Netanyahu: Who is He Deceiving?

“Is it the age of the grays?’ asks Israeli journalist Eitan Haber as he laments the current leadership in Israel and its policies. “The crisis we have in Israel is not political, social or economical neither it is a matter of national security”, he says, but “the real crisis lies in the lack of leadership”. He goes on to say that demagoguery is the current popular belief characterizing the current leadership that dismisses the right and the left in Israel, leaving the shelf empty with no qualified national leaders in sight”. He then asks with hidden ridicule: “What are we going to do?” only to answer that “if we do not import leaders, like Bill Clinton, we will be stuck with what we have. Maybe after Netanyahu when elections draw nearer or by divine intervention, this age could become the age of the grays”, meaning the age of the colorless and clueless leaders who lack principles and vision.

The popularity of Netanyahu in the polls does not exceed 30% while fluctuating a little according ‘to the deal of the day’. During the last two and half years, his popularity hovered around 25% among the population who supported his performance as the prime minister of Israel. Compared to Sharon whose popularity never went below 50% and Olmert with the lowest poll around 40%, Netanyahu has attained the lowest popularity rate as a prime minister. Sever Plocker of Yediot Ahronot sees the fluctuations being caused by the ongoing conflict between “the old Bibi” (Netanyahu’s nickname) and “the new Bibi”. So “when ‘the new Bibi’ has the upper hand, his popularity shoots up” he goes on to say, but “when ‘the old Bibi’ is in control, a separation takes place between the prime minister and his public. The Israeli public with all its various factions is sending a clear message to Netanyahu saying: set aside your foolish beliefs and listen to us”. Plocker also explained that “When Netanyahu supports the principle of a two-state solution, his support shoots up in the polls and so his support for a recommendation by the Quartet on the Middle East to resume negotiations as well as his move to negotiate the release of Shalit with Hamas. And when he adopted the economic policy which was in contrast with the policy of “old Bibi” his popularity went up”.

Now with the end of the Knesset recess, Netanyahu is getting ready to face several proposals of racist nature awaiting endorsement by the Knesset and stipulating that (a) Israelis who served in the military be given preference in filling jobs in public departments, (b) a declaration of loyalty to a ‘Jewish state’ is required as a condition to obtain an Israeli citizenship and (c) the Israeli interior minister be authorized to withdraw the Israeli citizenship from anyone who works against the State of Israel, a loose measure that threatens unjust encroachment on individual and collective freedoms. In this context, Israeli observers and analysts believe that all the above will get Netanyahu headaches. Professor of politics Neve Gordon recently described the Israeli government as being “afflicted with confusion” with the opposition putting the responsibility on Netanyahu because “he completely lacks a political vision”. Professor Denis Charbit blames Netanyahu “because he does not have the intelligence of previous prime ministers which made him fail to sign any peace agreement (with the Palestinians)”.  Dan Sheldon of the Union of Jewish Students recently warned Netanyahu with harsh words in the midst of a wave of social protests, saying “The public demonstrations taking place in Israel, Mr. Prime Minister, shall also remove you. The new rabbit which you are riding now to cut down indirect taxes points to the hysteria afflicting you. It is too late……nothing will stop these demonstrations…. go see the President with your resignation in hand…. your way of degrading the public demonstrations will only increase your isolation. Nothing whatsoever would save you from your end as a prime minister”. Indeed, in spite of Netanyahu’s calls for a resumption of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, he absolutely does not want to see a two-state solution implemented. All his efforts seek to delay and prevent such a solution from ever seeing the light of the day. He has managed to survive due to the steady support he receives from the American Congress that has been carrying on with a policy contrary to that being promoted by the White House. This is why, Alon Ben-Meir, a professor of international relations at New York University recently said that Netanyahu’s continuous policy of belittlement and scorn poses a direct threat to the National Security of Israel. In his Ben-Meir words: “Delaying and preventing a political settlement between Israelis and Palestinians is being viewed by Netanyahu and his group as a victory”. This is nothing, he concluded, “but a self deceit that would lead to a self defeat which will put in dire danger the very survival of Israel as a state”.