A letter to Israel’s new/old leader

"Mr. Netanyahu, you have a good sense of history and economics, and it is time to show you have the guts and imagination to use them."

March 18, 2015 21:20
4 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during his victory speech at Likud headquarters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during his victory speech at Likud headquarters. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Dear Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,

When you next see Barack Obama, tell him that as the first American president to greet a four-term Israeli prime minister, he’s making history. Yes, you can remind him that you truly respect him, but he is a limping, lurching, lame-duck second-termer, while you are a newly reelected four-termer – the only four-term prime minister in Israel’s history.

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Still, don’t gloat. You won, but you had a real close shave – minus the lather. Yes, the pollsters were wrong, and foreign players (Obama and some European countries) worked hard against you. Fortunately, Israelis voted to repudiate them, the hostile media and the polls. Don’t dwell on it, but go out and prove you deserved to win.

You have a chance to show the difference between yourself and your opponents at home and abroad, especially Barack Obama – not just on the economy, not just on Iran, not just on Egypt, not just on Syria, not just on Islamic State (IS) and not just on the PLO and the phony peace process. This is a chance to show you are not just the politician who got the job but who got the job done, not just a speaker, but a doer – someone who can talk the talk and walk the walk.

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Prepare a five-point or 10-point program that shows your understanding of the historical forces buffeting the region and the economic aspirations of all Israelis.

Here are some suggestions:

• Set up a Regional Stability Summit with Egypt and Jordan (maybe with the Saudis and other Arab countries as silent partners) and establish a formal working relationship to fight terrorism and extremism (in Sinai, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon) by IS, al-Qaida, Hamas, Iran, Hezbollah and others. This program should involve joint training and execution, not just intelligence sharing.

• Set up a Regional Development Summit with Egypt and Jordan (again with the Saudis, Oman and others in the background) for regional water projects, food production and processing, cottage industry and hightech initiatives. It is likely that China, India, Canada, Japan and some European countries would like to be part of this effort, contributing funds.

• Another great area for development is healthcare. Set up joint medical schools/ hospitals with training inside Israel and on-site practice in Egypt and Jordan. You could have one medical school/hospital in an Arab town, thus boosting local development and employment in Israel’s Arab community. Another hospital/med-school could be placed in Israel’s northern periphery and another in the southern periphery.

These hospitals would help Israel’s hospital bed shortage. These hospital/schools could be matched with new or existing schools in Egypt and Jordan – from Akaba, Irbid and Amman to Alexandria, Port Said and Ain Shams. Here, too, China, India, Canada, Japan and some European countries may contribute funds and their own research in medical practice.

(To show that you are open-minded, ask Amos Yadlin of Labor and Ya’akov Peri of Yesh Atid, for example, if they have any ideas they would like to contribute.)

• Set up a long-term program for young Israelis to reach affordable housing. As you know, the biggest factor in real estate is real estate: the price of land itself. You might use the American model of the Homestead Act, opening up tracts of land for free or for a symbolic fee or forgivable loan to Israelis who have served in the army or in national service. It is only right that Israel’s government and the Jewish National Fund, who own most of the land, offer a real chance for home ownership to those who have been willing to defend the land.

• Tell Mahmoud Abbas, the putative leader of so-called Palestinian National Authority (al-sulta al-wattaniyya al-felatiniyya), that he is also a lame duck without any legitimacy. His term of office ended six years ago, and he would be evicted by Hamas if Israel did not protect him.

So, tell Abbas (never call him Abu Mazen) that he has one last chance to observe the treaties he signed with Israel in 1993. Further Palestinian violations will be seen as abrogation of the Oslo Accords, and they will met by Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley and other large portions of Judea and Samaria.

Mr. Netanyahu, you have a good sense of history and economics, and it is time to show you have the guts and imagination to use them.

Sincerely, Michael Widlanski

The writer is the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat. He has served as a reporter for The New York Times, Cox Newspapers, Israeli Army Radio and The Jerusalem Post. He was Strategic Affairs Adviser in Israel’s Public Security Ministry, and he teaches at Bar-Ilan University.

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