Thursday, August 11, 2005

My Netanyahu Illusion 

I've pulled for Bibi, voted for Bibi, believed in Bibi. I wish I still could, but I'm having trouble maintaining the illusion. I'm starting to accept that maybe Bibi really is nothing more than a talented, well-spoken ball of raw, unquenchable ambition.

He wants us to believe he's a leader. Heck, I want to believe he's a leader. But I no longer think he is.

Consider some of his recent statements:

In 1993, in the midst of the euphoria over the Oslo agreement, I warned that terrorism would plague us from all the areas we transferred to the
Palestinians and that there would be missiles shot at us from Gaza. It didn t happen immediately. It took time.

In 1995, I warned that Muslim zealots would bomb the World Trade Center in New York. It didn't happen immediately. It took time. But it happened.

Today as well, when I warn about the establishment of a base for Islamic terrorism in Gaza, the realization of the danger doesn't have to happen immediately but, sadly, the possibility that it will happen is very tangible and only increases as time passes.

As I warned, the Hamas is strengthening, the terror continues, the firing of rockets and mortars on our communities has not ended, and terror elements proclaim that they will move the rockets that drove us out of the Gaza Strip to Judea and Samaria, and from there will operate them until "the complete liberation of Palestine."

I do not know when the terror will break out in full force. It is possible that it will take a month or two or a year or two. It is possible that the terror will first break out in Judea and Samaria. I hope that it won't break out at all. But just as I warned in 1993 that the Oslo Agreement will bring attacks from Judea and Samaria and rockets from Gaza, so I unfortunately am convinced today that the current move will bring in the course of time to an increase in terror rather than a decrease.
There are those who lead, and those who warn. It's very nice that Bibi has the luxury of sagely wagging his finger from time to time, and then returning to the scene when it's convenient, to remind everyone of how right he was. But this is not leadership. In fact, leadership is sometimes wrong, but it knows how to cope with its mistakes and correct them. I get the feeling Bibi is more comfortable being right than actually leading.

To be fair though, he doesn't remind us of his various past successful prophecies just in order to fluff up his leadership credentials. He wants us to realize that he sees the truth, and that we should trust his judgement. All else being equal, demonstrating a pattern of correct prognosis does provide a somewhat limited justification for believing in future assertions by the same person. All else being equal.

But with Bibi, all else is not equal. For in him we see another pattern, an ability to tack back and forth ideologically, seeking tactical position wherever his opponent du-jour leaves an opening. If that means signing agreements with Arafat and giving away territory, so be it. If it means warning of existential threats to prevent signing agreements or giving away territory, so be it. But he'll be back to tell you why he was right in either case.

Lastly, though, I am troubled that in his haste to answer every critic's charge that he has jumped too late, he damages the very cause he claims to support and want to lead. His answer is that he stayed in Government, de facto helping support a cause he claims to oppose, waiting for a very perfect day to resign where his critical economic reforms would not be sacrificed.

Hey, I fully support his economic reforms and would love to see them succeed. But this strikes me as a bit of a stretch even on the simplest level. The stock market sank on news of his resignation, apparently believing that his reforms still could be lost, apparently not agreeing with Bibi's assessment that he'd found that perfect day. And yet, when Sharon appointed Olmert and promised to stay the economic course, the stock market recovered. Could it be that Bibi could have resigned all along, that his reforms could have been saved without sacrificing the fight against the harrowing threat he was warning about?

But the damage of his short-sighted need to answer every charge goes a little deeper. For he has now provided the world with a cap on his assessment of the potential damages Disengagement could cause. Does the foremost spokesman against Disengagement, the man who would lead, believe that it is an existential threat to Israel? Apparently not, or he should have resigned immediately rather than sit on his butt in the cabinet supporting an economic package. Apparently Bibi wants to convince the world that Disengagement is about as dangerous as a 1% difference in marginal tax rate, or the destructive power of an unprivatized banking system.

In the coming power struggles, if Bibi truly cares about the cause of opposing Sharon and the Disengagement mindset, perhaps he should call up Uzi Landau and see if he could use a talented spokesperson.

In the meantime, we have been warned.
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