Iran plus nuclear warheads for ballistic missiles is not a good pairing. This basic premise leaves no room for flowery talk. This axiom is not even open for argument for argument's sake. Iran already today is digging its predatory claws into the Middle East, North Africa, the Persian Gulf and other parts of the globe.
Israel's prime ministers since the early 1990s – Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert – gave the matter their full and earnest attention, and were open to bold diplomatic steps to prevent this evil too. They were willing to take action. Benjamin Netanyahu is keen on writing speeches.
On Tuesday afternoon, Netanyahu delivered the address of his life, a text of artistic and rhetorical value – somewhere, from his perspective, between Elazar Ben-Yair's final speech at the Siege of Masada and the opening address of prosecutor Gideon Hausner at the trial of Adolf Eichmann.
Netanyahu has had six years at his disposal to launch a strike against the Iranian nuclear program; or,alternatively, to strengthen Israel's alliance with the Americans; to build a relationship of trust with the Europeans; to convince Vladimir Putin, whose friendship he boasts of; to warm up to China, in whose direction he seeks to move and on which he strives to base Israel's economy; or to offer incentives to the moderate Arab states that also fear Iran and with whom he claims to be engaged in secret talks.
Instead, however, he burned all ties; he screwed up every connection; he eroded his own personal legitimacy and ours from an international point of view. His words placed Iran at the center – his policies favored the Likud Central Committee and the Merkaz HaRav Kook Yeshiva.
Netanyahu defined the formula: Give, and you'll get; don't give, and you won't get. Another prime minister, Sharon, would later carry that formula over to the Road Map, and condition progress in the talks with the Palestinians on practical tests and not predetermined dates. But Netanyahu gave nothing and got nothing, and he isn't capable of giving anything, to anyone.
A common thread runs between his personal and political conduct: He doesn't pay for a thing. He rolls over his expenses onto others – his personal expenses onto the state coffers, and his political expenses onto the future of the country.
The housing crisis, for example, is testimony to the futility and ineffectualness of his speeches. This is an issue that rests entirely in his hands and the hands of his government, an issue devoid of external intervention or input.
At a cabinet meeting five years ago, on January 17, 2010, he came out with a brilliant speech on the housing problem and its solution. Ethos and pathos. Decisiveness and a practical vision.
Among other things, he said: "Housing prices are astronomical. Construction is stifled. Young couples are living with their parents. Israeli citizens are forced to mortgage most of their lives for an apartment. We are bringing a revolution today. We're not simply spouting words – we're going for decisions and implementation. I have defined the objectives. We're bringing a new planning and construction law. We'll get its first reading passed already during the current Knesset session. The second and third readings will come in the next session."
That was in the previous government, which he says functioned excellently, which was a shining example of governance. Yair Lapid wasn't finance minister back then; it was Yuval Steinitz, his pet minister and playful MK.
The speech, as we all know, remained hanging in the air like a helium balloon. His words failed to add a single apartment to the market. Prices have risen 40 percent since then. And now too, his finely polished address to Congress won't stop a single centrifuge and won't dilute a single kilogram of enriched uranium. It will only further darken our already murky relations with the US administration.
Decades ago, the young Netanyahu pointed out the Nazi hole in the biography of then UN secretary-general Kurt Waldheim. He wasn't the first to spot it, but he was the first to take it on, to widen it, to expose it with such aplomb.
Netanyahu was and remains a skillful orator and media personality, without doubt – made of the same material that stars are made of. He's proved to be a failure yet again when it comes to managing policy; but he's second to none when it comes to talking policy.
He truly doesn't want Israel to become an apartheid state or a bi-national state –but during the course of his lengthy reign, it is becoming entrenched as such. A nuclear-armed Iran truly does give him nightmares and send shivers down his spine – but during the course of his lengthy reign, Iran is becoming just that.