As Barack Obama played golf and Mir Hossein Moussavi was put in house arrest on Sunday, something bizarre happened on a blue podium on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. Some guy with a silver comb-over got up and said the words “Palestinian State”.
His name, you ask? Netanyahu, Bibi Netanyahu.
“Holy Sh-t! WHAT??? Did you say Bibi? And he said PS?!?!?!”
Yes, he did. I saw the speech (not live, of course. Had better things to do), and I also saw him utter those words. But when he said them, for a second I thought I actually saw him cringe, almost like he was looking for the nearest puke bucket. He looked like a vegetarian who just got served a juicy, bloody steak. Or like one of those guys in a zany food challenge on some wacky reality show, who just found out he had to eat a plate of live snails to get immunity and stay on the island.
I suppose one could call Bibi’s show on Sunday some sort of “Survivor – The Middle East” (Now THERE’S a season I’ll actually watch!). Sky news actually came up with a good analysis of the speech while hinting to a slightly different genre: “To garble the Rocky Horror Picture Show song, this was a step to the left, but a jump to the right”.
Bibi’s failed attempt to imitate Obama screams for a comparison between the two events. First, just take a look at the venue. Sure, the podium said “Begin-Sadat Center” in both Hebrew and English, but it also said Bar Ilan University in Hebrew alone. This institution, where Yigal Amir, Rabin’s assasin, studied – has often been accused of being a hotbed for right-wing extremism. Obama, on the other hand, spoke at the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo. Now, I don’t know enough to say if Al-Azhar is a hotbed for extremism or not, but I can say it’s gutsy to make a speech in the lion’s den. Most of the people in the Bibi’s audience were Likudniks and wore kippas, so he was basically preaching to the choir.
But in my eyes, the main difference was the tone. Obama came with arms outreached, and actually sounded genuine. But Bibi? Exactly the opposite. Even felt kind of fake. I had the feeling he came with two mafiosos pushing him from behind (Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod?) threatening to chop his legs off. “OK, OK, I’ll do it! But you know it’ll be the end of me”, Bibi would say, “The minute Ketsale hears this I’ll be chopped liver”.
OK. So he said yes to a Palestinian State. Wow. Amazing. If you’re excited about that, you’re probably excited about sliced bread and light bulbs. That’s like a mother being proud of her son for taking his first steps – at age 12. Seriously, it’s about time Bibi. And even though he said it, you know he didn’t mean it. Because then came the conditions: It has to be demilitarized, they have to recognize us as a Jewish State, No to the return of refugees, Jerusalem will not be divided, first topple Hamas, we’ll continue to build settlements, and oh, I almost forgot, you can only establish your state on the next Venus and Mars conjunction – and only if there’s a full moon as well. See, who says I’m not flexible?
So did he “survive”? Well, maybe for now. Only time will tell how long his fragile coalition will last. What he did manage to do was make the left and the right angry, so maybe he did do something right. For now, his numbers are up in the popularity polls, too. And of course, how could we forget the Palestinians. They were FURIOUS. Although, I must say I’m quite surprised at their reaction. I mean seriously guys, what were you thinking? That Bibi would be your next de Klerk? Come on…
America said this was “an important step forward”. There are probably a few innocent interns in the White House amazed at how Obama got Bibi to say “Palestinian state” in just a few months. But Barack (can I call you that? I feel like I know you), if I may…. Let me just say, that if I were you I wouldn’t be too impressed. And if you think you’ve bent Bibi, well… all I can say is: You’ve just been “Bibi”ed!
Because trust me, Barack, what Bibi really said is: “A Palestinian state? Are you kidding me? Not on my watch!” And you know what? Bibi is probably right. And how do I know that? Because after the speech I looked up in the sky, and guess what I saw?
“Look, it’s a Menachem Begin! It’s an Ariel Sharon! No, it’s a Yitzhak Shamir! See? Look how he flaps his wings, fusses and kvetches, but nothing happens!”
Bibi is a staller! Possibly one of the greatest stallers since Shamir. From now on it’ll be just words, words words – but no deeds. Let the games be stalled!
The only thing is, I don’t think Rahm or David have any patience for another Shamir. I think they’ve had enough of this shtick. If I’m correct, Americans – and American Jews in particular – are wary and tired of the situation in the Middle East, and although they see Israel as a strategic ally, at the same time they’re not afraid to see her as a liability. Middle Eastern fundamentalism has brought death to America’s shores, and when you pay billions of dollars a year to a Jewish state to be your ally in the region, but all you get is bloodshed, suddenly it just doesn’t seem like that great a deal. Surely they can get more bang for their buck.
In fact, the American-Israeli relationship reminds me sometimes of the relationship many women (so I’ve been told…)have with their house cleaners. They pay them, yet shiver whenever they enter the door. They hope she’s satisfied with the way the house looks, almost as if to say: “So, is my house clean enough for you to clean”?
It’s time to get things straight. It’s time to show who’s boss. It’s time for American taxpayers to get what they pay for. Don’t fall for empty rhetoric.
You can do it, Rahm.