Prisoner releases only embolden terrorists...they encourage precisely the terrorist blackmail they are supposed to defuse. – Binyamin Netanyahu, Fighting Terrorism (1995)

What sort of people and government would agree to free the murderers of its own children and do it in the name of a presumed “goodwill” toward irreconcilable enemies? What might this people and government be thinking, especially when its hopedfor quid pro quo is an obvious delusion? – Prof. Louis Rene Beres, “A crime without a punishment,” July 16, 2013

Binyamin Netanyahu must resign or be induced to do so.

By any measure of moral integrity and/or statesmanship, he simply cannot be allowed to continue to function as prime minister. He has deceived the public and misled the nation. He has defrauded the voters on whose support he gained political prominence and on whose ballots he ascended to power. He has reneged on past pledges and renounced the values he professed to cherish.

But worst of all, he has betrayed himself and the most basic principles he himself espoused as the foundation of his political credo and which he led the Israeli electorate and the Jewish people to believe he was committed to.

Repeatedly proved unequal to challenges

Netanyahu is a man of extraordinary talent with a remarkably impressive record of achievement.

He was an extraordinary UN ambassador, a superb foreign minister, and a highly effective finance minister. Indeed, in most industrial countries, he might even have made an outstanding prime minister.

But not in Israel. Here the demands are different and more taxing than elsewhere, the margins of error narrower, and the cost of error not only greater, but potentially tragic and terminal.

Accordingly, despite his undeniable capabilities, despite the distinction with which he has served his country in various capacities over four decades, as the nation’s chief executive he has proved himself – time and time again – unequal to crucial challenges.

Never his most caustic critic

Readers of this column will recall that I have never been one of Netanyahu’s most caustic critics.

Although I have differed sharply with him over several of his decisions, I have defended him, in both the local and the foreign press, against the almost maniacal malevolence of the media toward him (and his spouse), and its Pavlovian impulse to hold him responsible for every misfortune that befalls mankind – from droughts in New Mexico to floods in Southeast Asia.

As recently as January 10, in “Netanyahu: The Pathology,” I wrote, “Netanyahu has been given little credit for the numerous impressive feats he, and the governments he headed, have achieved,” and remarked that “the venomous ad hominem attacks on the PM... have long exceeded the limits of rational criticism and reasoned dissent.”

However, recent developments reveal a disturbing – indeed, dramatic – erosion in his strategic perspectives and policy preferences that make it impossible to justify his continued incumbency – even for a relatively restrained and respectful critic such as myself.

Collapse of Israeli political resolve


Of course, this erosion culminated in what can only be seen as a total collapse of Israeli political resolve: The egregious decision of the Netanyahu government not only to agree to the resumption of negotiations on the establishment of a Palestinian state, but to agree that the resumption be predicated on an prior agreement for the release of over 100 convicted perpetrators of some of the most heinous acts of slaughter imaginable.

This of course makes a mockery of solemn pledges that Israel would not agree to any a priori concessions as a condition for resuming negotiations with the Palestinians.

Moreover, Israel has been impeding construction in the Jewish communities across the pre-1967 lines with a self-imposed building freeze/slowdown, thus agreeing, albeit partially, to another Palestinian demand for the resumptions of talks.

Worse, even if Israel has not explicitly agreed to accept the pre- 1967 lines as a basis for negotiations, there are strong indications that it has tacitly complied with this calamitous condition. According to numerous press reports, the text of the invitation accepted by Israel states that “the goal of the negotiations is to implement the two-state solution on the basis of the ’67 lines with minor land swaps.”

So whether Israel acknowledges it or not, it has agreed to participate in a discussion on the establishment of a Palestinian state whose frontiers will be the indefensible pre-1967 lines – unless otherwise (mutually) agreed.

Quite apart from the fact that the entire issue of land swaps has a demeaning ring of “bartering birthrights,” the fact that they will have to be “mutually agreed” provides the Palestinians veto power over any deviation from the pre- 1967 “Auschwitz borders” in the delineation of their proposed state.

Staggering surrender


The decision taken last Sunday represents a staggering strategic surrender by Israel.

After all, as recently as May 2011, Netanyahu defiantly stood up, publicly, to Barack Obama and rejected the very formula (sans the prisoner release) he is now accepting.

Netanyahu’s courageous eloquence won him massive support across the US American political system including from senior Democrats such as Sen. Harry Reid who in effect endorsed his defiance of Obama at the AIPAC conference that took place at the time in Washington.

All this – and more – has now been irrevocably lost by a decision, substantively unjustifiable and morally indefensible, that will confer on the government the “privilege” of entering into negotiations on a formula for making the country geographically untenable, with an entity headed by a soon-to-be octogenarian leader, who is now in the ninth year of his four-year term, and whose authority is rejected by a wide swathe of the population he purports to represent.

You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Especially when you stop to consider that it is the Palestinians, allegedly suffering under the yoke of “occupation,” who should have the greater interest in pursuing the reopening of talks and hence be expected to be the party ready to make concessions, rather than delaying them by making exorbitant demands of Israel.

But this act from the theater of the absurd has far more profound and pernicious consequences than the exasperation, outrage and demoralizing despair that it generates in wide segments of the Israeli public and of the Jewish people across the globe.

Making Israel a laughing stock


It is difficult to overstate the gravity of the ramifications of the Netanyahu government’s decision.

It sends an unequivocal message to the Palestinians, the Arabs and the international community that no position articulated by Israel need be taken seriously. For Israel has proved that no matter how outlandish, outrageous, macabre or scandalous the demands of its adversaries, the Jews will eventually submit – irrespective of how resolutely they feign opposition to them initially.

The positions that Israel has now retreated to would have been unthinkable barely a decade and a half ago. Judging from the vision that Yitzhak Rabin articulated for a permanent agreement with the Palestinians in his final address to the Knesset in 1995, it is highly plausible to surmise that they would have been contemptuously rejected by the Noble Peace laureate, who at the time was fiercely attacked by then-leader of the opposition Netanyahu – for being overly concessionary.

As I said, you couldn’t make this stuff up.

By failing to withstand pressure, Israel has not only invited inevitable further pressure, but has crippled its ability to conduct effective negotiations in the future.

No matter what fork-tongued, fallacious flattery it might reap in the short run for its “flexibility,” Israel has made itself a laughing stock, unable to adhere to any principle, no matter how crucial, for any length of time.

Rebuffing ‘rationalizations’


Netanyahu-apologists have attempted to rationalize Israel’s capitulation by advancing various hypotheses as to the underlying reasons for such seemingly unreasonable conduct.

Typically, these attempts include one of two interrelated contentions (or both): Either that (a) irresistible pressure was exerted to extract the concessions backed up with threats of severe punitive measures if such concessions were not forthcoming; or that (b) Israel had to sacrifice certain strategic and security interests to preserve other, and presumably more vital, ones, such as stopping the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

Both these contentions are highly unpersuasive – but even if they are true they do not justify Netanyahu’s continued incumbency.

They are unpersuasive because if the Obama administration really considered some objective, say, the prevention of a nuclear Iran, an important US interest, would it condition the pursuit of that interest on the release of over 100 Judeocidal monsters? And if Israel refused, would the US forgo the pursuit of its own interests merely to punish its alleged ally, rather than pressure other parties to forgo their unreasonable preconditions? On the other hand, if the administration does not consider the prevention of a nuclear Iran an important US interest, does anyone really believe it would condone an Israeli attack on Iranian facilities, even if Israel did release 100 terrorists?

Dereliction of duty


But even if these claims are true, and intense pressure was in fact exerted and/or a strategic tradeoff had to be made in the situation that Secretary of State John Kerry’s persistence precipitated, they are still irrelevant to the inadmissibility of Netanyahu’s continued incumbency.

For although such situations were not only anticipated, but explicitly predicted, no mechanisms were put in place to contend with them. For decades Israel has left itself to be mauled in the court of public opinion, making it seemingly isolated, and vulnerable to international pressures aimed at wringing perilous concessions.

However, this not an inevitable consequence of some law of nature, but the results of decades of dereliction of duty, of neglect to establish an adequate public diplomacy endeavor that could contend, curtail and counter such pressures.

As the eloquent British columnist Melanie Phillips scolded in a brilliant but scathing interview on Israeli TV: “Israel has made itself defenseless... Israel has vacated the battlefield of ideas ...”

Never a truer word was spoken.

In recent years, public support for Israel in the US has been near record levels, outstripping that for the Palestinians by a factor of 4 to 1. Yet this massive advantage has not been mobilized (purposely?) to impact US policy-making toward Israel.

After all, given the level of support Israel enjoys in the US, only incompetence, indolence or worse, can explain why any attempt to extort concessions that clearly imperil its security would not be so politically toxic that no administration would contemplate it.

Over the past five years I have been beseeching the Israeli government – at both senior ministerial and professional levels – to build appropriate mechanisms to deal with precisely such scenarios as have arisen in recent months – but to no avail.

Rationale for resignation


Much has been left unsaid – including broaching questions such as “If not Bibi, who?” and how his resignation can be effected in practice. Nor have I elaborated on the disturbing “catalogue of capitulation” that has characterized his incumbency over the years. However, the constraints of space compel me to forgo.

Suffice it to say that Netanyahu has now embraced a policy he spent decades berating, resisting and mobilizing publics at home and abroad to oppose. He thus has either failed to implement a policy he believes in, or is implementing a policy he does not believe in.

Whichever is true, this is an untenable situation which cannot continue.

Accordingly the only act of true leadership left for Netanyahu is to resign, and to resign without delay.

Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.net) is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. (www.strategicisrael.org)

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