It is not easy being Binyamin Netanyahu. For years he has aligned himself with
people and positions that are completely counter to the reality which he now
faces. Decision-making time on the future of the Israeli-Palestinian relations
has finally come.
Those decisions will also shape the future of
Israeli-US relations as well as Israeli- European Union relations.
important, those decisions will shape the future of the State of Israel and the
All of a sudden the very same people and positions that
were part of the political and ideological camp he helped shape are now in the
other camp opposing what he must now do.
On Monday this week, Tovah
Lazaroff reported in The Jerusalem Post that “Settler leaders on Sunday
afternoon held an emergency meeting in Jerusalem against renewed
The settler leaders know very well what they
are afraid of. They saw one of their past ideological and political leaders
abandon them and empty the Gaza Strip of settlers.
For months, people
close to the prime minister have been telling me that Netanyahu has been going
through a change, a kind of evolution of his positions, quoting the saying that
prime minister Sharon often repeated: “What you see from here is not what you
see from there.”
What Netanyahu has been seeing is that if he does not
take action soon, Israel could easily be on the dangerous slippery slope toward
being a binational state. Netanyahu clearly does not want to be the Zionist
leader who puts an end to the Zionist enterprise in the Land of
Now, it seems, Netanyahu is entering the tradition of pragmatic
Zionism, which can only mean the partitioning of the Land of Israel into a
Jewish state and an Arab state on “the land between the river and the sea” – 22
percent for them, 78 percent for us. That’s the deal, and now Netanyahu is
facing the music and waltzing Israel into a new era – the age of real
While Netanyahu is negotiating with the Palestinians, his
former friends and political allies will be organizing against the inevitable
creation of a Palestinian state next to Israel.
Netanyahu will do
everything possible to delay the actions of the anti-peace alliance. He knows
all too well their ability to disrupt public order, to launch unauthorized
building all around the West Bank and to incite against the prime
In the unfolding scenario in which Netanyahu actually moves
negotiations with the Palestinians forward, he will find a large number of very
vocal MKs from his own party speaking against him and plotting his
That is just another reason why the negotiations will be
conducted under the highest level of secrecy.
As long as the parties want
the negotiations to progress and succeed, they will remain secret. Very few
people on both sides will actually really know what is transpiring behind the
Almost none of the ministers in the Israeli or Palestinian
governments will have any real idea what is happening, just as almost none of
them really know what was said in the closed rooms between Netanyahu and Kerry
and Abbas and Kerry.
There will undoubtedly be many politicians who will
speak authoritatively about the negotiations, on the record or anonymously,
without having real knowledge about what is really going on.
politicians do, but because they will not have any real knowledge their
statements should be largely ignored.
The first sign that the
negotiations are heading towards failure will be when there are real leaks from
behind the closed doors. As longs as there is progress, we the public will not
know – and neither will the opposition to peace, in Israel and in
That is why the opposition will manufacture the news in order
to create the call to the flag for mobilizing against their own
I can already see the marches behind dummy coffins with the
words “The Land of Israel” on them with pictures of Netanyahu wearing Arafat’s
keffiyeh (or worse).
No, it’s not easy being Binyamin Netanyahu. But then
again, he has no experience at being Binyamin Netanyahu the “peace maker.” It’s
true that he will lose his old friends and allies, but just imagine all of the
new ones he will gain. Suddenly Netanyahu will be welcome and even desired in
capitals all over the world.
But that’s not all. Seventy percent of
Israelis, a clear majority, want Israel to make peace with its
It has not been a high priority issue on the public agenda
mainly because they have understood that there was no partnership on the horizon
between Netanyahu and Abbas.
Some blamed Netanyahu, most blamed Abbas,
but that’s history and potentially behind us now. If the public will believe
that there is a real chance for Israeli- Palestinian peace, Netanyahu will find
himself with the largest number of Israelis supporting the prime minister since
– well maybe since David Ben-Gurion.
This is of course all
Has Netanyahu changed? How deep is the change? Is he really
ready for a genuine Palestinian state to exist next to Israel? Will he withdraw
settlements? Will he be willing to share Jerusalem? And if the answers are
positive, will he find a Palestinian partner willing to make the concessions
that they must make in order for us to arrive at an acceptable deal for both
sides? All of these questions need to be answered. At some point in the
not-toodistant future, we will find out the answers.The author is the
co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information,
a columnist for
The Jerusalem Post and the initiator and negotiator of the
secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit. His new book,
Gilad: the Secret Back Channel, has been published by Kinneret Zmora Bitan in