Yoel Marcus
Haaretz (Opinion)
November 17, 2009 - 1:00am

Let's say Benjamin Netanyahu was prime minister in 1977 instead of Menachem Begin. Would he have gone the same way? Made a peace agreement with Egypt via Camp David? Renounced all the Pithat Rafiah settlements? Withdrawn to the last millimeter in Sinai? Signed an agreement affirming the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people?

Would he have uprooted all our settlements beyond the border in a violent confrontation with the Greater Land of Israel people? Would he have responded to President Carter's dictates and submitted his concessions, mainly removing the settlements, to the Knesset and supported peace with a state that killed some 3,000 of our soldiers in the Yom Kippur War?

The answer, of course, is no. The very thought of such a possibility would have made Bibi sweat by day and suffer horrible nightmares by night.

Sure enough, everyone praises and commends Yitzhak Rabin as a man of peace, but the truth is that Begin the Herutnik was the one who paved the way for Rabin the Laborite to adopt the Oslo Accords and strive for the second peace agreement - with the Kingdom of Jordan.

When Ariel Sharon ran for elections under the slogan "only Sharon will bring peace," his media advisers told me that not keeping his promise could be a career-ender. Indeed, he kept his promise far beyond expectations when he decided to remove forcibly 25 settlements as a first step to awaken the nation from the dream of a Greater Land of Israel.

Judging by the rebellion Bibi tried to lead against Sharon at the time, and finding himself leading a Likud of 12 MKs, Bibi was suitable to be a foreign minister but was not built to be prime minister, as his father, Prof. Benzion Netanyahu, said. Bibi was defeated shamefully and returned to the prime minister's chair because of Tzipi Livni's mistake. Now he's back with his old tricks and shtick.

After uttering one hope-raising paragraph in the Bar-Ilan speech ("two states for two peoples"), Bibi managed to swiftly erase his statement's impression by setting conditions, insisting on continuing the construction in the territories and mainly in angering the American administration.

Bibi, typically, is doing everything to mark time. He talks to Ehud Barak a lot, but also to Daniel Ben Simon and Tzipi Hotoveli, and calls out to President Assad "let's make peace."

Everyone knows what Assad's constant conditions are - they are identical to what Israel has given Sadat. Bibi's call to Assad has won over mainly Shimon Peres, who declared - this time from South America - that Bibi is ready for concessions and has a serious plan to advance peace.

Are we heading for catastrophe, Razi Barkai asks historian Anita Shapira on Army Radio.

She replies that the head tells us we're bound for chaos, but the heart says everything will be all right.

"That's what they said in Warsaw in 1939 as well," she tells me after that radio interview.

Bibi knows Assad wants what Sadat received - everything his father had lost in the war. But he is deceiving all those who want peace by saying he is prepared for negotiations with Syria "without preconditions."

Since I wondered what would have happened had Bibi been prime minister in 1977, it is now important to ask, why repeat the mistake we made then, when we didn't respond to Sadat's hints and threats before the Yom Kippur War - that if there isn't peace, he would be ready to sacrifice a million soldiers to get Egypt's land back? Did so much blood have to be spilled to achieve that peace?

A peace agreement with Syria has a price, but isn't it better to reach the agreement and pay for it now, before Syria is driven to a war sponsored by Iran?

The unsolved mystery is why, if Bibi is so hesitant, in surveys the answer to the question "who is more suitable for prime minister," is 43 percent for Bibi, compared to 5 percent for Barak?

The explanation is that the public has become more right-wing and the Likud more radical.

Netanyahu has prepared a list of delaying tactics. The Palestinians are playing into his hands by threatening to declare unilaterally a Palestinian state, which is a recipe for an enforced solution or, heaven forbid, a third intifada.

Meanwhile the sun is shining, the ministers are flying all over the place, the supermarket shelves are full, the restaurants are bursting and the ultra-Orthodox are taking over Jerusalem.


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