The Zionist Conspiracy
Friday, December 23, 2005
I may be one of the few people who likes Binyamin Netanyahu, who is now back as leader of the Likud - albeit a Likud in crisis following Prime Minister Sharon's formation of the Kadima party.
No doubt, Netanyahu is an opportunist, but no more than most Israeli politicians. As I see it, Netanyahu has long been torn between his nationalist ideology and his sense that one needs to be pragmatic. In other words, between his heart and his mind.
I am sympathetic with that inner conflict because it is one that I fully share. I too have right-wing sentiments in constant battle with my understanding that political moderation and pragmatism are necessary in the support of Israel's rights in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
When push comes to shove, Netanyahu usually chooses the pragmatic approach, infuriating the right-wing. That's what happened when he implemented the withdrawal from Hebron (an agreement signed by Prime Minister Rabin under Oslo 2), the Wye Agreement, and his initial (if highly conditional and very unenthusiastic) support for the Gaza withdrawal.
Ultimately, however, Netanyahu's ideology tugs at him. As a result, though at Wye he agreed to cede 13 percent of Judea and Samaria, he only implemented a withdrawal from two percent, because the Palestinians did not comply with their obligation to crush Hamas. When Sharon ignored Netanyahu's demands relating to Gaza, Netanyahu resigned from the government and expressed opposition to any unilateral withdrawal. And it was Netanyahu who, when Sharon accepted a Palestinian state in 2002, challenged Sharon in the Likud primaries. And lost.
All of this infuriates the Israeli media. For them, it's bad enough to be right-wing, but to tease them with moderation like Netanyahu does only to then return to his right-wing instincts is deemed unforgivable.
The sad thing, for those on the right, is that whenever he chooses his heart over his mind, Netanyahu loses. The Likud battle over a Palestinian state was one example. Another was the aftermath of the Wye agreement. It infuriated the right, which idiotically responded by bringing down his government. When Netanyahu then wouldn't implement the withdrawal, he infuriated the center, and lost the ensuing election to Ehud Barak whose concessions dwarfed anything Netanyahu ever imagined.
A Likud victory in the upcoming election remains very unlikely, but if it makes a respectable showing and finishes ahead of Labor, Netanyahu hopefully won't be deposed as its leader and will remain either as Sharon's senior coalition partner or as leader of the opposition, a position in which he excelled from 1993-1996 when he eloquently led the opposition to the Rabin-Peres government's concessions to the Palestinians and Syrians.
While those on the extreme right may not see much difference between Likud under Netanyahu and Kadima under Sharon, it's worth remembering, as Caroline Glick points out in today's Jerusalem Post, that a few months ago, Ehud Olmert, likely Kadima's number 2 to Sharon, told the Israel Policy Forum: "We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies."
Netanyahu understands that, unfortunately, Israel still must continue to fight, be courageous, win, and defeat its enemies. If for no other reason than that, the distinction between Likud and Kadima is quite clear.