netanyahu air force one 311.
(photo credit: GPO)
Imagine what Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would have said following
Tuesday’s fatal terrorist attack near Hebron had he been opposition
not prime minister.
He undoubtedly would have called upon the prime
minister to leave Washington immediately and return home to restore
security. He would be saying that the attack proved that Palestinian
chairman Mahmoud Abbas had no control over his people and that there was
therefore no point in negotiating with him.
But prime minister is a job
infinitely harder than opposition leader, and Netanyahu arrived in
a delicate diplomatic situation that was complicated enough before the
With the eyes of US President Barack Obama and the rest of the
world on him, it is likely that the last thing Netanyahu considered
landing in the US was staying on the plane and going right back home.
is not the first time a terrorist attack took place while a prime
abroad, and it undoubtedly will not be the last.
Former prime minister
Ariel Sharon dealt with attacks almost every time he went abroad. When a
bomber blew himself up at Jerusalem’s Cafe Hillel in September 2003, he
short his trip to India and came home, but in other instances, he
The attackers’ intentions were to kill Jews and send a message to
Abbas that he should not be negotiating with Israel. But they also tied
If Netanyahu was considering compromising regarding
the construction moratorium in Judea and Samaria when it ends on
now he has no choice but to restart building. Otherwise he would lose
security credentials in addition to his credibility, which are two
assets for any politician.
Netanyahu’s credibility was already being
tested before the attack.
The settlers “We are building on your word”
campaign was intended to emphasize that the prime minister’s integrity
The understated message was that breaking a promise to resume
building after 10 months would actually harm chances of reaching a
agreement, because the Palestinians would know that they could not trust
Netanyahu’s future commitments.
Netanyahu is facing no serious challenge
in his party, his coalition or his cabinet. He is among the most
ministers in recent memory.
But being branded a liar would have caused
Netanyahu great future political damage, even if politically he could
get away with it.
The right-wing parties in his coalition are not as
right-wing as people give them credit for, and they would allow him
But the current coalition is almost certainly the only
option Netanyahu has.
Kadima has said it would support the negotiations
from outside the coalition but already slim chances of the party joining
every day as the next election inevitably approaches.
Chances of the
National Union party joining from the Right after talks break down are
small, because of the extremist views of party chairman Ya’acov Katz,
Tuesday called upon Netanyahu to expedite the building of the
Rawabi, because he believes it will be settled by the mass aliya of
If Netanyahu does end up making serious concessions in the
diplomatic process with the Palestinians, it would not be because of
desire to decide Israel’s borders or to win a Nobel Peace Prize, as
been true for his predecessors.
For Netanyahu, everything he does has to
be seen through the prism of Iran, which is the issue that Netanyahu
the most. His associates say he believes he came back to power for this
and this is why he feels he must be fully cooperating with the
community on the Palestinian issue.
Terrorist attacks like Tuesday’s
remind Netanyahu that Iran has Hamas, what he would call “a tentacle of
its service in both the West Bank and Gaza, and that therefore he must
with caution when it comes to talks about Israel relinquishing land in
That is certainly what opposition leader Netanyahu would be
telling the prime minister today.