Netanyahu would make a fine alderman

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem on Wednesday after his Likud party’s victory in Israel’s general election. | Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

Well, we’ve sailed off into new territory here, haven’t we?

Given that “cynicism” was the adjective of choice the media used to describe Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s last-minute vow that there would never be an independent Palestinian state under his watch, just as his nation went to the polls Tuesday, what term should be used to describe his immediately reversing that promise once he was safely re-elected?

“Super-cynicism?” “Double-dishonesty?”

“I don’t want a one-state solution,” Netanyahu told MSNBC Thursday. “I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution.”


We should introduce the man who said that to the man who, 48 hours earlier, when asked by an Israeli news blog if his being re-elected would mean that no Palestinian state would be established, answered “correct,” then elaborated: “I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands is giving attack grounds to the radical Islam against the State of Israel. Anyone who ignores this is sticking his head in the sand.”

That actually makes sense. I was nodding in a kind of grim attempt at understanding Netanyahu’s sudden promise to block the Palestinian state. Those who like to paint Israel as mere evil forget the nation didn’t tack hard right without a reason. All the squishy, lefty, let’s-make-peace overtures got them nothing but missiles. Maybe a hard-line stance would lure the Palestinians into demanding their new state, insisting they live in peace as neighbors.

Because the Palestinians haven’t been saying that. The Palestinians are fond of armed resistance against a nation that dwarfs them, militarily, figuring, apparently, that if they build up enough world sympathy points they can cash them in for a nation, assuming they want one for themselves, and not just the one the Israelis have already got. The Palestinians have two leaderships, remember, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, and they say a lot of stuff, but “Let’s live in peace with Israel” is not one of the slogans in their repertoire.

I had hoped that Netanyahu’s slamming the door might, in classic Nixon-goes-to-China, don’t-throw-me-in-the-briar-patch-Br’er-Rabbit fashion, create some sort of motion in this impasse. I forgot that the prime minister was twirling like a weather vane in a typhoon, saying anything he thinks will win the next election and solve the next problem (hmmm, a shame he won; he would fit right in among our Chicago aldermen embracing whatever fantasy they think will score them some votes).

Not that the Palestinians are alone in adopting a policy of impossible policy stands. Israeli right-wingers, who make up Netanyahu’s base, pretend they can control the 4 million and counting Palestinians forever. Then again, they’ve already done so for 48 years, which isn’t forever, but is certainly well on the way.

That’s why I tend not to write about this. It’s such a dog’s breakfast slop of issues and arguments, wasted breath and passion, of tragedy and farce, that Netanyahu’s jaw-dropping flip fits right in, when you think about it.

Let’s end with clarity.

Israel can’t keep building territories and squeezing the Palestinians into a smaller and smaller space. It’s a physical, political and moral impossibility. Meanwhile, the Palestinians, no matter what kind of improved rockets they get and no matter how much sympathy swells for them in the hearts of the average American sophomore, will never defeat Israel. The only way anything good will ever happen is for them to form their own country in the place they now occupy, more or less, with whatever swaps they negotiate. It won’t happen this year or next year. But it’s going to happen, and when it does, we’ll wonder what took them so long.

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