Take your pick: which national leader has spoken his way to more damage than benefit?
First consider the Palestinians. By all apparent measures, they have been both clumsy intellectually, and damaging to their people.
To be sure, we must be wary of explaining Palestinian actions. The cultural divide between us and them is deep, composed not only of religion and language, but numerous cultural traits affecting our different views of history and the most current of events.
It is not only Israelis who suffer from a lack of understanding. We do better than most, given our numerous contacts over many years, media personnel who are able to transmit what Palestinians say, and what they see and hear in their media.
We also stare in wonder at expressions coming from the summit of the United States and other western governments, and do not envy what seems their greater distance from understanding the Middle East, and the various kinds of Islam that exercise profound influence on what Middle Easterns think and do.
The essence of Palestinians' most recent self-destructive blather deals with the Temple Mount, assertions that it's always been all their's, and that the Jews are intent in taking it away.
Only slightly less offensive are their claims that Israelis are murdering Palestinians, while overlooking attacks by enraged Palestinians, and the recovery in hospital of one of the kids said by them to have been murdered.
The damage done to themselves may be measured with the 40 or so killed while trying to attack Jews, hundreds injured, many more arrested, and thousands inconvenienced and most likely losing economic opportunities by partial closures of their neighborhoods and areas of the West Bank.
In the midst of this, Prime Minister Netanyahu seemed to be playing the same game as Mahmoud Abbas.
On the eve of an official visit to Germany, no less, he blamed the iconic Palestinian madman of the 1930s, i.e., the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, as providing the idea of the Holocaust to Hitler.
It didn't take many minutes for Israel's legion of Holocaust historians to accuse the Prime Minister of creating facts.
All told, it has been one of Bibi's clumsiest moments, opening himself to claims by Jews, Palestinians, and Germans that he is overplaying the Holocaust.
The cartoonist of Ha'aretz joined the fun, with an uncomplimentary portrayal of the first couple, watching the history channel, with one of them saying, "See what happens when you sit with them?"
With a bit of effort, one can find a degree of fairness in what Bibi may have meant to say. The Mufti was a rabid anti-Semite, who sought to influence Hitler, and preached the slaughter of Jews here and elsewhere. However, he had about as much influence in his day as Mahmoud Abbas has now.
If it was Bibi's effort to be nasty against Mahmoud's incitement of violence, it may have boomeranged with considerable criticism of jeering directed against the Prime Minister.
It also might be said, to our own credit, that we are much louder in ridiculing our Prime Minister for his intellectual distortions than are the Palestinians for ridiculing their leaders. Moreover, Abbas' nonsense is destructive of his people's aspirations. We can assume that Bibi's nonsense will pass as more of the same. We've learned not to expect better. But the totality of the Israeli establishment will continue to respond to the Palestinian blather and violence with better sense. Bibi has shown time and again that he is far more reasonable in action than in what he says.
The Israeli police, IDF, and other security forces patrol, operate checkpoints, check documents, search cars and clothing. When the enraged take up knives or whatever else, they are confronted, and in most cases "neutralized" or "liquidated."
Charge ethnic profiling if you will. It's one of the ways that Israel defends itself.
Claim that we are unfair to Muslims, or do not understand their religion of peace.
Our response will be to urge realism upon those who charge insensitivity or unfairness, and to advise that they recognize a threat to themselves as well as us.
There may be no better warning about Islam than what we can hear from Muslim clerics. For one sermon that deserves attention, click here.
With all of the above, Israelis know that the vast majority of Palestinians want decent lives. Sadly, in their culture keeps them from asserting their demands against a leadership that is aged, is concerned more with staying in power than in serving its people, milks foreign aid and the Palestinian economy for personal and family benefit, and leads the people down a dead end road of demanding what they will never achieve.
Islam has a lot to do with their problems, and should not enjoy a free pass from Westerners wanting to be fair, humane, avoid insults, and accommodating.
How to deal with Islamic extremism without inflaming the secular and the marginally religious Muslims?
That is the key, and it is reflected in the modest efforts that Israel has learned to pursue.
Modest you say, in ridicule?
Yes, in comparison with what the IDF could do--and has done--in Gaza, the West Bank, and hostile neighborhoods of Israel.
It is also modest in comparison with the carpet bombing used by the US in Vietnam, hapless attacks against wedding parties and hospitals in Afghanistan, and clumsy police work in African American neighborhoods of the United States.
Our security personnel are not perfect. They have killed one illegal immigrant and one Jew mistaken for terrorists.
We'll hope to kill and injure as few Palestinians as possible, and deal appropriately with the many more who have been arrested. Among the complications is a 13 year old who could be charged with murder and attempted murder if he was 14, and still may be dealt with severely as prosecutors work their way through a legal maze meant to protect juveniles.
Things could get worse before they get better.
We've been through this before. Patterns do not repeat themselves exactly, but we can expect something approaching a normal level of tensions after weeks, months, or years. And then a rest till the next one.
Meantime, we'll do what we can to look after ourselves, keep our leaders honest, and pity our neighbors for the faults in their culture and politics that are leading them to more misery, with who knows how many killed, injured, how much property damaged, and the loss of jobs and other economic opportunities.
It may seem to be a close contest between Bibi and Mahmoud on the issue of who is nuttier. However, it is clear that Mahmoud and his regime does more damage to his people, without the benefits that Bibi and Israel's institutions provide to us.