Ari Shavit
Haaretz (Opinion)
April 1, 2010 - 12:00am

For the past 20 years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been a victim of injustice. When he returned from the United States at the end of the 1980s, the leftist elite treated him with boundless hostility. When he headed the opposition during the Oslo years, he was perceived as an agitator and an instigator.

During his first term as prime minister, in the 1990s, a malicious campaign of vilification was waged against him. When again he again became head of the opposition in the early 2000s, a methodical effort was made to hamstring and silence him. When he was elected prime minister for the second time in 2009, he did not get even one day of grace.

Although Netanyahu is a deep man and abundantly talented, the general attitude toward him is one of dismissal. Although he is clearly democratic, many treat him as a demon. A system of powerful political and media forces has continually and consistently marked Netanyahu, persecuted him and treated him unfairly.

But after a year in power, it is abundantly clear that today, the person causing the greatest injustice to Benjamin Netanyahu is Benjamin Netanyahu. It was Netanyahu who formed a government that has no future. It was Netanyahu who put together an unworthy governing team. It was Netanyahu who appointed a foreign minister who shames Netanyahu the statesman. It was Netanyahu whose alliance with Shas has put a blot on the secular Netanyahu. It was Netanyahu who denied the Netanyahu government any hope. It was Netanyahu whose bunker mentality has led the Netanyahu government to a dead end.

Benjamin Netanyahu should not be blamed exclusively for the current crisis in Israel-American relations. Also to blame is the suicidal right that is endangering Israel's national security. So is Ariel Sharon, who ceaselessly built in the territories and fooled the Americans time and time again, to blame. And there is Ehud Olmert, who also built in the territories while creating false expectations at Annapolis. Tzipi Livni must shoulder some blame for refusing to join a moderate, sane unity government. And the Obama administration as well, which shrugs off clear American pledges, and demands from Netanyahu what it does not ask from Mahmoud Abbas.

But Netanyahu cannot delude himself. His policy on the Palestinian issue has failed. His policy vis-a-vis the United States has run aground. The prime minister did not read the map, he did not set a goal and did not embark soon enough on the road. His delay in formulating an Israeli initiative led to the the ball being passing to Israel's adversaries. His prolonged hesitation led to his being boxed into a corner.

Benjamin Netanyahu has herded Benjamin Netanyahu into a corral at the end of which a political slaughterhouse awaits.

Time after time, those who want the best for him have told him he has to act; but Netanyahu did not act. Time after time his allies have told him to get ahold of himself, but Netanyahu did not get ahold of himself. Although the handwriting was on the wall, Netanyahu failed to see it and insisted on walking straight into it.

It is late, very late, but perhaps not too late. Netanyahu still has a few weeks to turn the wheel and avoid a collision with the iceberg. The Americans are strict, and they are not entirely fair, but they do want to succeed. If they are offered a way to move ahead gradually toward real peace, they may abandon their attempt to impose an imaginary peace immediately.

But to allow the Obama administration to move ahead on a realistic diplomatic plan, Netanyahu must be honest with himself and make some very tough decisions. He must understand that Israel the occupier endangers itself. He must understand that without a sharp change in diplomatic direction, Israel will not withstand the battle.

The road to Iran also passes through Palestine. The price of stopping the centrifuges is giving up settlements. Only if Netanyahu acts with determination in this spirit can he right the great injustice he has done to himself over the past year. Only Netanyahu can save Netanyahu from destruction.


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