Niva Lanir
Haaretz (Opinion)
April 11, 2011 - 12:00am

The Hamas regime is a pain in the neck. If it drags Israel into another ground confrontation in the Gaza Strip, Hamas won't be the only one that is beaten for the second time. The equation was, and remains, bad news; the shooting, the escalation and the losses harm both sides with differing force and cyclicity. There is no "bang-and-it's-over" solution, as Defense Minister Ehud Barak said yesterday morning on Israel Radio. Who knows better than he?

The fighting in the south has brought Barak - who just a few days ago boasted that Israel was enjoying "the kind of calm that hasn't been seen for years" - back to reality, and has revealed the Netanyahu government's great weakness: Israel must pay dearly not only for what it does, but also for what it does not do.

Since his June 2009 Bar-Ilan speech, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government have done practically nothing to push forward diplomatic solutions with the Palestinians and with the Syrians. His spokesmen sold us thorough discussions among the inner cabinet about renewing negotiations, after that they bragged of unequaled American commitments for arms deals, then they spun the story about "Bar-Ilan II" and presenting a diplomatic plan, perhaps on the eve of Netanyahu's meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, perhaps in May when he makes a speech before the two houses of Congress in Washington. All of these moves were aimed at fanning the dwindling flames of the Netanyahu campfire - and if not to rouse a real flame, then at least to keep the coals glowing, or the embers, or a little spark. All of these moves were just for show.

Netanyahu does not need bargains or witticisms or articles of encouragement. If he'd wanted to conduct real negotiations with the Palestinians or with Syrian President Bashar Assad, no one would have stopped him. Neither Likud MK Danny Danon nor National Union MK Michael Ben Ari. If the prime minister had intended to fulfill his declaration of "two states for two peoples," he would not have required so many words of interpretation and PR spins. He would have presented a diplomatic plan and cut out a working program from it. The United States would have supported him and Europe would have cheered him on. But that is not what Netanyahu intended or intends to do - excuse me for putting it so plainly.

How do we know? Why should he do tomorrow what he has neglected to do until today, especially now that the Middle East is stormier than ever?

"We have not tried to put all core issues on the table in the past two years," Barak said at Tel Aviv University on March 13. In that same speech, the defense minister sketched the storm that would come crashing down on the Netanyahu government - a "political tsunami" that could be expected around September. "There is an international movement which will recognize a Palestinian state in 1967 borders," he said.

There are five months left before the "tsunami" will hit. Barak, President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman are busy rushing around the world; the Iranian front, Hamas and Hezbollah will not help solve the conflict with the Palestinians. Netanyahu is the only one who can help Netanyahu, and - from what we have seen so far - he has no inclination to help himself. September will once again be Black September. And not in Jordan; in Jerusalem and its surroundings; five minutes from Kfar Sava.

"Those who came here in order to set up a national home," Barak continued during his radio interview yesterday, "have to know how to stand firm. Those who want complete quiet - there is Finland and there is western Europe, and they can go there."

No thank you. Who wants Finland? We came from Europe, and not so we could go back there. We're not looking for the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke. Nor the boy from "The Emperor's New Clothes."


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017