Between 1996 and 1999, during his first stint as Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu showed Israel that he was not the Rightist many thought he was; it turned out he was far more the "pragmatist" as he tried to forge a path through the Arab-Israel conflict. Today, we discover that Mr. Netanyahu may not be the pragmatist we thought he was; he is far closer to the Left than we ever imagined.
His recent behaviour illustrates his alignment with the Left:
a). between September-December 2011 alone, he has used the Left’s wording of ‘protecting our democracy’ to oppose legislation to bring Israel’s High Court closer to the professional standards of the US Supreme Court;
b). he has allowed Leftists in the government and the military to coerce, arrest and displace religious nationalist Jews in a variety of incidents; and
c). he has apparently taken the position that Likud rules for upcoming internal elections must change as current rules have allowed West Bank Likud numbers to swell sufficiently to tilt Likud further Right. The PM doesn’t like that. He prefers to limit Rightist influence In Israel’s largest Party just as that Party—and the country—tilts further Right.
Mr. Netanyahu seems to think the Left is important. He seems to believe that a Rightist approach to the Arab-Israel conflict will make Israel a pariah at the UN. Does he believe that embracing the Left has helped Israel’s reputation?
Based on his behaviour, he is disinterested in what Likud stands for. He uses Likud as a stage to attract Israel’s right-leaning majority to win election. But once elected, he does whatever he wants-- and what he wants is more ‘Left’ than ‘Right’. Now he wants to protect that Left by changing Likud rules.
He flirts with the Left because he has learned how to kiss and dance without doing either. In fact, he has built a career with a single strategy that has worked on both domestic and international stages: at home, he uses a ‘shift-to-win’ kiss, and he has won big with it. That’s how he won in 1996—by starting Right, then kissing Left on Oslo; and that is how he works today, kissing again Left as national elections (perhaps next year) draw closer. On the international stage, he has morphed shift-to-win into a kind of boxer’s bob-and-weave, as he absorbs and then dodges intense pressure from the EU, the US, and the UN. On both stages, he kisses and dances---but doesn’t. This strategy reveals both his past strength and his future weakness: his constant dancing reminds one of the man who has only one tool, a hammer; everything he sees looks like a nail.
The future, however, promises to be very different from the past. Mr Netanyahu’s singular tool—brilliant for yesterday’s realities-- will no longer work because the world is changing. Israel is moving to the Right and the EU is in danger of economic collapse. Governments in Europe teeter. America fears an economic tsunami. Economic upheaval in the West could shuffle the deck of international diplomacy. Today’s leaders could topple. If 2012 brings chaos to Europe, Israel could be pushed hard. Bob-and-weave in this caldron could be a mistake because past is never prologue to future when the future catches fire: if you have made your career using only one tool, yesterday’s success will be tomorrow’s disaster.
As the world changes, Mr. Netanyahu’s flirtations with the Left grow old. True, Likud has tolerated him. But when those flirtations turn you into the husband who comes home at night once too often with lipstick on your collar, your flirting days might be numbered. If Mr. Netanyahu seeks to protect his kiss-dancing by locking out Rightist Likudniks, then he will be in trouble because this country is turning Right (the Right doesn’t like kissing Left)-- and bob-weave may not be worth saving because a chaotic world will not tolerate it. If the West threatens to catch fire, this may be the time for true Jewish Leadership because when the West weakens, the Jewish nation will not be in position to kiss or dance, nor will it have the inclination to do so under a banner of true Jewish leadership. Our survival depends more on proclaiming our steadfastness to our religion and our heritage. That is certainly what our Torah tells us; that is what true Jewish leadership is all about.
Our Torah also confirms the requirements for Jewish Leadership: kiss-dancing doesn’t cut it. If Europe darkens as radical Islam strengthens, Jewish Leadership will need to be steadfast and strong. If all Mr. Netanyahu can think about is kissing the Left so he can dance better on the international stage (as suggested in a recent Jerusalem Post story), then 2012 may be very interesting for Israel. Two things are clear. One, Mr. Netanyahu needs to read our Torah. Two, he also needs to re-evaluate his priorities -- in a big way and very quickly.