Analysis: Another political wake-up call

Whenever PM makes fateful decision about Iran, chances are it will happen in the middle of the night.

August 14, 2012 16:14
3 minute read.
PM Netanyahu speaks to Jewish immigrants at BGU

Netanyahu R370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

At the end of the Passover Seder, when children are often fast asleep and their parents bloated with matza, there is a song called “And it happened in the middle of the night.”

The song describes miracles God performed for the Jewish people at night, from the times of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through the events that saved the Jews of Shushan in presentday Iran in the Book of Esther.

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When the Book of Esther‘s sixth chapter says that the king could not sleep, commentaries suggest that the text refers not only to the Persian king but also allegorically to the King of Kings – God himself, who was distressed by the fate of the Jewish people.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has never been compared to God, but Time Magazine did call him a king.

And Netanyahu seems to do his best work in the middle of the night.

That is when he can work quietly, behind the scenes, without the press he loathes, following his every move. Netanyahu has never been a morning person, and his former aides have lamented that their regular work hours often stretched into the wee hours of the night.

Netanyahu advanced the Likud leadership race at midnight in December. He scrapped plans for early elections and formed a national-unity government at 2 a.m. between May 7 and 8. Last month, he nearly split Kadima, holding meetings with disgruntled MKs until 3 a.m. And Monday night, he offered Kadima MK Avi Dichter the job of home front defense minister in a meeting that ended at 1:30 a.m.

The decision left Channel 2’s fiercely anti-Netanyahu commentator Amnon Abramowitz with egg on his face after he reported that the job was going to former IDF deputy chief of staff Uzi Dayan. Netanyahu also made newspapers critical of him look bad for reporting that the post was earmarked for former Mossad chief Danny Yatom.

Netanyahu got his revenge against his most critical media outlets. These had been reporting that no one wanted the job, and that Israel would be left with no one in charge of the home front at a time when a confrontation with Iran is imminent.

The prime minister, whose career was almost killed after then-prime minister Ariel Sharon split Likud, finally succeeded at his goal of bringing about a defection of an MK from Kadima. He did not split the party, but he brought in a much bigger fish than the seven backbenchers he tried to catch last month. If Dichter, who twice ran for Kadima leader, jumped ship, it presents a message to undecided voters that the party’s fate has been sealed.

But Netanyahu’s real foe is neither Kadima, nor Yediot Aharonot. And his deal with Dichter was aimed not at Ariel Sharon or Abramowitz but at Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Iran’s president.

Despite whatever the media will report over the next few days, adding Dichter to the cabinet does not mean that Israel will be attacking next month or the month after. Dichter will soon see that the job he took on himself of readying the home front will take a lot of work and a lot of time.

But Netanyahu did show Iran that he is getting ready for any possible eventuality. And he continued demonstrating to the world that he means business if they do not take immediate steps to prevent the nuclearization of Iran.

The prime minister will continue to hold his cards close to his chest on that front.

But whenever Netanyahu does make a fateful decision about how to handle Iran, chances are it will happen in the middle of the night.

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