Benyamin Netanyahu has come in for some shrill criticism from locals and outsiders. Their most recent brief is to reiterate doubt about his sincerity with respect to the peace process with the Palestinians, and his reluctance to cheer what they see as the democratic tide of protest against Hosni Mubarak. Today''s Ha''aretz reports a marked decline in his overseas trips, which it explains by the reluctance of world leaders to host him.Bibi is slippery. A prominent line in Tzipi Livni''s election campaign was, "Bibi? I don’t believe him." I found Livni''s campaign more attractive than Likud''s, but my subsequent view is that Netanyahu has done well in this term as prime minister. No one in this troubled and argumentative place has earned more than a B+ for service in a ranking position. I doubt that he is paying anything more than lip service to his frequent claims of sticking to the mission of reaching peace with the Palestinians. As you may have noticed, I pay the same lip service. I''m all for peace, even if it means that there will be an international border 50 meters from my balcony. However, I''m convinced that there is no future to the process as long as the Palestinians cannot accept Israel and Israelis pretty much where they are, and as long as Hamas and like-thinking Palestinians do not want Israelis anywhere.On Mubarak, it would have been madness for an Israeli leader to support his ouster. He was president of the Arab country most important to us, and cooperated on important issues for 30 years. Netanyahu ordered his colleagues in the government not to express themselves during the period of mass protest, and he was measured in his statements about democracy and international comity. Insofar as the future of the Egyptian regime is still not clear, while continuity is so far in place, Netanyahu deserves at least a B+ for his actions during the period of greatest uncertainty.With all the claims about the shakiness of his government, Bibi and his party colleagues could be dancing in the street. A prime minister who has heaped praise on himself for reforming the national economy when he held the position of finance minister will be claiming the credit for data showing Israel to be a world leader in the most recent period for its economic growth. Whenever he makes a claim about his economic genius I think of Livni''s campaign slogan. His sense of economic balance is an advantage for the country, but it is not a one-man show. The even greater news for the immediate future of Netanyahu and Likud is the misfortune of the principal opposition party. Kadima''s chief administrator is currently in jail while being questioned for his part in a scandal centered on the income tax department. He and others are accused of selling favorable rulings to business executives. The media are focusing not only on this story, but on the considerable list of Kadima personalities in prison, on trial, accused, or having been punished for one or another kind of corruption. The line-up features
- Ehud Olmert, currently on trial for several kinds of corruption when he was Jerusalem mayor and head of one or another ministry in the national government;
- Ariel Sharon and his two sons, either investigated, accused, or having been sentenced for influence peddling;
- former minister and chair of a major Knesset committee Tsakhi Hanegbi, for favoritism in personnel appointments;
- former minister Haim Ramon for impropriety with a female soldier (uninvited French kiss);
- former Finance Minister Avraham Hirshson, serving time for pocketing public money.