush

Netanyahu the juggler

Op-ed: Israel’s prime minister keeping several balls in air at this time, but can he keep doing it?

David Ben-Gurion (the State of Israel’s founder, for those who forgot) would fall ill every time he had to make fateful decisions. He took the decision to embark on the 1956 Sinai Campaign, for example, while suffering from fever, surrounded by his doctors. Menachem Begin, on the eve of historic decisions, would grow silent while directing warm glances at those around him (according to his fans – his rivals said these glances were scary.) Meanwhile, Yitzhak Rabin would grind his teeth and grow impatient and tense when facing fateful decisions.


And what about Benjamin Netanyahu? At this time, Netanyahu is doing a good job playing the role of the juggler keeping 10 balls in the air. However, in the circus of history before him he faces a problematic audience: The Americans, who already saw past performances in the circus, are suspicious of him and keep on peeking behind his back – what does he have there? How does he do that trick? Is it real? Meanwhile, the Palestinians are confused: In previous shows, he dropped the balls on the floor one by one and the crowd booed him. What’s happening here?


Ehud Barak and the rest of the Labor Party are smiling from ear to ear, and whispering (mostly to themselves): This is our trick, and these are our balls. We taught him how do to it. And what about the settlers? They cannot believe it. They heard Netanyahu’s opening remarks about “painful concessions” and already saw a previous juggler, Ariel Sharon, who rode on their back all the way to the premiership, and then switched the direction of the balls. The settlers know well that “painful concessions” means them. And the people of Israel? They’re indifferent. According to media reports, Israelis put more faith in Hassan Nasrallah words.


And all this great audience is looking at the floor: When will the balls fall? They want to be the first to know, because they are certain that Bibi will be falling along with the balls.


We need a leader

It’s hard to believe it will happen in the near future. The only person at this moment who can gain from Netanyahu’s fall is Tzipi Livni, yet the prime minister is playing with her and Kadima’s balls, with a few changes (crucial ones in her view,) and the public doesn’t see the nuances. In its view, at the moment, there is almost no difference between Netanyahu, Barak, and Livni.


Even if the polls don’t prove it conclusively, Netanyahu can relax: The Likud has turned into a dominant party – something like Mapai (the Labor Party’s predecessor), which ruled Israel for dozens of years. There is a generation living in Israel today that was born into a Likud regime and is clueless about the days of Labor. For this generation, the Likud has always been everything – 33 years in power with brief hiatuses. Likud has become the kind of party whereby people who vote for it don’t need to explain, let alone justify, their vote. On the other hand, voters for other parties usually tend to explain why they voted the way they did.


Under such circumstances, Netanyahu can therefore throw more and more balls into the air, and even draw cheers and amazement here and there. Yet the moment shall come when everyone – the Americans, the Palestinians, and the Israelis (including the settlers) – will whistle and cry out: Hey, we don’t need a juggler. We need a leader.



פרסום ראשון: 09.05.10, 18:31
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