Gideon Levy
Haaretz (Opinion)
May 26, 2011 - 12:00am

The "speech of his life" must now quickly become the speech of Prime MInister Benjamin Netanyahu's political demise. The hour is pressing, there is no time and nothing is going to come of Netanyahu any more. Even the snake oil peddlers who proffered masses of expectations in advance of the speech, who told us that Netanyahu 2 is different from Netanyahu 1, that the man had "matured," "internalized," "grown wiser" and "become more moderate," that he has learned the lessons of his previous term in office and that we can expect "sensational surprises" from him - they, too, must now admit the bitter truth. The Israeli Leonid Brezhnev is occupying the Prime Minister's Bureau. A man of yesterday, frozen and rigid, uncompromising, deaf to the sounds of his surroundings and blind to the changing times. His term in office, heaven forbid, must not drag on for nearly 20 years, the way Brezhnev's did.

In the coming days, he might still be able bask in the warmth of the American legislators' hollow ovations. But once this foam on the surface of the water disperses, the question will arise in full force: What now? Then it will become clear that this prime minister has got us in trouble. Big trouble. We lost the Palestinians a long time ago, and now also the White House's America. Once the speech ended, the chances ended. Before it, we didn't know (ostensibly ) where the prime minister was heading. After it, we know the crystal clear answer: nowhere. To some more gained time after which there is nothing, except for increasing dangers and a chance missed once again.

To Netanyahu's credit it must be said he is not the first. Quite a number of his predecessors wallowed in the belief that empty and lost time will heal all ills. For way too much time here, the belief in time has been the only belief. But the times they are a-changing, there's a battle outside and it's raging and Netanyahu isn't budging from the old road. No and no and no. No to the 1967 borders, no to Jerusalem for two nations, no to the right of return, no to the Palestinians' justified demand to be free, like all peoples.

Now it is certain: Netanyahu will go down in the history of Israel and of the world as a forgotten footnote. What did he do? What did he coin? That we live in "the land of our forefathers" and the settlers are not occupiers. Good job, Bibi. That he is prepared to be "generous," without understanding that we are the occupiers and occupiers, just like robbers, can never be "generous."

Rather, what we have to be is just. We are not "giving up" anything; we can only restore what we have stolen to its rightful owners and restore justice. Who is going to buy the tiny crumbs he has thrown to the Palestinians and to the world? At one time, perhaps, there were buyers in the world for this stale merchandise. No more. There is a new world around us, and Netanyahu refuses to acknowledge its existence. What is he going to tell this world now, a world of popular uprisings, struggles for freedoms and human rights? That he is in favor of freedom for the Arab peoples, just not in our backyard?

What is he going to tell the demonstrators at the fence before September and those who will raise their hands in favor of a Palestinian state in September? That this is the land of our forefathers, exclusively our forefathers? That Congress applauded him? At the end of this oratory season, the Israelis, too, will have to ask themselves: What next? Blind and deaf, will we continue to follow this Brezhnev of ours? And how will we confront the storm raging around us? And what will we do with U.S. President Barack Obama, who at long last will have to act and not just talk?

Netanyahu could have been a successful businessman. He could have been flying around in private planes to his heart's desire, without anyone asking where they came from; he could have been hobnobbing in the palatial abodes of the world's zillionaires, enjoying life's pleasures and having fun with his wife as much as he liked, without anyone asking anything. The most fateful mistake of his life was going into politics. Why did he need this for, all the Mimounas and the primaries, the deals and the spins, the Danny Danons and the Hotovelys, if this is what he's planning to leave behind? Why did he have to run a first time and a second time, if all he's going to leave behind is such emptiness and disaster? Why does he deserve this and, above all, why have we deserved this?


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