Entering 2014, inside Netanyahu’s head

Jan 02, 2014| Courtesy by : timesofisrael.com

What the prime minister just might be telling himself as the new year rolls in

Oh, they’re all so clever, aren’t they? They think they could do this job better than me? Puhlease. They don’t come up to my ankles.

Why did you release prisoners? Why didn’t you freeze settlements? Why this. Why that.

Memories like sieves, the lot of them. I tried the freeze once, didn’t I? November 2009 to September 2010. Fat lot of good it did. Abbas didn’t even talk to me for the first nine of the ten months, and then turned up only so he could walk away. But there’s your precedent: Obviously I’m willing to suspend settlement building. Only this time, Abbas wouldn’t have come to the table at all with that kind of freeze. He wanted a stop everywhere, including East Jerusalem. Well, sorry folks, but that’s a fridge too far. I won’t ice up building in our capital, not for Abbas, not even for Kerry.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, left, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, and PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Jerusalem, September 15, 2010 (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

So that left me with the prisoner releases. No, I’m not comfortable with it. Yes, it tells you everything you need to know about our “partners” that this is what they want: Bring our beloved murderers back home. But I couldn’t allow Israel to be the player that prevented the peace talks. Politics is the art of the possible. The impossible takes me a little longer.

Okay, they snipe, but why now announce new settlement plans as some kind of punitive measure? We betray the terror victims’ families, undermine our justice system, and invite more attacks by setting the killers free, and then undo any benefit — among the Palestinians, internationally — by declaring we’ll add hundreds more homes in the territories?

Yes, yes, yes, I’ve heard it all before. Well, first, let’s remind ourselves that all the sides know we didn’t promise to halt building; so this is no surprise to anyone. And Abbas knows that if he wants flexibility from me, there’ll have to be flexibility from him. And I’m not seeing any of that. Why give them something for nothing? That’ll only reinforce their intransigence. If they don’t internalize that they’ll have to give if they want to take, this peace process is going nowhere.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m serious about this process. I’ll keep trying on the Palestinian front — within my parameters. On the left they sneer that I’m plunging this country into international isolation; on the right they’re telling me I’ve gone soft. They should try sitting in this chair. Heaven forbid. Still, I think Kerry is starting to internalize that I’m not just making excuses. I don’t want a binational state. I can’t say it any more clearly than that. But I can’t have a repeat of Lebanon and Gaza in the West Bank — an Israeli pullout, with terrorists filling the vacuum. And international forces cannot substitute for our own. We don’t subcontract our security.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary Of State John Kerry speak to the press in Jerusalem. Sunday, September 15, 2013 (photo credit: Emil Salman/Pool/Flash90)

I’m willing to show flexibility on borders and land swaps. I’m willing to stop building in areas where we won’t be sovereign; that’s pretty much the situation already, to be honest. But I do insist that they recognize Israel as the Jewish state. That’s what “end of conflict” really means. Otherwise, even a return to something like the pre-1967 lines won’t be the end of it. They’ll try to whip up the Bedouin, and the Arabs of the Galilee, and Jaffa. Though of course they’ll do that anyway… And the world will be cheering them on.

Oh lord, now I’m hearing that some of the victims’ families first learned from Facebook that the killers of their loved ones were going free? Who did I tell to make sure this was handled properly? Dysfunctional, that’s the word for it. But truth is, you just can’t get the staff.

Curse the presidential fates

I could be forgiven the temptation to curse the quirks of recent presidential fate. Sharon and Olmert had eight years of George W. Bush. And what did they do with it? Think what he and I could have done together, on the Palestinians, on Iran.

Instead, I get Clinton and Obama… Sigh.

But this kind of thinking gets me nowhere. Move forward.

US president George W. Bush shake hands with Benjamin Netanyahu, head of the opposition, at the Knesset on May 15, 2008. Bush delivered a speech to mark the Jewish state's 60th birthday. (Photo credit: Lior Mizrahi/pool/FLASH90)

I shudder at the misjudgment displayed thus far in talks with Iran. Forgive the sarcasm, but what a great agreement those P5+1 negotiators reached in Geneva: the Iranians get the “right” to keep enriching; they get to continue R&D on their centrifuges, so that their breakout time to the bomb gets shorter and shorter; and the deal doesn’t cover weaponization work at all, so they get to keep refining their warheads, missile systems and all other aspects of delivering the bomb. Great. Just marvelous.

We have so much to gain by an effective diplomatic resolution of the crisis, a resolution that stops Iran’s nuclear drive. But this isn’t it. It’s a lousy interim deal — and, how unsurprising, the Iranians are proving hard to pin down on the final “technical details..” I see Rouhani now saying they might wrap up the interim deal in a month or two. He’s a wily operator, that one, up against amateurs.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton, right, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, arrive for a photo opportunity prior to the start of three days of closed-door nuclear talks in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Keystone,Salvatore Di Nolfi)

So, yes, we may have to take care of this sorry business ourselves. Maybe ‘my friend Barack’ believes the US can live with Iran as a nuclear threshold state. Well, we can’t.

And when they tell me I’d be “defying the entire international community” if I strike at Iran, there are quite a few players in this part of the world who’d be singing my praises. Okay, miming my praises.

Netanyahu and Obama meet at the White House in 2011. (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/Government Press Office/Flash90)

Shifting alliances

It’s all about cultivating alliances, this job. Alliances, and confidence. Oh, and education. Alliances and confidence and education.

You need an education — you need to read your history and know your history. To know that hatred of Jews is perennial, that even the warmest hosts can turn cold to the Jews in an instant, and that only Jewish sovereignty offers real protection. Take France — the Jews are flooding here now, and I welcome them all. When there are ten times as many Muslims and Jews in a country, and “comedians” are patenting new versions of Nazi-style salutes and winning widespread emulation, the writing on the wall is hard to ignore.

Nicolas Anelka makes the 'quenelle' gesture on December 28 (screenshot: YouTube)

Then, in this job, you need the confidence to set the right goals and see them through. And for that you need alliances – but alliances shift.

You think I don’t recognize Yvet’s prime ministerial ambitions? Well, apart from the New Year’s Day present of filling in for me while I had my medical check-up, Liberman can dream. But that partnership with Yisrael Beytenu is what got me safely back into this job in January. That and Sheldon. I dread to think where I’d be without Israel Hayom. Of course, we’d have gotten 50 seats if Haaretz and Yedioth weren’t relentlessly out to get me…

China's Prime Minister Li Keqiang and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu review an honor guard at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 8, 2013. (Photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO/FLASH90)

Where was I? Alliances, right. At home and abroad. The world’s changing. We need to look at China now, and Central and South America. And the cyber world. I’m not saying give up on the United States, heaven forbid. But the US contributed a third of global GDP in 2000, and pretty soon it’ll be down to a sixth. Makes you think…

Some new year resolutions

1. On security, stick to my simple maxims: One, we have to snuff out the most dangerous threats to Israel before they can snuff us out. Period. And two, zero tolerance: We have to hit back, hard, even at “minor” provocations. That’s where Arik Sharon was wrong. There’ll be no “drip, drip” of unanswered rocket attacks or border sniper fire on my watch.

2. Insist on reciprocity, as ever, on the Palestinians: They give, they’ll get.

3. Remember, coalitions come and go, prime ministers stay: If Bennett and Lapid prove too troublesome, there’s always Deri and Herzog.

4. Don’t let them grind me down: Honestly, is there anyone who could do this job better than me? There’s nobody, right? Right. Note to self: Don’t forget that fact in 2014.

Read more: Entering 2014, inside Netanyahu’s head | The Times of Israel http://www.timesofisrael.com/entering-2014-inside-netanyahus-head/#ixzz2pESEjUw3
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